My thoughts on Place-Shifting

April 12, 2006

Remember Broadcast.com? The concept was solid. All a consumer needed was a PC and an Internet connection. Smart. No additional hardware required. Broadcast.com and sites like it were about place-shifting…point, click and watch (or listen) to content from another market.

Today the undisputed King of place-shifting is MLB.com. Baseball, America’s pastime, is all over the web. Pick your game and just point, click and watch. It is place-shifting at its best and all within the bounds of copyright.

Now another notion of place-shifting has surfaced via nifty little hardware devices designed to do just that. The concept; put this little device next to your TV and send whatever is on your living room TV anywhere in the world. Pretty cool idea.

Will these new devices succeed? Hard to say, I see a couple of enormous challenges:

The first challenge is actually getting people to buy one. It is one thing to SKU up your product at Best Buy. It is quite another to get people to buy. If they do, can the average consumer even figure out how to hook one up?

The second challenge is the issue of copyright. Is it even legal to take whatever is on your own television and send it somewhere else over the Internet? Not my call. If Congress ultimately says place-shifting is OK, won’t the cable companies just integrate this capability into their set-top boxes like they did with DVR’s?  

From where I sit, the real opportunity with place-shifting as not what is on in your own living room, but what is on in everyone else’s living room. Place-shifting is really about time-shifting, i.e. David Letterman at 8:30 PM on the west coast and out-of-market sports. DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket is a form of place-shifting. 

The Internet creates opportunities to build upon the demand for out-of-market television. The primary issue with place-shifting is one of copyright. Why not have systems that take copyright laws into account and don’t require the consumer to purchase additional hardware? And why not have a technology that makes all of our country’s 2,000+ local television stations available over-the-web?  Why not fulfill the initial promise of Broadcast.com? No reason at all. With TitanCast, we’re going to do just that.