Putting the television into Internet television

September 2, 2010

Dating as far back as the mid-nineties broadcasting and the Internet have been trying to work together. With many starts and stops, it hasn’t been easy. Just ask Yahoo. Whatever happened to Broadcast.com? Because broadcasting is for the most part local and the Internet is global, every early entrant has come and gone. Still, websites like MLB.com have proven the thirst for live television on the web. After all, viewers are out of their living room more than they are in it. Virtually everyone carries a device capable of delivering them entertainment content.

Recent moves by both Apple and Google signify a renewed interest in the space, Yahoo is already there and Microsoft can’t be far behind. Still, one wonders, can the battle for the living room be won without broadcast over broadband? The universal consensus about web TV is that it lacks live broadcast content. Sure, Slingbox is a step in the right direction, but even that makes a consumer jump through significant hoops to pull content out of their living room and onto whatever device they are using regardless of time or place.

TV Everywhere has responded with the siren call of: “stick with us, pay TV is the only answer.” The fact is pay TV is a fragmented industry facing a massive disruption. The Internet is a 1:1 experience, a world of picking and choosing, of personalization and free content for the price of a click. Pay TV is a dinosaur whose time has come.

So who holds the key to the success of Internet television? It very well may lie in the hands of the least likely of candidates, broadcasters. Give them an on-ramp to the Internet and consumers are one step closer to Internet television Nirvana. Imagine what Internet television might become if consumers could access network television and a handful of their favorite cable channels like Bravo or CNN. To do that, there would need to be a way to convert broadcast into broadband and there doesn’t appear to be a solution in sight.

Check that. Quietly in the past few months the National Association of Broadcasters, the Consumer Electronics Association and a handful of visionary investors, including some pretty heady former network tycoons, have invested in a tiny little start up called Syncbak. Maybe a solution is on the horizon.