Thursday, June 8

Disruption: IPTV, control or freedom?

A few tech headlines this week seem to overlap in a number of ways - a difficulty to adapt to the disruptive nature of our digital world.

Google.com has been blocked in China, according to the BBC, in favour of the now censored Google.cn.

A few thousand miles away, Russia's allofmp3.com (the second most popular download site in the UK)is being slapped for breach of copyright. In the UK, Tiscali's investment in Juke Box, a music sharing service, has been forced to close following disagreements over the "level of interactivity" the consumer should have in their choice of music.

Legal or illegal, in all cases, there is an underlying problem with the openness of the web. The users drive demand across borders, laws and governments. That's something that is hard to control.

The music industry has long struggled in coming to terms with the change in its business. We don't want to pay $20 for an album anymore. In fact, we'll make our own albums from the tracks we like.

This industry, fat with revenues, has to shed costs since no amount of legal proceedings is going to bring control back to the music business. Consumers will buy albums at the right price, that's why Allofmp3.com is so popular. Hell, the same users could have downloaded the albums P2P for free, they chose to pay.

This shake-up is fast approaching TV. IPTV - TV broadcast on open web-based standards - will break the broadcaster's control of the tube in your living room. So your set-top box can be fully customised - you want to watch the World Cup in Chinese? just plug-in the feed. Don't want to subscribe for a premiership game, grab a free overseas broadcast.

When multi-media distribution is open to the masses, content, flexibility and cost will be king. The smart companies realise that the volumes of consumers can be bigger than any 'controlled' broadcast, but the margins will be smaller.

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