Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 26 June 2006

IPTV - the next thing in televised home entertainment?

I try and watch click online on BBC News24 every week - it's a half hour programme broadcast at the weekend on several occasions and covers the latest developments in online technology with at the end a regular slot devoted to giving information on useful website links.

This week one of the topics covered was Internet protocol television (IPTV) and the associated BBC website page for what they discussed on this weekend's edition is here.

It is gaining the short name of 'Niche TV' because it seems as if it will be ideal for catering for the very diverse interests of relatively small groups of people with the programmes being delivered over broadband connections - it does require a pretty high-speed and reliable broadband connection, though, which few have at present. My broadband speed was recently increased to 'upto' 8Mb and whilst video is pretty reasonable at this speed it is still subject to brief 'freezes' if the speed drops off a little or, presumably, because of network congestion. From what I can understand, though, we will all eventually be able to watch perhaps many thousands of such 'niche tv' channels through set-top boxes hooked up to a broadband connection.

In its article, 'BBC Click online' links to only two such channels at present - CountryChannel.TV and Cycling.TV. The 'CountryChannel' seems for the moment to be free to access and gives astonishingly good quality pictures on a small screen window and really quite good pictures when I expand it to fill my 15" LCD screen - perhaps not as good as a conventional television, but still very watchable although subject to brief 'freezing' occasionally (on my broadband, at least). The other channel, 'Cycling', gives a pretty good picture as well, although I'd estimate not quite as high-definition as the 'CountryChannel' - it is also not free, only brief 'advertising' previews are available for free, although as the channel says 'nothing good in life is ever free' (in one way or another) - I immediately thought of Blognor Regis as one of the potential viewers of such a channel.

Naturally once this platform becomes more popular and widely-used there will be a proliferation of channels, I expect. What the quality of some of them will be like is anyone's guess, but it is probable that (as with some of the channels carried by satellite and cable channel broadcasters at present) many will be of dire quality - but they will cater for almost every conceivable interest and if there is not a channel which caters for your particular interest then it will probably be possible, at relatively modest cost, for amateurs to broadcast their own material, just as some people already upload short video clips to YouTube where completely at random I picked this amusing travelogue by someone called Matt:

The days of being restricted to just a few television channels are long since over of course, but the development of IPTV will be a whole shift of gear - very exciting, provided one doesn't come to use it as a substitute for experiencing real life.

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