NBN as a TV killer? Unlikely

April 13, 2009 — 6 Comments

Mark Day in the OZ (via Mumbrella)

IF we look through the increasingly clouded questions surrounding the Rudd Government?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s plans for a fibre-to-the-home high-speed broadband network, how it will be designed, who will build it, who will own it and what it will cost end users, one thing is crystal clear: this is a game-changer for media.

The $43 billion plan is a television killer. When it is built it will consign the Packer era of TV to the dustbin of history. Our future TV menu depends on new technologies and new paradigms.

It’s a nice theory. Will the internet kill TV? Yes, I believe it will, as I’ve argued time and time again. But will the NBN kill television?


The problem isn’t one of lack of demand. You only have to look at the exceptionally high level of BitTorrent usage in Australia to know that Australians love their internet TV.

The problem is one of legal rights, and access to that content on a television set.

There’s no Hulu in Australia, and even Hulu in the US is trying its best to stay off of television sets. We have a mix of content now online from FTA providers, but it’s hit and miss, and not anywhere near consistent.

Lets say we’re 5 years behind the US (that we are behind is a given, but we can argue on the time frame): does Day really believe that the NBN is going to overcome issues not yet overcome in the United States?

The real problem comes down to rights distribution models. TV stations here pay a lot of money for rights to US content. The only way a NBC or CBS is going to offer their content directly online to Australians over the NBN to a large screen TV is when doing so delivers a higher return then selling the rights to a local TV stations.

As much as I wish to believe this will happen soon (and it will happen eventually), that’s not a short term proposition in Australia. NBN doesn’t change that at all.

Also consider that Australian uptake of pay-tv (cable) is far lower than most comparable markets. Australian’s aren’t all that keen in paying big dollars for content. That complicates the consideration more.

I mentioned in an earlier post that bundling may be the saving grace for the NBN: in that context, it’s not Day’s suggestion of internet TV (although it may be delivered via Internet protocols) but Cable over the NBN. That could work, well…depending on the cost.