Accessing online video through your TV: why cable companies are fighting the spread of online video journalismPosted: March 19, 2011
For most Americans (and probably most Europeans if we’re honest) before 2011 Al Jazeera was a little known foreign news network. Best known for showing videos of westerners being held hostage by terrifying religious zealots, few western viewers thought of the network a source of good journalism.
But for many American viewers, the Egyptian revolution changed all that. Al Jazeera had journalists reporting live from Cairo while major US networks such as CNN and Fox News were still scrambling to get their people out to Egypt.
In the USA Al-Jazeera English was not available on cable channels causing many viewers to switch to their computers as a source of news on the uprising. However, the preference for viewing news on a TV, rather than a computer screen seemed to be an inevitable hurdle which Al-Jazeera couldn’t overcome without the support of US cable networks.
This technology allowed viewers to watch Al-Jazeera English directly through a conventional TV. Roku also offers Hulu, Netflix and other online which offer a lot of the mainstream content US viewers could normally only find through cable networks. For a while it looked like online video could take the lead as online and television fused into one medium.
But the big cable networks aren’t going down without a fight.
The established companies are doing their best to slow down independent online TV providers as far as possible while they perfect their own ‘TV Everywhere’ technology. And since the cable providers control the same cables which provide internet service they still have the upper hand when it comes to restricting online video content.
And the crucial difference between TV Everywhere and providers like Roku – for TV Everywhere the viewer is still dependent on the monthly subscription to their cable operator.
The battle between online TV providers and big cable networks isn’t some clash between the forces of good and evil – both are just private companies competing to make a profit after all!
But as long as big cable holds too much power and the executives know that people won’t make the switch from a TV to a computer monitor, news agencies like Al-Jazeera will struggle to find an audience in the west. And as long as the established news agencies know that they don’t have to face any new competition there’s no motive for them to improve the quality of the news they provide.
By Alan O’Doherty