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Oct 2011

Is streaming overtaking traditional content delivery?

Posted in Technology | 0 Comments

With the arrival of OnLive, the game-streaming technology that’s been so hotly anticipated by those who want to play great games without the cost of a console or high-spec PC, and YouTube’s announcement that they’ll be renting HD films to users, it seems that allowing users to receive a constant flow of data over a delay and a physical copy is rapidly becoming the preferred method for enjoying new media.

But what does this mean for businesses? Digital storefronts have proven themselves to be the consumer delivery method with the brightest future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s completely reliable yet. Businesses like game publisher Ubisoft have, by using controlling methods of delivery akin to a gun to the head of the user, suffered delays and outages that have permanently damaged their reputations. Users avoid streaming and download services due to the fact that if the servers die, their paid-for content does as well, and this is a valid concern.

The easiest way to battle these concerns is to take the Facebook approach – that any outage must be avoided at all costs, because a single one could scar their brand image permanently. It’s worked for them so far, and it’s certainly possible if you’re willing to invest in the hardware to back up the services you’re offering to your customers.

Streaming content is also something that’s an unproven concept with businesses who don’t have the budget or company size of sites like YouTube (Google now, really) or UStream. Funding it however needn’t be difficult at all – delivering streaming content is extremely expensive, whereas consumers who receive streamed content often get it for free – so there should be a opportunities for income and potential advertising to soften the blow of expenditure on more servers and better tubes.

It’s certainly a new way to run the local Blockbusters, that’s for sure. Especially given that physical rentals, while popular, are something that could potentially be overtaken by offering people the same content but without the hassle of dropping things in the post box every now and then. It’s also a save on the traditional storage space required for all the DVDs and games you’ll be renting out, and you’re also not even using your customers’ hard-drive space.

The challenge for any business looking into digital content streaming will be to out-do the left-right-knockout punch of YouTube and OnLive. Even major television networks in the UK have thrown their lot in with Google’s (arguably) wisest purchase, and OnLive seems set to become the standard in videogame streaming. But it’s possible to hit a niche – Vimeo seems to have done relatively well, despite its on-off (usually off) relationship with my mobile device.

Only time will tell us how well streaming performs, but with broadband speeds consistently rising, there’s little argument against streaming becoming better and easier as we move forward.

It’s odd – I was discussing topics for today with my editor, and we spoke about the importance of a certain individual who sadly passed away this week; one Steve Jobs. It seemed fair to mention him this week, to mark his passing, but it wasn’t clear how. That’s until it hit me that realistically, without Steve and the team at Apple, we wouldn’t have seen a great deal of the inventions we now celebrate as some of the best technology around. There wasn’t a single person with a love of technology who didn’t feel a sense of shock and sadness this week. Whether iTunes intends to pursue streaming is another matter entirely, but consider this a mention with the utmost respect for the wealth of content put out about him this week already.

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