Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Cloud Computing Has Changed TV

Cloud computing sounds like it should be something overwhelming and hard to understand, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The "clouds" are nothing more than large networks of servers working together to provide storage and process data. It's just like your computing network at the office, only large.

Cloud computing has been a long time in the making, only recently gaining popularity among average internet users. The idea of storing our data in cyberspace can feel daunting. When you consider the size of today's multi-media files—music, videos, commercials, webisodes, movies, etc.—cloud computing makes a lot of sense. The size of a Blu-ray movie is three to five gigabytes. It doesn't take too many of them stored on your local hard drive to chew up all your storage.

The real beauty of cloud computing is its portability. No matter where you are, if you can get on the internet you can access all of your files. Not carrying around your DVD collection everywhere you go is no small blessing.

Getting Your TV Fix with Streaming Services

This, of course, is how large video streaming companies operate. It's the only real way they can provide services to so many simultaneous connections. Streaming video giants, like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, have helped shape the way we view and use cloud storage, but that hasn't always been the case. It's taken more than a decade for the concept to take root among internet uses even though the technology has been there for much longer.

Netflix, one of the largest streaming video companies in the world, was originally a DVD-only company. That was back in 1999 when the offered subscribers a modest video library of 100,000 titles. It took them about seven years to begin offering streaming video from their cloud network of storage and application servers. Early subscribers received approximately one hour for each dollar of their monthly subscription.

Netflix, the biggest source of internet traffic in North America, moved to unlimited streaming in 2008 and usage shot through the roof. Today, and according to Nielson in June 2011, 42% of Netflix's 26 million subscribers use a stand-alone computer to access its content.

Amazon got into the streaming content action in 2006 with its Amazon Instant Video. This service gave users the ability to delete the large video files from their personal computers after viewing and storing them on Amazon's cloud where they could be accessed any time.

Hulu was just coming into existence as Amazon was rolling out is Video On Demand service, and Netflix was contemplating unlimited access to streaming content. Their approach was unique and has been a huge success as a result.

Hulu negotiated with content owners for the right to re-broadcast their content. The offer movies and television shows from the biggest names in the business, and offer ad-supported content as well as premium content with their Hulu Plus offering.

Portability is the name of the game in cloud computing, and when it comes to very large files, like Blu-ray and HDTV shows, there's nothing better than accessing your entire library movies, or your favorite television shows no matter where you are.

Traditional TV Service Providers Get into the Game

Cloud computing has created a massive marketplace that is just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential offerings. Cable and satellite television providers have become big and important players. While still offering Pay per View content, it is the Video on Demand offerings that have exploded in the past five years, with many service providers offering more than 30,000 unique titles each month.

Premium content providers like HBO, Starz, and Showtime offer free access to subscribers, through their satellite and cable television partners, to their vast selection of uncut movies, original series, and special events like sports and concerts.

Dish Network Steps it Up

DISH Network has taken cloud computing to the next level. Through their new whole-home DVR, the Hopper, subscribers can record certain television shows and have them saved in the DISH Network cloud.

The service is called Primetime Anytime, and it allows subscribers to record several primetime television shows each night on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. These programs, which can be recorded in HD, are stored like On Demand programs and don't take up storage space on the Hopper DVR.

That's just the beginning of how DISH Network has adapted to, and in some instances made unique advances in cloud computing. The other is their "AutoHop" service that subscribers can activate on the Hopper. AutoHop actually skips recording the commercials that air during primetime television programming when subscribers use the Primetime Anytime service. However, if you think content providers with whom DISH Network has licensing deals has taken this lightly, think again.

CBS, Fox, and NBC have individually sued DISH Network for essentially the same things. One of the issues in the lawsuits is the violation of copyrights by changing content they do not own. Another issue is the claim they are destroying the very way broadcast television works. Each network is also citing breach of contract.

DISH Network has countersued in an attempt to have the legality of its service decided by a federal judge. It is possible these cases could eventually wind up being heard by the Supreme Court.

No matter what happens between DISH Network and its AutoHop technology, cloud computing isn't going away. In fact, it's becoming an essential tool for internet users and, as a result, more industries are finding their way into what will surely become the de facto standard in high-capacity storage and computing.

This guest post is written by my dear friend Edwin, a writer and content specialist for USDish.
I am very thankful to him for this great post.

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