Content May Be King But It Ain’t Worth Squat Without Bandwidth by Praveen Asthana, Anderson & Mannheim That pretty much was the conclusion of a panel discussion at the Churchill Club on Feb 25. The panel consisted of David Liddle, President & CEO, Interval Research; Milo Medin, VP Networks, @Home Network; and Halsey A. Minor, Founder & CEO, CNET. The panel was moderated with a combination of wit and insight by Avram Miller, Director of Corp. Business Development at Intel. The panel convened to discuss “the Dawn of the Age of Intellectual and Creative Capital,” but ultimately discussed a more fundamental issue: the infrastructure for transmission needs to be developed before a discussion of content can become relevant. We are a society raised on television, video games, and movie magic. Text on a screen isn’t really what we’d call entertainment. We don’t want to read the script to “Men in Black” on the screen, we want to see the action. For the Internet to become (1) a medium for entertainment (rather than just a source for text based information and communication) and (2) just more appealing in general, the content needs to become more visual. There is not the lack of imagination in creating exciting contentÜafter all look at all the content we have for broadband transmission and videoÜthe limitation is the bandwidth in getting the exciting content out to internet users. Anyone who has experienced video over a 14.4 kbps modem would rather read the book. Interestingly, bandwidth limitations have locked out the traditional owners of video content (i.e. Disney, CBS, Warner Bros. etc.) from being leaders in the eyes of most Iinternet users. As Minor pointed out, “There are a lot more people in the cheap seats than in the good seats,” referring to the fact that most people have 28.8K or below modems, and only a few people have the ability to receive motion video. Hence, the market share goes to the content providers (such as Yahoo!) who optimize for the cheap seats. When bandwidth does become available, Hollywood will have to strike partnerships with the owners of the eyeballs if they want to get their content out on the Internet. Do people really want video on their PCs through the Internet? Are we as an industry trying to get consumers to use a $3000 PC for the function provided by a $300 TV? Other than Medin, the panel was not convinced that people wanted to see video on their PCs. One application that was brought up was interactivity. However, interactive video has failed in the past indicating that people prefer not to interact with their TVs. Furthermore, putting an interactivity option in a multi-viewer environment can only lead to marital discord. Minor brought up a good point, however, that in the past the content was really not geared towards interactivity and the technology was primitive. Things may be different as the content is optimized for interactivity. Liddle pointed out a new application that could indeed provide support for video function over the Internet. His research has shown that a high and constant fraction of discretionary spending goes on Reminiscence products (photos, videos, phone calls etc). With increasing geographic dispersion of family members, applications that cater to the reminiscence market will be killer apps for increased bandwidth. How much bandwidth is enough? Medin figured that it was 10 Mb/s. But one wonders if that will really do. Bandwidth is like the freewayÜadd another lane and things get better for a while, but soon enough the freeway seems as congested as before. As bandwidth increases, content and applications will rise to fill it. At the end of the day the simple truths are you can’t be too rich, too thin, or have enough bandwidth.
Chris Byrne, Director of Intellectual Property, Silicon Graphics Davud Liddle, President & CEO, Interal Research Milo Medin, VP Networks, @Home Network Avram Miller, Corp. VP, Director, Corp. Business Development, Intel Corp Halsey Minor, Founder & CEO, CNET