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12 April 2007 tbs.pm/144

Boost for live TV web streaming

Skinkers website

The only issue that seems to be currently preventing the broadcast of live video streams from major broadcasters is the issue of internet bandwidth, namely that it’s bad enough when a large number of people try to access a broadcaster’s website at once but such a situation would be intolerable when it comes to the live streaming of video content.

Therefore any technological solution that can somehow bypass this restriction would naturally arouse the interest of major broadcasters.

However before anyone gets too excited there are two potential problems that I can foresee. Not much information is publicly available ahead of the official launch of Skinkers’ LiveStation streaming software, but it appears to be heavily based on Microsoft-licensed software technology, which inevitably brings up the subject of copy protection and cross-platform interoperability which already affects both the BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 4’s 4oD services.

Put simply, both the iPlayer and 4oD services can only run on PC’s running Microsoft Windows courtesy of the use of Microsoft’s digital rights management (DRM) software, therefore it’s extremely probable that LiveStation will similarly be a Windows-only product. Already the BBC Trust has taken the BBC to task over the DRM method used for iPlayer, requesting that an alternative solution should be found for Apple Mac and Linux users.

As well as the video streaming DRM issue – which is one thing that the European Commission should investigate as a matter of urgency since Microsoft could end up dominating that particular market by stealth whilst Apple attracts all the publicity (and criticism) for its successful iTunes service – there is still the issue of bandwidth. Not for the broadcaster but for the end user’s ISP, since the bandwidth problem has not gone away but has just been shifted elsewhere within the network.

For corporate intranet users this won’t be a problem, but companies that provide broadband internet access could suddenly find themselves confronted with a whole new set of issues. At the moment, many ISP’s are selectively throttling the bandwidth used by peer-to-peer network applications in order to improve network performance as a whole, but this could in turn affect any form of peer-to-peer streaming technology and networks will inevitably have to be substantially upgraded.

And although Andrew Herbert states that, to quote, “Microsoft has always combined digital rights management issues and done a good job of showing how rights can be protected”, this doesn’t take into account the fact that the copy protection mechanism used for Windows Media Player 10 and 11 has already been cracked.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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David Hastings Contact More by me