On the Delhi Metro last week, I witnessed the end of prime time. Sitting next to me was a young man with an Android tablet, who first started watching a movie, and then switched to Zee TV’s Li’l Masters and then, CID on Sony TV. It might have been a streaming 3G version or it could have been just YouTube, but I decided to check.
It was the downloaded version of these shows, that he was catching up on his convenient time. Thanks to YouTube and other online sites, many TV shows are available online as it is. Sites such as Bangalore-based iStream.com are formalising arrangements with TV channels to make convenient viewing mainstream — but through streaming.
However, in India, where bandwidth is expensive or jerky or both, my eyes are always out for downloads — because, given the cheap, easy storage now available, the real issues are for business models to evolve so that content creators get compensated while customers/viewers can get what they want easily.
The young man smiled and told me that the downloads were free and easy. You now have an Android application called TubeMate that helps you download YouTube videos. However, TubeMate is controversial because of virus threats and I understand it is off Google’s app store Play (http://play.google.com) because of that reason. You can go to the official site (http://tubemate.net) but the download still requires security precautions and risks.
We also have Silicon Valley startups like VuClip.com (www.Vuclip.com or http://m.vuclip.com) co-founded and headed by Pune-bred Nickhil Jakatdar. With Vuclip, you can access any video on the Internet “on the fly” and watch it on any video-enabled phone — without any download. VuClip works this through a combination of technology and back-end partnerships.
Such apps are hastening and revolutionising the TV game but we need to get to legal downloads. Downloading YouTube videos is now getting common but there is no proper digital rights system riding on it yet to combine legal access and cyber security.
Downloads may be disturbing for TV channels as Internet news has been to newspapers. If programmes are downloaded and watched at convenience the current holy grail of the industry, the TRP (television rating point), will be under threat. TRP is flawed as hell in India, with its sample size and methods being questioned both in theory and practice.
The sooner TV channels embrace downloads with a clear business model, the easier it will be for them. I am looking forward to startups that shift TV programmes to Internet downloads. I am also looking forward to DTH (direct to home) broadcasters offering more than just movies in their download fare. The end of prime time as we know it is nigh.