Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I want my IPVR

An uber-value reader alerted me to, a project of German broadband media company TV1. I called CEO Michael Westphal at his booth at CeBIT, to learn more. My initial understanding is that is an internet-based PVR, which captures broadcast TV, encodes it as Windows Media 9, and transmits it to the end user at a bitrate of 450kbps. So we're really talking about something intially for the DSL and Wi-Fi user, but I'm curious to see what sort of iterations might develop around mobile in future.

It is currently in beta with c.20,000 users. Mr. Westphal described the trial as "overrun by demand," so much so that the number of channels on offer has been cut from 20 to seven (ARD, ZDF, RTL, RTL II,Pro7, Sat1, N24), and the number of new users limited, pending the arrival of some additional hardware. He noted that if were to just open the trial to all comers, new users would join at a rate of 1,500 per day, and the company wants to preserve the quality of user experience during this critical trial phase.

TV1 is paying copyright to content holders in just the way that VHS producers have done previously, and as the service is for personal use only, as far as I can see it is no different from a VHS recorder, except in terms of where the transaction is taking place. However, given the entertainment's steadfast belief that IP = internet piracy, I would expect that TV1 has its legal team braced for the inevitable challenge. I would also be surprised if Germany were the only European market where this business model is attempted.

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