Why live rules even in an online world

Freesat has been watching proceedings across the pond regarding Aereo, the new live online TV service from the States, with interest. For $8 a month, Aereo allows users to stream live, broadcast TV channels over the Internet to their PCs and iOS devices. The concept is simple, but Aereo’s short history has been anything but, attracting Lindsay Lohan-levels of legal issues since launch.

We’ll leave the legal ramifications of the case to the experts, but we think Aereo throws up some interesting propositions from a service point of view. Aereo is, for all intents and purposes, a live broadcast TV service, albeit one delivered via the Internet. But viewers don’t care about where the programmes are coming from – they care about the programmes themselves. Clearly Aereo thinks people will pay for the convenience of watching these programmes – that they already get for free – on different devices. But there is no License Fee in the US, meaning Aereo users aren’t paying twice for the same programmes, as would be the case in the UK. Research Freesat has done shows that the fact that viewers already pay their License Fee is a big barrier to them paying for extra TV or programmes.

We also think it’s significant that the service is purely focused on live programming, as this is something all-too-easily forgotten when it comes to streaming. Video delivered via broadband is often seen as synonymous with on-demand, but there is a huge audience for live streaming. 820,000 people watched Andy Murray win gold at London 2012 online; globally, a whopping 72 million people watched the royal wedding on YouTube in April 2011.

But you’ll notice that the above examples are for huge, live events – events that people feel they simply cannot miss if they are away from their main sets. But is the use case for live streaming outside the home any broader than this? For some customers, certainly. But for many, Freesat thinks not. For one thing, the times when you’re outside the home and can watch TV are fairly limited. It’s certainly not advisable when driving, and trying to live stream something on public transport while travelling through patchy reception areas can be like pulling teeth. Watching at work tends to be out (unless you’re “working from home”, of course); even our telly-loving MD tends to draw a line at this.

There’s also the fact that TV watching is an experience. Big appointment-to-view dramas and comedies get a lot of hype, but the majority of TV is not appointment-to-view – only 58,000 tuned in to the much-hyped opening episode of “Mad Men” on Sky Atlantic. Lots of viewing is simply people turning their TVs on and deciding what to watch depending on how they feel, whether they want to be entertained or educated, who they’re with, and so on. To put it another way, watching TV is more than just about the programme you’re watching – it’s about context, mood and environment. And for many, the number 29 bus is not going to be the environment to enjoy watching TV.

Giles Cottle is Head of Strategy at Freesat


By Freesat