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Thursday, January 04, 2007

4oD: Some technical architecture details

The newly launched Channel 4 Video on Demand service uses the following technology components:
  • encoding : Windows Media @ 1Mbps
  • drm : Microsoft
  • size of files : 450MB/hour
  • player : Flash 9
  • p2p distribution : Kontiki
So Channel4 have the same Microsoft encoding & drm solution as Sky Anytime and the BBC proposal. Also, Channel4 are using the same Kontiki software for p2p distribution.

The key difference in the Channel4 proposal is that it includes paid for content (£1 for TV shows and £2 for films) whereas the Sky Anytime and BBC service are part of their various subscription bundles. I would imagine that this would add some slight complications to the DRM solution, but after all this is exactly the type of use case that the Microsoft DRM is designed to cope with and it is difficult to believe the Microsoft software wouldn't work as advertised.

What is the betting that ITV and Five use the same technology solutions for their forthcoming PC VoD solutions?

It will be interesting to see how a fully loaded PC performed with the various p2p services fully functioning: Skype, The Venice Project, Limewire and Kontiki. I can see some real compatibility problems occurring in the future if several flavours of p2p and service providers within the same p2p application are on home networks. Inevitably, the end-user is going to become even more confused and frustrated about performance (or lack thereof) on their home computer.

It has to be also remembered that your average punter is on an ISP who is traffic shaping (more than likely by constraining the overall amount of p2p traffic) and also imposes download limits.

I forecast in 2007, ISPs will start blaming p2p applications for end-user lack of performance. This will be #2 in their rolodex of excuses after the perennial winner: “It’s a BT problem that we can do nothing about, do you want me to request a BT engineer visit at a potential cost of £75/visit?”

I also forecast, Sky will release a non-p2p video on demand service integrated with its PVR and EPG for their premium subscribers to view on either PC or TV. As with Sky+, I also think that Sky won’t mention the soon to be cursed VoD acronym and instead show that a hassle free environment is synonymous with Sky.