Sunday, July 18, 2010

How do you cut the cord - outside the US?

I think that the combination of broadcast TV (with the recent US conversion to digital TV), and the growing availability Internet video (Netflix, Hulu, etc), makes cutting the cord a really viable prospect for many people.  However, I live in the US and realize that cutting the cord might be an entirely different experience in other countries.

I've been meaning to look into (and write about) this for some time, but this issue became personal on our recent vacation to our east coast.  Netflix and Hulu are great sources of entertainment when you are staying in hotels and don't want to deal with the limited TV programming.  This worked perfectly for us until we crossed the border into Canada.   All of a sudden (as shown above), Netflix wouldn't work anymore.  I knew about this issue, but nevertheless it still came as a rude surprise.

Similarly, Hulu stopped working as well:

Here is slightly different error message from Hulu:

Of course, I'm sure there are ways around this, but the problem remains (for most of us) that not all Internet video sources are easily available everywhere in the world.  This is quite a shock to those of us who assume that the Internet is the same to everyone anywhere in the world (it is not).

It's not just "outside the US"

The problem also affects US viewers accessing international video sources.  Many US cord cutters are probably not even aware of the different sources world wide for streaming video.

For example, I've tried to stream some UK (BBC) video sources (via BBC's iPlayer) in the US and failed:

I've tried other interesting non-US sources and they have similarly failed.  Of course, the understandable issue behind all of this is that ad-supported content really only makes sense within a specific country.  Why waste bandwidth on users that won't spend money on irrelevant ads?

Update:  Netflix just announced that they will be offering instant streaming in Canada this fall.  Here is also some info about Hulu Plus and their plans to offer international service (link1), (link2) and (link3).

The world is moving to digital TV!

Besides the challenges of cross-border Internet video, there are also differences in broadcast TV worldwide.

In the US, we have transitioned to the ATSC standard and all our major TV stations are now digital.  Here is a list of countries (including Canada, Mexico and others that use or will use ATSC).   As you would expect, there are multiple standards for digital TV worldwide.  Other digital TV standards include:
  • ISDB-T (Japan, Brazil, Argentina)
  • DVB-T (Europe, Australia, New Zealand)
  • DMB-T/H (China and Hong Kong)
Some countries have completed the transition to digital TV while others are a few years off.  Here is a more complete article about digital TV worldwide by country.

I wonder if the quality improvements that we see here in the US switching from analog to digital TV are the same/better/worse as in other countries?

Also, in the US, we have the mindset that broadcast TV must be free (as it has always been here).   However, I was a bit shocked to find out that this isn't globally true.

In the UK for example, the BBC charges people a license fee (of 142.50 pounds / year) for watching broadcast TV.  Here is an interesting link on how the money is spent.  Keep in mind that the BBC provides some great programming (and a fantastic news channel).

Which pay TV cord are you cutting?

In the US, I assume most people have at least two sources of pay TV available: Cable TV and Satellite TV.  In urban areas, increasingly we are seeing new fiber services based on IPTV (e.g. AT&T's uverse, Verizon's FIOS, etc).

Outside the US, CableTV isn't quite as popular and simply doesn't exist in some countries.

Regardless of the technology, I assume some form of pay TV is available in most places (at the least Satellite TV).

People outside the US want to cut the cord too!

One of the great things about Google Analytics is that you can see where your readers are coming from.  Clicking around the traffic maps is truly great fun (either day-by-day or in total).  Here is the traffic heat-map over the last three months from (darker green represents more traffic):

What is surprising to me is that 15% of the total blog traffic is outside the US from almost 60 different countries.  For fun, here are the top 25 countries:

In the list above, the top 12 represent 98% of the total traffic.  Nevertheless, there are visitors from just about every corner of the globe.  Looking through these numbers is a truly humbling experience because you begin to realize how really connected we've become.

Here is another amazing tidbit, the visitors from other countries (even non-english speaking ones), are spending quite a bit of time reading the articles (sometimes 10 minutes or more).

Clearly, Cutting the Cord (and cutting bills) is not just a US interest.

Back to my original assertion.  If cutting the cord is really made possible by the combination of broadcast TV and internet TV, how do these services differ in other countries?  And does cutting the cord really make sense in other countries as I think it does here?

Share your country-specific challenges, experiences and views!

If you are outside the US, here are some questions for you:
  1. What country are you from?
  2. What pay TV services do you have and what do they cost?
  3. Is broadcast TV digital and how good is it?
  4. What streaming video sources do you have available?
  5. What would you like to watch, but can't due to blocking, etc?
I'd love to hear about your country-specific challenges, experiences and views.  I look forward to learning about what the differences are outside the US in the world of TV!


1 comment:

  1. Interesting read, I really didn't think about TV viewing options outside the US. I just assumed, especially in Canada, it would not be an issue. After I read this I read another article about Netflix in Canada this fall.


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