Last week, I had the pleasure of going to the AHECTA conference in San Antonio, TX. This conference was a great opportunity to network with my peers in the Cable Television world, in particular those that support colleges and universities throughout the country. Some of the things the schools are implementing to entertain their students (read: recruit their students to live in the dorms) are really innovative, even with the lack of money that is out there right now. Listening to some of the schools that are sharing content via Internet 2, or implementing IPTV across their campus makes me proud to work in the education industry.
Unfortunately, one of the constant themes of the conference was about the content providers that we deal with. Many of the larger content providers like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, etc. have become the 1,000lbs gorilla in the room that only want things their way. Everybody is scared of the new, and have a real hard time with innovation. Lets face it, despite going digital (squeezing more channels in the same channel space as before), cable television hasn’t really changed a whole lot. You turn on your TV, you turn on your tuner, and you select your channel. Some new features, such as Video on Demand are really re-inventions of old ideas (Pay-Per-View).
When we start to look at what is happening to the industry — the move to high-def, with highly compressed, loss-less video, and especially the change to new mediums, they seem scared. If you were to approach a Comcast or Time Warner and ask them if you could deploy your campus cable with an IPTV setup, they would walk away right there. If you go directly to an ESPN or Showtime, and offer the same (even including a DRM package like Flash Media Server), they would tell you it is not in their supported model. It’s funny to watch the entire industry clammor for a change, yet the producers of the content refuse to allow the change.
So where does all this leave those of us providing the services to our communities? Well, for the most part, we will provide what the content providers allow us to provide, and will try to innovate to what our communities want. One day, the two will meet, and all will be happy :)
What types of technologies do you think students would want to consume for their "television" watching?