TV watching isn’t watching programs on a television set anymore. Today, viewers watch 30 percent of their TV shows on mobile devices, like phones and tablets, and that number increases almost daily. That’s good for users and for mobile service providers, who are charging them for the privilege of watching live broadcasts and on-demand shows on the road.
But it’s not so good for content providers, the networks that provide those broadcasts. Their only outlet is TV, and if their content doesn’t get chosen for transmission by service providers on the mobile network, they’re missing out on exposure to a large and growing segment of users. That means less advertising money, less in subscriber fees, less in licensing fees, and less money for the bottom line.
The ideal solution would be reaching out directly to users over the Internet, i.e., the cloud. Companies like Hulu and Apple (with iTunes TV) do this for desktop PCs and Internet-connected TV sets. Instead of watching your favorite shows on the networks’ schedule or subscribing to a cable broadcaster’s full range of services, you can subscribe to your favorite show or sporting event, by the program or the season.
Until now, that kind of model hasn’t been feasible for portable devices that get all their data via wi-fi or the mobile network; the infrastructure just hasn’t been strong enough. Now, though, it is, said Shlomi Cohen, CEO and president of Tel Aviv-based RayV. At a press conference unveiling RayV’s technology Cohen said, “The communications infrastructure has improved greatly in the past 18 months, especially in Europe, and it’s now much easier to reach the billion smartphones and tablets in the world today.”
For content providers, those billion devices are a billion TVs they could be present on, and over the past five years, RayV has been developing the technology to reach those viewers, quietly building up a good-sized network of partners – content providers and customers – with RayV providing the network to ensure what Cohen said is near-flawless transmission of content over the open Internet. RayV charges providers by the user, and does the end-to-end broadcast for service providers, along with billing and other ancillary services. Thus, mobile companies can provide more services for their subscribers using RayV’s system without having to invest in more infrastructure. And mobile companies have responded: RayV currently streams 200 channels to over 7 million people in the US and Europe. In 2009 RayV broadcast all of the NBA’s games to fans outside the United States, streaming 1,280 games to 100 countries.
To accomplish all this without hardware, RayV relies on several patented technologies, one of which involves using a viewer’s Internet connection to pass on segments of a broadcast to other users on the network. The result is that having more viewers watching a show does not degrade the broadcast; it can actually enhance it, since more viewers are strengthening the broadcast. And the system allows for transmission of videos with almost no buffering. It’s all legal, of course; the only content streamed is that which RayV licenses, and the content is protected with whatever DRM system the content provider requires.
This “social broadcasting” does not suffer from the pitfalls faced by other projects based on peer-to-peer video streaming. Several companies that have tried it in the past folded because they concentrated only on the download aspects of sharing, and did not allocate enough resources to the upload by each client. Other companies, like BitTorrent, which has been slowly rolling out its BitTorrent Live service, do not have the content reach RayV does, said Cohen. And the only other company streaming live TV broadcasts — actually rebroadcasting them –called Aereo, is being sued for copyright infringement.
Which makes RayV the only credible player in this up and coming field, said Cohen. With dozens of patents, he added, RayV “can offer uninterrupted streaming live TV and video on demand broadcasting at the best quality possible.”
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