Television, in an entertainment hungry world TV is an endless stream of candy for the mind but the world is changing fast and so is TV. Not only what we watch but how we watch TV is experiencing a revolution. There are sign posts to the direction this revolution is taking, just as Napster predicated iTunes and the way we consume music XBMC is pointing us towards the next revolution and it may just lead to an incredibly entertaining future, if you can afford it.
The future of TV is global, with every channel and show available at the click of a button or swipe of hand. With multiple ways to consume every type of content; live or on demand video, radio and even video games, the future of global TV appears bright.
Legal Disclaimer: Much of what is discussed in this article is illegal in most countries around the world and completely ignores all copyright laws so don’t do it. The stock standard install of XBMC Kodi is completely legal and requires add-ons to enable these more questionable extra features. Here at Highpants we don’t condone or encourage illegal behaviour of any kind and we believe your should support your favourite artists and studios.
In fact here at Highpants we like to encourage everyone, especially downloaders, to support the shows they love by buying a collector’s edition for a loved one. Think of it as if it is one of those donation gift cards except it doesn’t suck to receive one. Family Guy has proven that studios love numbers and a show can even be bought back through this practice, it works.
[The Future as Demonstrated by Kodi] For a glimpse of this future you simply need to look to the illegal pirate radio of the video world XBMC, or Kodi as it is now known. If you remove every legal and geographic restriction on how you access content and make every piece of content in the world available you are getting close to what an extreme Kodi setup offers right now. What Kodi does is say I am a citizen of the world, give me all of your content.
There are of course other websites and applications taking part in the revolution; Plex like Kodi can bring together incredible amounts of content while Netflix, Hulu and other internet services are offering a cut down but completely legal experience compared to Kodi, for a moderate monthly subscription. All of these services however pale in comparison to what can be achieved with Kodi and a few add-ons.
Many people within the entertainment industry can also see the axe hanging over the neck of tradition free to air TV, and cable for that matter. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings this week commented that network TV would be dead in 15 years while the Simpsons (Lisa’s Wedding) previously predicted that Cable TV would slowly transform into hardcore porn / home shopping network. They are both correct although the timing may be a little off.
For many of the internet generation the revolution is already well underway, many 20 something’s have already weened themselves off the tube. Ask around and you may be shocked at how many don’t even own a TV, replacing it with internet based services on their tablet or laptop.
[Advertising Intelligence] The driver of the revolution is of course advertising, the shift away from shooting blanks in the dark (twice as pointless, trying to shoot what you can’t see with nonexistent bullets), as TV advertising operates now. Compare Nielsons rating witchcraft to how Google, YouTube and Facebook do it. Using unbelievable amounts of data and highly targeted campaigns they have revolutionized advertising, as soon as this is applied to the big screen free to air is as dead as the dodo, cable too. Instead of just guessing which shows your audience likes and blanket advertising ads could be different for each viewer, targeting their likes and tying in with their meta data.
Not only is this advertising more effective but it allows a much lower price point to get ads out there. Facebook and Google will go as low as 10’s of dollars to run ads, not the 10’s of thousands that TV charge now. Not only that but a $100 dollars targeted effectively may be more effective than $10’s of thousands pissed away on free to air TV and its random marketing machine.
Free to air and cable TV are at the moment pushing hard on the boundaries of how many ads they can fit into a show, in-show ads will be the death of them both. Again if you talk to young members of the internet generation this is the major factors pushing them (and us oldies) away from TV as we know it. Recently one unnamed TV station in Australia (starts with 7) actually applied to push even harder, approaching the 30% mark, 20 minutes per hour. Go past that and a TV show starts to feel like more ad than show, the business model just isn’t working anymore.
[IPTV versus over the air transmission] The death of television as we know it really boils down to one battle, internet transmission (IPTV) versus over the air transmission, and cable for that matter. IPTV doesn’t just let broadcasters know exactly how many people are watching and what they are watching, no Nelsen assumptions, but it can tell broadcasters about that audience, most importantly their likes. Combine that with global numbers of viewers in the billions instead of hundreds of millions in a single country and you have a revolution on your hands.
[Streaming the World Torrent Style] One of the other important aspects of the revolution demonstrated by Kodi is that many of the streaming services available use a decentralized delivery system, a torrent like approach that uses downloaders to share the content. People who are watching a show (and buffering locally) share the parts already watched with people who haven’t seen those parts yet, providing multiple sources for the content, not just a centralized file server. This approach works really well because popular shows will have many copies spread throughout the world, in fact the more popular a show becomes the more potential bandwidth it has. Potential bandwidth equating to the number of copies of a show that can be served at once. With a centralized server this limit is a hard limit totally down to the bandwidth available to the server whereas a torrent approach means the available bandwidth is the sum of all the machines sharing the files.
Again this is an important factor not just for user experience but it also affects the infrastructure cost of the service, being able to do it more efficiently with less servers and bandwidth also means doing it cheaper.
[The Governments Role] One of the largest restraints to this brave new world of TV is the regional licensing of content. Take the state of legitimate content in Australia. In the wide brown land Foxtel is the king of Cable TV and they have cleverly bought the rights to many of the most popular shows in the world, good business. Now this week the entire country was excited for exactly 30 seconds when it was announced that Netflix was coming to Australia in 2015, no more VPN required or allowed. The sudden drop off of excitement was caused by the fact that many of Netflix’s best shows wouldn’t be available in the Australian flavour of internet TV provider. Even more disastrous is the fact that once Netflix goes live in Oz they will begin blocking VPN users from Australia, to firmly encourage their Australian business to make money. Not good news for current users who go via VPN in a vain attempt to avoid having to get Foxtel. In the near future they will have to get both Netflix Oz and Foxtel to enjoy what they have now. Back to downloading for them I would guess.
For the normal content consuming world to achieve what Kodi can do these geographic milking barriers and exclusive rights deals will have to evolve, most likely in Australia you would just see prices pushed higher on all content.
Governments could of course end this in a second by banning exclusive rights, yes copyright is important but it shouldn’t be used to milk the market, that’s the job of quality content. Instead what seems to be happening is a push to start putting downloaders in jail, making the act of downloading as bad as murder and rape seems to be the goal of the big Studios and just a tad extreme. It won’t work either, people in the computer world are a very resourceful bunch.
[Piracy] Let’s get this out of the way, I’m only going to say it once, piracy is high in Australia (amongst the highest in the world) because content is amongst the most expensive in the world (see the Australia Tax). There IS a direct correlation between cost and piracy, the higher the cost the greater number of people can’t afford it resulting in higher piracy. The entire internet is living breathing proof of this. Provide a cheap and convenient path to content and people will use it, build it and they will come. Keep trying to funnel people through expensive pay walls and you will go broke or end up having to lock up half of the country.
Now it would be a good thing if the government of Australia were actually representing its citizens and trying to get us a better deal instead of selling us out, corralling us to expensive pay walls built by big business but that’s not the world we live in.
[The Kodi Experience] Bringing all of our media to life on the big screen Kodi is the one of the better Media Centre applications out there. Plex also has a huge number of users while good old VLC is still more stable than all of them but it can’t do what Kodi does. Available for almost every platform (iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS etc) and with an exhausting list of add-ons that add functionality to the base platform Kodi is capable of much more than you might expect.
The piece of the puzzle that is missing for worldwide media and what Kodi and software of this ilk are really good at is bringing it all together, adding a new layer on top of the pyramid. A layer that brings all of your favourite content services together into once smooth interface. TV streams, video on demand, radio, music, video games are all available at the click of a remote. This isn’t just important for convenience sake, which it is, it is more important from a commercial standpoint, a single pay point.
Out of the box Kodi seems simple, sparse even but in this fresh state it is still one of the best media players available. Things begin to get interesting as you begin to install audio and video add-ons to the base Kodi install. Even the completely legal above board add-ons provide incredible functionality. Add live TV and EPG using a USB antenna input, playback every type of file available, internet radio and an easy to read large screen interface that’s designed specifically for use on the living room big screen.
Things start to get illegal when you begin exploring the repositories of Kodi add-ons, with over 2000 mini applications available there is literally a world of content available. If you are concerned about the legality as we all are then you should definitely not be using iLive, one of the best add-ons for live feeds from around the world. Genesis should be banned in every country around the world it is so good, install 1Channel and iStream if your looking for trouble and massive amounts of content.
While all of these goodies are easily added to Kodi it is in reality quite a finicky process to get it setup with all of the available add-ons. As much time can be spent tweaking Kodi as watching TV, to get all of the functions you desire working just right takes time and a little patience, it isn’t really ready for prime time because of this.
The other downside to Kodi’s less legitimate add-ons is the fact that they are constantly being shut down and forced to move about, this does add considerably to the maintenance work required keep Kodi add-ons running. You really do need to keep an eye on the community and keep up to date.
[The Quick Start] If you are interested in seeing the future and what Kodi can do, for testing purposes of course, the quickest way to setup the extra functionality available is the Droid Sticks Wizard. One of the better automatic setup wizards that will install and setup most of the popular and handy add-ons. Run the wizard once Kodi is installed and all of the most popular add-ons will magically appear before your eyes. Again this should only be done to in order to preview the future; you shouldn’t do anything illegal like watching the latest TV shows and movies.
[Repositories] In order to access and install add-ons one at a time you will need to download them from one of the repositories, download sites specifically designed to make Kodi setup easy. The most popular repositories at the moment are Fusion and Super Repo, both keep an extensive list of add-ons of all types.
Once the world of entertainment catches up with Kodi this type of experience will go mainstream and hopefully the hard work required to keep these setups running will disappear, along with the advertising nightmare that is free to air and cable TV. Who knows one day you may even be able to pay a little more to make in-show advertising go away completely.
Reference: XBMC Kodi Homepage
Reference: Business Insider – Netflix CEO
Reference: The Age – Piracy
Reference: Digital Trends – Rabbit TV
Reference: Project Free TV
Reference: Life Hacker – Plex vs Kodi
Reference: Toms Guide – How to Watch Free TV Online