I've been at work during the speeches at the Democratic Convention the last week, but I've been able to watch bits and pieces via the Democratic Convention website. Not only was the video live, but with a fast enough connection the video came down in HD. The quality is fantastic.
This is just another example of a evolution in online video. Many people are getting used to the idea of catching missed episodes of TV shows online. But those are typically tape-delayed. More and more, events are being broadcast on TV and online live, simultaneously.
When you compare the two, in most cases online matches or even surpasses cable or broadcast TV. The one place TV still beats online is in raw video quality, usually. With the exception of a thin slice of people on blazing fast corporate networks or services like Verizon's FIOS, there's just not enough bandwidth to match that through a satellite dish or over-the-air antenna bringing down high-def video.
But in other aspects, watching online is superior. Start with portability. I don't have a TV, let alone a cable box, at work. But I have a laptop and a fast internet connection, so I can watch the Democratic convention at the office. When wireless broadband infrastructure in our country catches up to that in countries like Korea, internet TV will travel with you almost everywhere, and certainly to more places than your TV.
Consider selection. March Madness? Ever game was available via March Madness on Demand on the web, but on TV, in earlier rounds, you were often at the mercy of which game CBS chose to cover, cutting back and forth from one game to another.
In baseball, it's the combination of selection and mobility that gives MLB.tv the edge over MLB Extra Innings on cable or satellite. I've tried MLB Extra Innings via DirecTV, but that only gives me access to baseball games when I'm home in front of the TV. MLB.tv gives me access to those baseball games anywhere I have a web connection, and it provides quick access to box scores and other in-game stats.
How about the Olympics? In terms of selection, online wasn't fantastic, but that was a measured choice on the part of NBC. For obscure sports, however, NBCOlympics.com was often the only option. And if you wanted to see replays of key events? The web was the best choice. Instead of trying to record some five or six hours a night of Olympics TV coverage and then scanning through it with your remote to find the exact event you wanted to watch, you could just look up the event on the web and pull up the video clip instantly.
The infrastructure of the Internet is better suited to offer users the type of control over video that they've grown accustomed to having over other aspects of their life, from communications to news to music.
Every time I watch an event that's broadcast both offline and online simultaneously, I realize how ready I am for that time when every event broadcast through cable or TV is simultaneously available online. Can the infrastructure of the Internet handle that? Perhaps not in the volumes that would satisfy a sudden mass migration, but in time, most definitely.
When notable events are only on TV, I already find them antiquated. U.S. Open tennis? All that's available on the web are low-res video highlights. Why not broadcast day matches during week one via the web, where office workers might be able to keep up with a browser window off to the side?
Take any golf major. The first two days play out on Thursday and Friday, when most golf fans are at the office. I think some of the Masters was online, but why not the other three golf majors, and Ryder Cup?How about the first round of MLB playoffs, when because of TV schedule limitations and time zone differences, some games have to be played during the early afternoon of weekdays.
We wonder now how we used to live without mobile phones, when we had to get to a physical location to use a landline to call anyone. Someday, we'll feel the same in wondering how we ever lived with an Internet that didn't pipe live TV.