Can Online Replace Satellite TV?


Sky has been the leader in subscription television in the UK for more than a decade, and whilst the combining of cable companies NTL and Telewest has given Sky a reasonable competitor in Virgin Media, Sky still has a sizeable lead. But as broadband, both fixed and mobile, continues to get faster how long until we see the switch from satellite TV to the web for the masses?

The increasingly connected UK population is already used to using BBC iPlayer and 4od to catch up with their favourite UK shows, and YouView is getting these services into people’s sitting rooms embedded in set-top boxes or the TVs themselves. We also have the online-only services like Amazon’s Lovefilm and Netflix – with Netflix moving into commissioning its own shows such as the widely praised House of Cards.

Sky hasn’t stood by from the sidelines either, with subscribers able to stream live Sky Sports from various devices and in NowTV they are letting online users pay for access to films and TV shows on a per show/film basis. Sky knows that the future of content delivery will be through the web, and making sure it is getting out in front f its competitors now will ensure its continued success.

As much as those of us that live in cities may be able to “cut the cord” to cable or satellite TV, the situation is not, however, the same for those living in rural communities. Whilst they may have broadband to these villages, the distances from the exchange generally means that the speeds are slow and streaming an HD episode of Game of Thrones is completely out of the question. By beaming down from orbits above the earth, satellite TV is one of the few technologies that can beam media to people’s homes no matter how remote they are, and with digital terrestrial TV and radio also not having the same reach as their older analogue counterparts, satellite TV is important to keep these people informed and part of the rapidly progressing modern life.

For users that do not want the subscription charges of Sky, FreeSat is a great alternative from the companies behind FreeView – and that sends signal through the same satellite as Sky so moving between the two is relatively easy. The extra bandwidth of satellite over digital terrestrial TV means that FreeSat users can also get more HD channels than FreeView users, and in the future likely many more channels as well.

As media technologies converge online, we need to make sure that groups living in rural areas remain connected, and with installing broadband to these places still prohibitively expensive, satellite is a great alternative.

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