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YouTube is the New TV and its FREE

April 26, 2010

Yesterday I joined over 50 million other viewers to log onto YouTube  to watch a sporting event streamed live from Mumbai. Once in a while YouTube (acquired by Google in 2002) streams important events live but this is the first ever major sporting event broadcast live on YouTube. Last January Google signed the deal with IPL to stream the 45-day cricket tournament  making it available to worldwide viewers and relying on associated revenues from advertising. I think this is revolutionary and marks a major shift in global broadcasting.

The event I watched was the finals in the series. I only watch sports on TV when coaxed by my kids. But this time was different; I had a genuine interest in watching since I played the game in college 30 years ago and never had a chance to watch on TV/Net. The picture quality was excellent with no downtime at all for buffering. They even have a set of SpiderCams above the ground to catch the action. Very few commercial breaks. One could even be able to jump around in the live feed and there is no need to invest in extra recording devices. I am sure a good percentage of the 50 million plus views constitutes multiple viewers with families hooking up the TV to the laptops, the way I did, and the actual number of viewers could be quite high.

So what my watching a sports event on YouTube has got anything to do with STM publishing? A lot I think. No doubt Google and YouTube have been reshaping the business models and everything they do shapes the user perception for paid content. Ten years ago music CD purchase was a good part of my family entertainment budget (a good audio CD used to cost 12 bucks!) but then we stopped purchasing music CDs. This year we even stopped purchasing DVDs of Indian movies, we just watch them on YouTube; the last one we watched was of blueray quality. The idea of FREE  is so enticing that any argument against it just flies off.

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