Broadcasters drowning in a sea of new competition

No matter where they turned at CES this year, television broadcasters are seeing new competition. But the big game changer threatens to be Internet video, a place where new channels and sources of video are being spawned almost every day.

It hard to believe, but YouTube, the free global distribution medium owned by Google, did not exist until six years ago. It was created at a dinner party in San Francisco as way to exchange home video. Now YouTube—as with many others—has targeted a big piece of TV’s $300 billion pie.

YouTube sees the future of TV in niche content and the company’s original channels sent over IP networks is the most efficient way to deliver such content. YouTube is busy commissioning people and companies to create the channels which gives the creators freedom to program their channels as they see fit—something that has not happened before in television. All YouTube wants in return in a certain numbers of hours each week.

Major talent has already signed and the content will launch over the next six months. This portends to shake up the advertising business, since advertisers can target niche markets with highly focused ads. They can avoid the wide advertising reach of traditional television.

Ditto for Netflix, who is also creating new niches for programming and about to product its own series; Apple, who is creating its first television sets; and Vimeo, YouTube’s competitor, which unleashed a group of new mobile at CES in Las Vegas this week. Vimeo will support Apple iPads, Kindle Fire, Android and Windows phones.

“With the widespread accessibility of high-quality video on mobile devices and high- speed mobile Internet access, people use their mobile devices not only to watch video but to shoot and then upload video to share online,” said Joe Schmitt, lead mobile developer at Vimeo. “With mobile devices making up approximately 15 percent of our site traffic, we recognize the importance of expanding our platforms to allow people to access Vimeo from as many devices as possible.”

Broadband video will also come from the sky. ViaSat will introduce its new residential satellite broadband service, which is set to deliver 12 Mbps+ download speeds (3 Mbps+ up) beginning next week for $50 per month.

ViaSat was set up this week at CES, transmitting from the ViaSat-1 satellite thousands of miles above the Earth. Users said while there’s still just over a half-second of latency, bandwidth speeds were significantly faster than those experienced with other services in the past.

Also competing with local channels will be Ubuntu TV, an open-source solution to provide programming to the home. Ubuntu TV is a TV-optimized version of the desktop OS, based around the Unity UI. It was working at a CES display.

It features a full-on media center and DVR features, including movie, TV and music stores, and a YouTube app. The idea is to make the OS free for manufacturers to package with their TVs, and Ubuntu said it will be on TVs at retail by the end of the year.