Why provide downloading as an option for delivering online video?

At the moment, the online video industry is preferring to work on the “stream-only” model for delivering their video content via the Internet. But they could also look at supporting a download model where content is delivered to secondary storage that is local to the viewer with them viewing the content from the secondary storage.

In this context, downloading is where the files representing video content are delivered in a best-case manner rather than as real-time to the show as possible, with the content ending up on the secondary storage. Then, when the viewer wants to view this content, they play it off the secondary storage rather than stream it.

They prefer the “stream-only” approach for a few reasons. One is to control the viewing experience so as to either offer extra features or run advertising before or during the content, with the advertising reflecting the latest campaigns. Another is to avoid the risk of content piracy that could be seen to occur if the content is left on a space that is controlled by the customer. As well, the customer doesn’t need to bear any costs for extra secondary storage to hold the content even though the cost of this storage is becoming significantly cheaper. You can also log in to your service from anywhere you are connected to the Internet to get at the same content.

But there are limitations with the streaming approach. One glaring limitation is that a sub-par Internet or network connection or an oversubscribed video stream can ruin the viewing experience with jitter or latency. As well, viewers who like to implement trick-play functionality, especially to review scenes, may find streaming becoming a problem.

A download-based service could be offered as an adjunct to a streaming-based service for video-on-demand services, especially those that host a lot of drama or related content. These services could work hand-in-glove with a network-attached-storage device or a hard disk directly attached to a smart TV or video peripheral like a network media player.

This could work hand-in-glove with most video-on-demand business models especially if they are subscription-based, “download-to-own”, or rental/pay-per-view models. Here, systems that implement any “playlist” model for video content could support a “download-ahead” setup where content in a playlist that hasn’t been viewed yet is downloaded, ready to view. This would make life very enjoyable for “binge-watchers” who will watch a run of episodes of a favourite TV show.

Typically, the download-based service is based around a hard disk that is physically integrated in the set-top equipment or connected via USB to the same equipment. This class of setup would have us think of a DVR-style set-top box or some hard-disk-based media players. But, if there was a standard way to determine the presence of available storage space on a suitable network-attached-storage device, these devices could also work well with the download-based video service. Examples of this application may include router/NAS units like the Freebox Révolution, or just simply most consumer NAS units.

The idea of downloading video content rather than streaming it when providing a video-on-demand service is something worth considering when it comes to delivering online video so as to assure all users of a proper experience for these services.

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