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Desperate Downloaders

While the TV drama about digital video recording continues to play and the debate about HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray drags ahead, others are realizing that maybe – just maybe – the real future will be downloadable video services through that ubiquitous delivery pipe called the Internet.

As ZDNet Australia reports, many Aussies are turning to BitTorrent to view popular television shows such as Desperate Housewives because they don’t want to wait for the eight month lag it takes for the shows to migrate overseas.

As a matter of fact, Australians download more programs than anyone else, followed by their English counterparts – who also faced delayed programming.

American are third, but that probably has more to do with so many tech-savvy folks wanting to avoid the sky-high digital cable rates for an on-demand viewing of their favorite episode of The Sopranos.

Webcasts are catching on too. Hundreds of thousands of people tuned into their computers on Saturday to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and his former mistress.

In response to this ever increasing demand for Internet-delivered programming, content providers are beginning to offer dedicated Web channels. MTV announced last week that it will launch a free webcast – similar to ones already run by Disney and MSN – that allows viewers to play its original programming along with the music videos. The reason:  people have complained that programming and hard-to-find videos have virtually disappeared from the network..

But this is really all just the tip of the iceberg as far as the future of Internet television goes. The trick will be to raise the quality and reliability for delivery over IP networks

One of the most heartening attempts is by the telecommunications giant SBC. It’s in the process of developing a system dubbed IPTV, which would provide on-demand programming through a dedicated network of its own servers. But SBC is experiencing difficulties from content providers, who are leery of the possibility that the service might cut into other forms of revenue. By the time SBC unveils its IPTV service near the end of the year, it will look and feel more like a cable provider than an Internet service. This is also true for the planned IPTV services from Verizon and BellSouth.

So what’s a computer potato to do? Well, maybe the saving grace will come from none other than the man who “created the Internet.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that Al Gore, along with several other well-known entrepreneurs, are planning an Internet service called Current that will offer short segments of programming dubiously called “pods.” Developed for the short attention span of most chronic Web surfers, the service is due to go live on August 1.

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