March Madness & The Downfall of Netflix?

03/24/2011 by Larry Salvatoriello
A look at the streaming content market including the new March Madness On Demand application and the implications of live streaming on Netflix.

As we sit in the middle of another great March Madness (not just because my Tar Heels are in the sweet 16) we must take note of changes to the fan experience that might make it the best ever. Not only did the NCAA smarten up and use CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast all the games live with staggered start times but they are also offering all the games streaming online and via your Apple mobile devices. I was very skeptical at first about live streaming but after my experience I can't wait for what's next. Here's a little about my experience this weekend and might signal what is coming to an iPad near you.

Streaming Madness

I was very skeptical about live streaming, especially a sporting event where at any moment you could be watching the play of the game. I have had great success with Netflix streaming even over 3G cellular service but this was different and I must say that the results were great. On Friday afternoon my partners and I went to a local establishment to watch some of the games and over their wifi we tested the NCAA On-Demand app to see how it worked on the new iPad 2. Though there was a slight delay (10-15 seconds), the picture was great considering it was streaming and over a shared public wifi network in the restaurant. Later that day I was out with my family and I decided to try it over 3G on my iPhone. The video again had a slight delay but the picture and audio quality was still pretty good. I give the overall experience an A+ considering and it just gets me more excited about what's ahead.

Netflix downfall?

In addition to services like the March Madness On Demand, some recent announcements have me wondering the impact on the streaming content market and in particular the future of Netflix. Netflix recently got bad press for their downtime resulting from maintenance upgrade issues which is not good for obvious reasons so I am not going to spend anytime on it. The bigger news is Time Warner recently releasing their live app for the iPad and Comcast to release theirs in the next few months. There are restrictions thus far like the device has to be over wifi and it must to be in your home on a Time Warner internet connection but it's only a matter of time when these will be lifted. These service providers also offer On Demand movies and shows like Netflix which makes them prime candidates to take over marketshare. This is also very bad news for Slingbox which base their entire existence on giving you the ability to watch and control your home TV via the web. Oh and dare I say Facebook has joined the market. They recently got permission to offer Batman for a small fee via the 700 million plus user social network. Netflix is in for a battle and they know it. Is offering original content that is exclusive to Netflix the answer? I just don't know.

The Future

My NCAA experience got me very excited for what's ahead and may have me change where my money goes. I love netflix streaming and am happy with my investment but my money will go where I can can get both live and on demand content and I don't see Netflix getting the rights to stream live content maybe ever. This competition only drives innovation up and cost to the end user down. If the cable companies are smart and do not overcharge, they can own this market. You are already paying them for live tv, hardware, and often times access to the internet; add some more content and make it mobile and I'm all yours.