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Author Topic: Need help with idea: P2P decentralized TV channel using Bitcoins  (Read 2072 times)
Elwar
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June 12, 2012, 07:45:57 PM
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I have had this idea for a while and tinkered around a bit with the coding part, but I am working on my Master's thesis which requires an explanation of a business idea that could be helped with the use of IT advances which we have learned about. So any any critiques and input would be much appreciated.

1.    Describe the product or service, and describe customers for the product.

Idea: A device you plug into your TV set which gives you a free TV channel streamed from the Internet providing original content running 24/7.

The hardware would be something like the Raspberry Pi, a miniature computer that can hook up to the Internet and has HDMI output to the TV.
The software would be a combination of a video player and Bittorrent. Basically, the shows would be sent out to all of the mini-computers over the Bittorrent network a few minutes before the show starts. Then the computer would start to show the video at the right time. The Bittorrent network would be open so new shows or video could be loaded from anywhere.

Where Bitcoin comes in is in telling the video player which video to show. A single address would be used as the central payment location for getting shows on the air. If a company wants their show to play, they will send BTC to that address. The video player will then look for a video with the name ABC_BTC_address_to_XYZ_BTC_address.mpg, based upon the transaction in the blockchain, and play that.

This allows the company at XYZ address to get money in order to expand the network and finance programs and everything else necessary to run a TV channel. The individual shows can pay for themselves through advertisements in their video or get people to fund the program or even have a separate website set up where people vote with Bitcoins for the TV show that they want to watch next.

There are many other possibilities including multiple channels which can be changed with your cell phone or subscription services, etc. But the basic concept is the decentralized distribution of the TV channel.

The goal would be to make this so cheap and simple that you can plug it into your TV and enter your wireless router password and you are all set with a new TV channel. Something so simple that your grandma can plug in, but in reality, the content will likely not be something your grandma would be interested in initially.

Because of the decentralized nature of the channel, the content can go beyond what TV networks are allowed to display, whether it is criticism of government in countries that are highly regulated or other uncensored type of material. Though instead of devolving into a porn channel, the central TV channel company would likely try to fund appropriate shows which would encourage more viewers.

Initially, being a new technology, the content would likely be geared toward those who like technology so a lot of content such as TechTV and other such content would probably be prominent and shift as the viewer base changes. But the main channel would likely shift toward generic viewership as added channels accessed through a smart phone are accessed by more technically savvy viewers.

2.    How does it add value? Where does it fit in the value chain?

The added value is the ability to plug in a device into your TV and be able to watch TV shows with no subscription fees. The decentralized nature of it allows for content which would otherwise be suppressed, thus providing information to people that a regular network TV show may be restricted from showing either by the government or their corporate owner which may have their own agenda.

This fits in the value chain as entertainment and a free distribution of information to a larger amount of people who do not necessarily have to be tech savvy in order to view it.

3.    Describe the competitive landscape of the industry. Briefly explain the current state and then predict how it will evolve.

There is certainly competition in the outskirts of the technology. You could just connect your computer via HDMI to your TV and watch Bittorrent videos right now. But you have to go out and search for those videos then wait for them to load and then view it. This requires effort as opposed to being able to sit down on your couch and just turn on the TV and just watch. It also requires a bit of technical savvy which is not as widespread.

There are also currently devices out there which allow you to hook up to your TV and has loaded content such as the Roku box or the Boxxi Box or any number of other devices which can store video on the device which you can then search through and find a video to watch. Again, this requires a small amount of effort and does not allow you the ability to just sit back and watch content, most of these devices also restrict the content to a few approved feeds with limited amount of content.

There is also the upcoming prominence of integrated applications into the TV. These, again, tend to be searchable videos where you have to expend the effort to find content. Though down the road, this technology could be integrated into a TV set to provide for even easier use.

Finally there are the current cable TV providers and network TV. With network TV, you are provided with the same ease of use of this technology. You plug in an antenna and you are able to watch TV shows with no effort. But network stations must pay for the airwaves which requires more commercials and content that tends to revolve around an agenda that is decided at the corporate level, whether well intended or not. They are also under the regulations of governments which wish to regulate what can and cannot go over its air waves. As for cable TV, there is the price of the subscription and similar restrictions to content as network channels.

The technology of TV will certainly evolve into more Internet based content and become more of a hybrid of television and Internet but this technology will be a step forward in the process, initially providing easy Internet based content to the average viewer and finally multiple channels which could overcome or compete with the amount of content offered by cable companies with a low cost of distribution.

4.    What other firms will compete in this space? How will you differentiate your firm from others?

There have been some studies done on P2P TV and some tests. This will be differentiated by the ability to be very decentralized through the use of Bitcoin.

(more research needed here)

5.    How do the prospects for success evaluate in terms of Michael Porter’s five forces model and Sun Tzu’s philosophy?

Of the five forces model, this is where this technology stands:
  • Marketing Entry: Though the cost of entry for competitors would be small, this technology is a highly differentiated product which would have time to scale as others work to catch up.
  • Threat of product/service substitution. There are other products which could adapt their technology to try to substitute the technology such as the box hook-ups and integrated TV hardware but most competitors will be tied to a large corporate structure which would take away from the decentralized nature of the technology.
  • Bargaining power of buyers. The buyer has the power in that if they do not like the content, they will discontinue viewing the content which will then turn off the content producers from paying to have their content (and advertising) viewed. But there is no small group that could form to block the operations from moving forward.
  • Bargaining power of suppliers. The suppliers would be both the suppliers of the technology itself and the content providers. The technology is so simplistic that it could be produced in any number of electronics manufacturing plants, and the content providers are so decentralized that if a small block were to refuse to offer content, then someone else will be there to take their place.
  • Rivalry among current competitors.
    Current TV networks and cable networks have had a hold on this industry for so long that they will not go away silently. There has not been much evidence of them trying to block components from offering video from the Internet to the TV but this is not to say that they may not end up trying to get regulations passed in order to stop this technology from being connected to a television. To this end, the technology itself could be open sourced and the software could be open sourced to the point that anyone could have access while the content continues to be made available.

6.    You do not need to submit any financial models or time-to-market predictions (you can submit these if you want as an appendix).

Financial models: initial small investment in time to get the software working correctly followed by trial runs on basic hardware, distributed at a low cost for testing. Initial content could be freely added content from vbloggers or as an alternative to YouTube at a very low cost. Followed by a final product which would require an initial investment to buy in bulk and initiate distribution and advertising with an initial investment into content to get the ball rolling.

Time to market of a working retail product would be just over a year.


-------------------
Please poke holes in this, critique it, etc.  this is my very first attempt at getting my thoughts put together so there is much more to do.

Thanks

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Elwar
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June 12, 2012, 07:46:33 PM
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reserved for clarification

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June 12, 2012, 08:26:26 PM
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I'll try to poke holes.  I haven't read the entire proposal, but I'll start with this:  I am already used to using Netflix streaming, which provides low-cost on demand streaming of enough content that I don't think I'll ever get bored with it.  Why would I want to switch back to something that's "on a schedule", so to speak?

Also, where will all of this video be stored?  A tiny raspberry pi-like device cannot possibly hold more than a handful of shows at a time, so there must be some sort of central server that stores all of the past and future shows on it?  I would also argue that the devices would have to start downloading future shows WELL in advance of the show actually starting, since most people do not have a very fast connection.  1.5 mbps might be just enough to stream in real-time from a central server, but streaming torrent-style couldn't be close to real-time on such a connection.
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June 12, 2012, 08:30:04 PM
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I think that if this technology will be open, then it will be a great merge with Bitcoin currency Cheesy

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June 12, 2012, 08:40:57 PM
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I'll try to poke holes.  I haven't read the entire proposal, but I'll start with this:  I am already used to using Netflix streaming, which provides low-cost on demand streaming of enough content that I don't think I'll ever get bored with it.  Why would I want to switch back to something that's "on a schedule", so to speak?

Also, where will all of this video be stored?  A tiny raspberry pi-like device cannot possibly hold more than a handful of shows at a time, so there must be some sort of central server that stores all of the past and future shows on it?  I would also argue that the devices would have to start downloading future shows WELL in advance of the show actually starting, since most people do not have a very fast connection.  1.5 mbps might be just enough to stream in real-time from a central server, but streaming torrent-style couldn't be close to real-time on such a connection.

Thanks.

I too watch Netflix (need to add that as a competitor) for a lot of movies or TV shows, but sometimes you just want to sit down and watch TV, and I know that my parents prefer to just watch TV than having to deal with choosing what videos they want to watch. There is a huge population of people who watch TV "on schedule". You also get the water cooler affect of people talking about something that happened on TV last night or the anticipation of a show that may be coming on soon (I watched Hatfields and McCoys mainly because of chatter from people at work).

As for the technology. I was thinking along the lines of a small amount of files, perhaps in 5 minute increments, maybe smaller if there is the opportunity for almost live TV (the actual live show starting 30-60 seconds before the loaded file). And each player would not need to play at the same rate. If you get your show 2-3 minutes after someone else, it will not be that big of a deal. Stock ads could fill time to catch up or delay those times when a connection is having trouble.

The key to the torrent will be that as the popularity of it grows, the faster the connection will be. Everyone will be an upload point so the connection will mainly be between neighbors while only one file has to come down the pike into that neighborhood.

But it definitely does need to take into account storage space and how long a file lasts on the system. I have ordered my Raspberry Pi and have started working a rudimentary video portion of it just to see if it is feasible.

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June 12, 2012, 08:51:57 PM
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I think that if this technology will be open, then it will be a great merge with Bitcoin currency Cheesy

Interesting, I cannot download the client at work, but is that a bittorrent program that is streaming different TV channels?

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June 12, 2012, 08:55:33 PM
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I'll try to poke holes.  I haven't read the entire proposal, but I'll start with this:  I am already used to using Netflix streaming, which provides low-cost on demand streaming of enough content that I don't think I'll ever get bored with it.  Why would I want to switch back to something that's "on a schedule", so to speak?

Also, where will all of this video be stored?  A tiny raspberry pi-like device cannot possibly hold more than a handful of shows at a time, so there must be some sort of central server that stores all of the past and future shows on it?  I would also argue that the devices would have to start downloading future shows WELL in advance of the show actually starting, since most people do not have a very fast connection.  1.5 mbps might be just enough to stream in real-time from a central server, but streaming torrent-style couldn't be close to real-time on such a connection.

Thanks.

I too watch Netflix (need to add that as a competitor) for a lot of movies or TV shows, but sometimes you just want to sit down and watch TV, and I know that my parents prefer to just watch TV than having to deal with choosing what videos they want to watch. There is a huge population of people who watch TV "on schedule". You also get the water cooler affect of people talking about something that happened on TV last night or the anticipation of a show that may be coming on soon (I watched Hatfields and McCoys mainly because of chatter from people at work).

As for the technology. I was thinking along the lines of a small amount of files, perhaps in 5 minute increments, maybe smaller if there is the opportunity for almost live TV (the actual live show starting 30-60 seconds before the loaded file). And each player would not need to play at the same rate. If you get your show 2-3 minutes after someone else, it will not be that big of a deal. Stock ads could fill time to catch up or delay those times when a connection is having trouble.

The key to the torrent will be that as the popularity of it grows, the faster the connection will be. Everyone will be an upload point so the connection will mainly be between neighbors while only one file has to come down the pike into that neighborhood.

But it definitely does need to take into account storage space and how long a file lasts on the system. I have ordered my Raspberry Pi and have started working a rudimentary video portion of it just to see if it is feasible.
I'd argue that everyone will NOT be an upload point, and that as the popularity of it grows, the connection will be slower.

Think about it.  Say a new movie file is to be played 30-60 seconds from now, and there are 10 users watching the channel.  Where does that movie file come from initially?  A central server?  Ok, so the users download from the central server, then, progressively, from each other, as they each download different parts of the file and subsequently share those parts with each other.

Now say there are 10 million users watching the channel.  The movie file still (initially) has to come from a central server, but this time, you have 10 million people bombarding it with a request for the same file at the same time.  You could potentially build up a beefy enough bank of servers to handle all of those requests, but then would it be any different from simply streaming the same content to everyone without torrenting?  Certainly, as the file is downloaded, the clients can increasingly rely on each other for the missing pieces, but you'd still have the initial problem of everyone trying to download from the central server all at once.

So, to fix it?  I'd say that the average show needs an hour or two of "seed time" before it could be shown.  This would give plenty of time to decentralize the content from the point of origin (which could very well just be someone's home computer anyway), and even if many clients came online just before the show started, they should have plenty of seeds to download it from quickly.

TL:DR; Serving content on a near-instant basis would be difficult due to initial centralization of said content.  It would be better to wait for a while after making said content available before showing it.
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June 13, 2012, 02:14:15 AM
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I'd argue that everyone will NOT be an upload point, and that as the popularity of it grows, the connection will be slower.

Think about it.  Say a new movie file is to be played 30-60 seconds from now, and there are 10 users watching the channel.  Where does that movie file come from initially?  A central server?  Ok, so the users download from the central server, then, progressively, from each other, as they each download different parts of the file and subsequently share those parts with each other.

Now say there are 10 million users watching the channel.  The movie file still (initially) has to come from a central server, but this time, you have 10 million people bombarding it with a request for the same file at the same time.  You could potentially build up a beefy enough bank of servers to handle all of those requests, but then would it be any different from simply streaming the same content to everyone without torrenting?  Certainly, as the file is downloaded, the clients can increasingly rely on each other for the missing pieces, but you'd still have the initial problem of everyone trying to download from the central server all at once.

So, to fix it?  I'd say that the average show needs an hour or two of "seed time" before it could be shown.  This would give plenty of time to decentralize the content from the point of origin (which could very well just be someone's home computer anyway), and even if many clients came online just before the show started, they should have plenty of seeds to download it from quickly.

TL:DR; Serving content on a near-instant basis would be difficult due to initial centralization of said content.  It would be better to wait for a while after making said content available before showing it.

The point of the gadget that is connected to their TV would be that they are made to be an upload point. They cannot refuse to upload as you can now on Bittorrent (unless you do some work with your firewall, etc.).

The point is also to not have a central server. The originator merely names his file and puts it in a directory to be accessed by the torrent connection. Then he sends Bitcoins from his address to the main address. The clients would then allow files with that name to be downloaded. It could certainly have some super user nodes that are dedicated just for this, it would need some known hosts when it first connects anyhow before discovering others.

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June 13, 2012, 03:25:21 AM
 #9

http://bitcointorrentz.com/  perhaps you could work with them to produce the device/software so its compatible with their service Smiley


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June 13, 2012, 03:17:43 PM
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http://bitcointorrentz.com/  perhaps you could work with them to produce the device/software so its compatible with their service Smiley

Interesting. Though they appear to be more of a centralized repository. But it could definitely help in getting things disseminated.

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June 13, 2012, 03:23:45 PM
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Makes sense Elwar, I guess I just don't see file transfers happening as quickly as you are envisioning, but I could be wrong!
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June 14, 2012, 02:39:06 PM
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Makes sense Elwar, I guess I just don't see file transfers happening as quickly as you are envisioning, but I could be wrong!

I appreciate you highlighting that possible flaw to me. I have over 7 years of experience modeling and simulating large networks so I would certainly run this through some simulations before pushing forward with a retail version.

I would imagine that running a simulation would show the optimum size of the files and the quality of video/length of time necessary for it to work.

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