Cuban Won't Stream HDNet

ATLANTA -- NCTA National Show -- HDNet founder Mark Cuban pledged to the cable industry here Tuesday that he would not use the open Internet to distribute his company’s high-definition video content.

“You’re never going to see a streaming HDNet,” Cuban said. One of the cable executives sitting next to Cuban asked him to "promise.” And Cuban did. (See Broadcast TV Will Never Die.)

That's pretty interesting, coming from a guy who made his fortune building a streaming media empire. Cuban founded Broadcast.com, a company that broadcast sports games, conference calls, presidential debates, and loads of other things via Internet streaming. The company was acquired by Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) in 1999 for $5.7 billion in stock.

But Cuban's latest venture is HDNet, billed as the first all high-definition (HD) television network. And the rules are definitely different in a high-def world.

In the panel today, Cuban spoke to the increasing anxiety of many Internet businesses that bandwidth scarcity in the last mile might impair the delivery of content or services. (See Video Is the Internet.)

“Why would I want to stream video on the Internet when I can’t control the user experience?” Cuban asked. “When I don’t control the last-mile pipe, particularly in the HD universe, you can be a victim of your own success and disappoint your customers.

“I would much rather go with my partners,” Cuban said, gesturing at the cable executives on the stage with him. “I would rather partner with you because you can control the service over the last mile."

Of course Cuban didn’t get much argument from the cable guys on the panel. “The Internet really isn’t built to distribute mass-market video,” said Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) COO Tom Rutledge. “If you really want to do video you have to be partnered with the cable industry.”

“It’s all about QOS,” added Cox Communications Inc. president Pat Esser. Esser took the opportunity to remind the audience that no cable company has ever, ever even thought of blocking or impairing Internet packets of any kind -- not even from competing Internet video services. (See Net Neutrality Debate Wydens.)

Cuban's remarks run contrary to what a lot of content makers are saying here. Increasingly, many content owners seem willing to try the Internet for distributing video. A spate of content deals have been struck during the past year between large content providers like Disney and Internet video storefronts like the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iTunes store.

Both Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney and NBC Universal Cable president Jon Zaslav said on panels here that their companies want to reach beyond traditional broadcast and cable TV models to market their content.

“A broadband download might mean watching video on your computer today, but six months from now it might mean watching that content on your television,” Zaslav said. “Watching TV on these remote devices might turn out not to be such a big deal, but video piggybacking on broadband might turn out to be game changing."

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:57:23 AM
re: Cuban Won't Stream HDNet re: "Broadcast.com.. as far as I can tell... went NOWHERE!"

i've seen his house. the size alone would suggest otherwise.

the ted turner analogy is spot on, though. being the mavs owner IS his celebrity right now and that alone opens more doors than his HD programming.

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