ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
And as we begin this segment, we want to remind our listeners that we're experiencing some technical difficulties that prevent us from bringing to you all of the sounds that you normally hear in our reporting throughout the world, but we are able to speak to our reporters, and right now, we turn to Laura Sydell.
She's going to talk to us about March Madness. Are you ready for March Madness? Well, pull up a comfortable chair in front of your computer. College basketball's big event is now going to be streamed on the Internet, high - live in high-def. Of course, that means that no comfy couch, perhaps a comfortable chair and you better be careful not to spill your beer on your mouse pad.
Laura Sydell is with us now to talk about this. Laura, instead of watching TV and the Internet, why can't we just get the whole Internet out of our TVs?
LAURA SYDELL: Well, that is a complicated question. The truth is is that at this point, there really is no technological reason. For a long time, you had people who didn't have broadband, so you couldn't get really high-quality video, and indeed, people didn't have it.
Now, you have - basically 60 percent of Americans have broadband. So there's no reason, technically, they can't get it and there's even a lot of content online now. You mentioned March Madness. That's just the beginning. You can go to Web sites, for example, like Hulu where you can get hit Fox and NBC shows like "The Simpsons," or you can go to Juiced. You can get CBS shows like "CSI." You can even get all these pretty wonderful, archived classic movies, Shirley Temple movies, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, all kinds of great stuff. It's all out there, but you're not actually able to get it on your TV.
NORRIS: And now, you have to explain that. Why exactly can't we get it on our TV? You held out the promise. Why can't it happen?
SYDELL: It's a good question. Well, many people will tell you that I've talked to that right now, there's - the cable companies really have no interest in seeing it happen.
If you're a cable company right now, you have two streams of revenue, right? You have broadband and you have cable. So I pay a certain fee, you pay a certain fee, we get our cable programs. They give us 70 channels; we watch maybe nine of those channels. Plus, you're paying for your broadband, so you're getting that. So they don't particularly want to rush it. The people who actually make the content, who I think eventually are perfectly fine with the idea of us getting it over the Internet aren't quite ready because right now, they're making most of their money from television ads. They haven't really figured out: How am I economically going to get this to work online? Are people going to pay per show? Are we going to do it via ads? So they're perfectly happy to slow down this - what is probably an inevitable transition.
NORRIS: So the cable companies don't necessarily want to see this happen. I imagine there are a lot of employers who probably don't want to see this happen either because it might step on productivity.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: But I'm wondering if the cable companies and the TV networks, if in the end, they're going to be able to actually slow this down or if that train has already left the station. It's just a matter of when we're actually going to see this.
SYDELL: It's starting to leave the station. I mean, you have - there's, for example, there's a company called Boxy, and Boxy provides you with this software you can put on your computer, and if you can sort of jimmy rig and connect your computer to the television set - but of course, the problem is right, you'd have to use a keyboard, and who wants to sit on the couch with a keyboard? Boxy is this software you put on your computer and then you can sit there with a remote control and navigate certain places, video places on the Internet.
They actually got into a little trouble because Hulu came to them and said stop putting our stuff on your program. We're not ready for this yet. So there's a little bit of a struggle going on there right now.
NORRIS: One last question, Laura, what about quality?
SYDELL: You know, at this point you really can get pretty high-quality stuff. You know, already, you're seeing, you know, Juiced and Hulu, they have some pretty high-quality stuff. There are - I want to say there are some devices, too, like Apple TV and a variety of devices where you can get some Internet access.
I just want to leave you with one last thought, which somebody had pointed out to me, which was that, you know, the advent of television was actually slowed down back in the days of radio by David Sarnoff, who was the CEO of the Radio Corporation of America. He basically put it in the basement for about 10 years so he could milk all the money he could out of radio.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SYDELL: That's what I'm told, at any rate.
NORRIS: Well, Laura, thank you very much.
SYDELL: You're quite welcome.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Laura Sydell.
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