As far as I can tell, they both are saying similar things, with Mark’s main distinction being that the cable/telcos are smart enough to realize that the ala carte television business will continue to grow – where Avner believes that TV on a schedule is a dying concept.
I’ve thought about this myself over and over again. Having used a DVR since 2002 on my own media center, to using both Comcast and Verizon DVRs, to using nothing and no TV, to boxee and downloaded content, to OTA HD, and back to nothing. And one thing has rung true for me the entire time – there are times when I want something specific – and for those times I will do whatever is necessary to see it (“The Wire”, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, “Dexter”). Outside of those times, I have always hated having to choose what to watch.
Now, I agree with Mark and Avner that the infrastructure is the cable companies responsibility (and where I think they should focus their energy). I don’t care how the pipe gets fatter to my house, I want it to get fatter – and let me decide how it is split up. I think that is the essence of Avner’s argument put another way, and I totally agree with it. Give me enough bandwidth to have five HD streams going while “surfing” the Internet.
Once I have the bandwidth – then let the marketplace be open – let me choose if I want bundled content provided in channels or let me choose individual shows I think I’ll enjoy (anything by David Simon, btw) and let software be smart enough to keep those things coming for me.
Those are my thoughts on this, I want a fatter pipe to my house, and I want to have choices on what I watch using it. I want more Bollywood options, more NBA and tennis options. Just like I can’t run my microwave, dishwasher, and toaster oven on the same outlet without blowing a circuit breaker (or run all three showers at the same time and expect hot water) – I’m okay with rationing the Internet pipe between TV and Internet (and phone as well).
Personally I enjoy Boxee’s alpha product as a clever 10′ UI to arranging content on my TV. The telcos and cable providers should learn how to design and build 10′ UI from folks like Avner’s team.
The debate between Mark and Avner is a reminder of one of the greatest achievements of the Internet – discussion between smart people that others can benefit from. Nerds battling online – something that was akin to the Internet’s roots from the early years which, at least to me, seems to have been lost a bit in the consumer version of the Internet we spend our time on today.
In the end I want both Mark and Avner to succeed – I want Mark’s HDNet to create great content and deliver it in multiple ways – I want the cable/telcos to build world-class networks and infrastructure, partnering with Avner and his team to provide a UI and experience that is compelling and enjoyable.