AT&T buys QuickPlay, puts all the pieces together for killer streaming

Let’s face facts here. Live TV streaming isn’t ready for prime time, not quite yet. The only service that could even come close to replacing a cable subscription is DISH’s Sling TV, and let’s say, it’s not universally loved. The quality is inconsistent and there have been outages. Oh, it’s getting better but it’s not there yet.

When AT&T launches its streaming services later this year, they want them to be a hit right away. They don’t want negative reviews to slow down such an important rollout. After all, this is the future of television, at least that’s what everyone is saying. This is where it’s all going.

AT&T had already chosen a partner for its streaming service – Toronto-based Quickplay, a veteran in the field of video distribution over the internet. Partnering with an established company meant that they wouldn’t be reinventing internet TV from the ground up, and could launch a full-featured service smoothly and effectively.

But you know, the people on the DIRECTV side have never been terribly happy with subscontractors. I don’t know if that’s the reason for the news today — that AT&T is buying QuickPlay for an undisclosed sum — but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Keeping it all under one roof makes sense and it seems like AT&T certainly has the cash to pull it off.

The thing about streaming video to millions of people is… the internet just wasn’t designed for it. The internet was designed to deliver 100% perfect data from point to point upon request. It wasn’t designed to send the same stream to millions of people and do it in a way that they whole system just keeps working if there’s a short interruption. Obviously, companies like Netflix and Google have made strides in delivering video, but we’re talking about next-level stuff here… replacing or augmenting satellite and cable delivery using data-only services. This sort of thing has only worked well so far in relatively small implementations. If there’s going to be a major rollout, you want someone who knows how to do it.

DIRECTV and AT&T are very clearly looking forward to a day when the majority of video they provide is on demand, over the internet. That day couldn’t possibly be far away, not the way things are progressing. So, QuickPlay will be a good acquisition for them, most likely. It will help AT&T build on the IP video framework they pioneered with U-Verse, and take it to a completely new level by serving video to people wherever and whenever they want it.

DIRECTV already does limited live streaming, if you can call over 100 channels “limited,” and there are few complaints. But remember, when you’re streaming video using DIRECTV’s app, you’re enjoying it at no extra cost. Right now the primary product is satellite-delivered video and live streaming is just a fun addition. When DIRECTV starts offering live streaming for a monthly fee, it has to be 100% perfect, or the whole effort won’t be worth it.

I for one think they’re on the right track. What do you think?