Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Where's TV going ?

It's interesting to see elements of the new content world seeping into the traditional TV world. Sumo TV is a broadcast station generated from the internet. More and more traditional TV stations are looking to the internet for growth and content (watch it here on Vidzapper). There will clearly be many user generated channels appearing on traditional broadcast TV in the near future. The question is – will they have any value ?

Well, in a world where most news will be generated from mobile phones the answer has to be ‘yes’; it’s a trade off between quality and availability – after all, grainy pictures from a cellphone are better than no pictures at all.

We’re entering a twilight world where traditional TV will merge with user generated television.

In Italy, a company called Digital Magics has pioneered the inclusion of viewers within broadcast shows using their home webcams. Participation TV takes on a whole new meaning and the radio dial-in has become the TV video-in. This has transformed formats such as quizzes and chat shows; it also makes for cheap TV in an era where production costs continue to spiral downwards.

And perhaps this is the key to the future – a world where anyone can generate TV and contribute it to existing and new channels that appear both online and on TV.

With the new breed of screens appearing that can plug into both the broadband and cable feeds into a home and a wide array of new boxes capable of showing PC images on TV screens, the distinction between TV and PC has disappeared.

The concept of ‘MyTV’ is also becoming a reality as viewers are given more and more choices by using new online on demand services or in timeshifting and ad skipping using PVRs and other devices. The concept of the traditional scheduled broadcast is under threat, but research has shown that too much choice is confusing to users and that the traditional TV channels’ skills in arranging programming will remain at a premium; but, of course, viewers will be able to swap around the scheduling if they don’t like it and will be able to schedule from multiple channels.

The very idea of ‘live’ (as in ‘playing now’) TV is set to morph into a model closer to cinema where programmes will have eagerly awaited ‘release dates’ and ‘brands’ such as Desperate Housewives or CSI will carry more value than NBC, ITV or RF1.

Sport will remain a great draw and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp with its amazing catalogue of sports rights will retain a dominant position as content migrates to IP distribution.

In the home the theme will be the convergence of devices – the PC, or a version of the personal computer, is likely to be the entertainment hub, connecting via a nice fat pipe to the internet and holding vast amounts of media on its hard drive and driving a massive flat screen or projector, as well as supporting two or three other wirelessly connected devices around the home.

But this is an interim vision; in due course the ‘box’ will disappear and become integrated into the screen, with one connection (over IP, naturally) in and out of the home and wireless connectivity to various ‘slave’ devices.

Viewers watch screens, not boxes, so this is a trend all of the companies currently vying for a share of the transformed TV market will have to bear in mind.

Finally, there won’t be any more money to be made – the advertising pie won’t expand much – what will happen will be that ads will be more intelligently delivered; there will also be a huge resistance of pay-per-view for all apart from the best and most special programming (largely movies and sports) and there will be ‘multi’tiered’ access to content where it will be ad free for a cost, available sooner than general release, for a cost and shareable, for a cost. But all traditional TV channels are having to move now to cannibalise themselves before they get eaten alive by the progress of technology.

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