Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Almanac 2010

Here are our predictions for the year ahead:

Rise of Subscriptions – they say where there’s a will there’s a way and there’s little doubt that there will be more paid-for content around in the coming year, although I expect the majority of this to take the form of flat fee subscriptions. Think Spotify for video. This is, after all, nothing new. Traditional cable and satellite has free to air channels and premium channels. One off payment will be reserved for major sporting events and the like. Another model that might begin to find some purchase is micro charging where very small amounts are debited to a user account as they consume content. However, one thing I doubt will be a success will be NewsCorp’s attempt to monetise traditional new journalism: people pay for timely information. This means that Twitter has a better chance of revenues than NewsCorp. However, remember how everyone said the telegraph would be the end of regional newspapers ? Often these media end up complementing each other in unusual ways.

Bandwidth Blues – the next year is set to be a dreadful year for anyone using ADSL; providers have racked up contention rates and are making the same lame ‘too far from the exchange’ excuses time and again (technically, this is bullshit). The reality is that almost all ADSL consumers in the developed world should be capable of 2Mbps however far they are from an exchange, the real issue is how much the service provider is willing to invest in achieving this. In my rural home I have seen reliable bandwidth decline from a steady 2Mbps five years ago to a bare 300Kbps now. This is an affliction bedevilling millions of people and needs to be addressed urgently. Having the gas company tell you that you can only put the thermostat to 12 degrees would be considered a crime. Any contended bandwidth under 2Mbps should be legislated against in the same way. But it won’t, and rural areas have fewer voters, so they can go and hang...

Cutting The Cable – In Obama’s words: yes you can... But: do you dare ?

US takeover of UK TV market – the coming year will see even more market dominance by US owned and controlled media, largely by stealth, even as the creative side of the business is being shored up by Brits both on and behind the scenes (from Flashforward to House, a British lead is de rigeur, just as all of our formats are being repurposed for US TV). The election means that there will be pressure on OFCOM not to rock the boat and the likes of Google and Sky are likely to have a free run at what’s left of the British media industry. The BBC, however, is likely to find itself in ever deeper water with its unjustifiable tax-funded budget. It wouldn’t surprise me to see BBC Worldwide being prepared for flotation before the year is out. The fightback will take the form of Project Canvas and Seesaw. I expect the former to succeed partially (as a format for box manufacturers) and the latter to crash and burn.

Internet TV Publishers – the economics of web TV publishing now stack up, and just as the later eighties saw the rise of specialist magazine publishers, expect the teenies to see the arrival of some nascent Internet TV publishing enterprises.

TV 3.0 - Social Television – television used to be a communal affair, with the family gathering around the box to watch together; then it increasingly became about ‘MeTV’ in the TV2.0 days we are currently experiencing. However, I think that we’re moving into a new era of social television. I've been trialling the Vidiactive box over the holiday season and it's been a revelation. It's changed the way I interact with TV. Boxee is soooo TV 2.0.

Internet TV Shopping – over the years I’ve seen massive successes with the use of video in selling products; expect a new breed of video driven ecommerce sites to appear over the coming year and for this to be a massive growth area in the Internet TV industry.

New Formats – it’s an open secret that Google is unhappy with its use of the Flash wrapper, and possibly also has issues with the H.264 codec since neither are technically open source; the company’s still-to-be-verified acquisition of On2 was possibly aimed at giving it added engineering clout in this direction. There are also a number of other players seeking to improve on currently available codecs, especially from the open source community. H.264 will be King in 2010, but its crown might be shaky...

The Screen – 2010 will be the beginning of the end for the set top box: it has a long way to go yet, but more and more functionality and processing power will be built into the screen or the projector; already over 15% of screens sold have what is essentially a computer built into them.
Flash Influence – a highly undocumented element of the development of Internet TV has been the influence of Adobe’s Flash. The technology might be ubiquitous on computers, but is energy and resource hugging and has struggled with being ported to mobile and STB devices. I’ve seen this struggle from the inside and Flash 10 is still a way from being deployable on lower powered devices. This means that operators have to develop separate interfaces for mobile and STBs, each of which need customising, making the commercials impractical. However, Flash will finally come to these devices during Q2 and this will open a whole new realm of opportunities in app development for iPhones, gPhones and STBs.

The Decline of Games – the dollars to cents decline that has impacted upon the music industry and, more recently, the movie industry, will spread to games as they increasingly become available for hire online; the rise of games exchanges has already had a huge impact on revenues and the recession makes the £50 ticket price of some games breathtakingly expensive. Moreover, the top-end game market is being hit by ever higher production costs and a declining market. Expect more and more delivery of games over set top boxes and even mobile devices to the big screen. Even Google are getting in on the act.