The Death of TV – Part 1 – watching the tide of change

In the first of a series of articles I’m going to run through a bit of broadcast background and bring things right up to date which what’s been happening in the past few months and what will happen in the near future.Television as you knew it is dying. The transformation is happening worldwide, and it’s happening faster than anyone has predicted. But lets just think about the UK for a moment.At the most obvious end of the scale is the change from analogue to digital broadcasting in the UK. It’s taking place from the end of this year and will be fully complete by 2012. It will require everyone to have a digital set top box, a TV with built in digital receiver, cable TV, or a satellite dish (if they opt for using SKY instead)

The change is happening because in order to provide the best quality digital services the old TV broadcast signal is being switched off. It’s the biggest change since colour TV was introduced, but the implications are far greater.

Digital television brings with it many features that previously were only available on the most expensive equipment.
Unlimited channels, high definition broadcasting, an electronic program guide, interactive services such as games, or the ability to vote and give feedback to a program while it is happening, and the ability to select multiple views or commentaries ( e.g. changing the camera angle when watching a sports match).

Most interestingly, it’s the new breed of set top boxes and PVR’s (personal video recorders), and televisions that are making the biggest change to viewing habits in the front room. The ability to record, pause and rewind live television means people are no longer tied to program schedules or specific time slots – record multiple programs at the same time – and flick between them. Don’t like ad’s – no problem, you just wait for program to record a few minutes then you can fast-forward through them.

If you think it will take years for people to make the switch to digital or people will be slow to adopt new technology you’re wrong.

” 80% of UK homes now have digital TV on their main set.” – Ofcom June 20th 2007

It doesn’t mean all those users are skipping advert slots – but that’s coming as people replace old sets, and bring themselves up to date with HD definition sets with built in PVR’s . It means traditional TV advertising time-slots are going to disappear, there’s no point showing an ad if it’s automatically skipped.

So lets take a step back – why was the analogue signal being switched off? it wasn’t just to bring the consumers more features- it was to free up space on the airwaves for more content – who can forget the billions spent by mobile phone companies on the great 3G sell off of the 1990’s. The UK government is planning on selling off the freshly freed-up airwaves to the highest bidder.

Current broadcasters are struggling to find their new cash flows, the family passively sitting in front of the television – is turning into the family with watching a movie, checking email, making videos, downloading music, and chatting to friends. Broadcasters haven’t just been sitting on their hands – there’s an even bigger change coming. People in their 20’s and 30’s are the last of the TV Era, when it was the broadcaster who decided when you were going to watch an advert, or programs. The age of streaming has arrived..

Posted in Media, Tech