The Death of TV – Part 2 – Ancient History

When the web was created the connections that people had to access content were relatively slow, only able to transfer small amounts of information and images over long periods of time. Now with cheap broadband technology available, and hundreds of Internet providers selling people fast connections there’s really no limit to the kind of content that can be made available. Even better – as the connections and speed have improved so has compression technology – what once used to take up several Cd’s worth of images and video – can now be optimized to run live ‘stream’ across a broadband connection with hardly any download needed.

The massive proliferation of broadband technology in the UK has meant more and more people downloading audio and movies to their computers, through download sites and file sharing – This activity hasn’t gone unnoticed and SKY was one of the the first to launch it’s movie on demand service direct to a users home computer. It meant they didn’t need a TV, they just downloaded a small piece of software, and then went to the sky website to download and watch any movies in the sky schedule. Content would then be downloaded for users to watch at a their leisure . The benefit of this is that the user is no longer tied to the television, they can download and watch movies while carrying out other work on their laptop, or simply just free up the television to be used by the family members. Sky sneak advertising into the actual player itself – while movies are being downloaded and within the interface of the sky player other adverts appear, (not while watching the movie, but while you’re browsing for items to download) They know that with enabling users with technology to skip adverts they also have to compensate that revenue with enabling other ways to get targeted information to them. All the time the users are downloading movies and browsing content, sky is pulling back their viewing and surfing habits, and storing the data for a later date when they can create even more targeted advertising and sell more products directly to that user.

Other broadcasters quickly cottoned onto the fact once you start getting the users browsing and downloading movies the quality of the usage information you get back is far higher than the simple point and click of remote control. The users feel liberated as they’re far more in control they’re no longer constrained by broadcast schedules – and they don’t even have to use an EPG (Electronic Program Guide) like they would if they were actually watching digital television.

I’m currently testing a couple of ‘download and play’ broadcasting technologies. The first that has the potential to become widespread in the UK is the BBC iplayer. The BBC is still working out the finer points of its technology, but it’s basically very similar in functionality to Sky’s download able service. BBC programs up to several weeks after broadcast are published through its iplayer service for users to download on their computers. Content retention is time-limited by the BBC’s choosing, the BBC has a very healthy dvd library, and it’s spent a long time working on anti-piracy measures, and making sure that content expires after certain periods of time so that users still have a valid reason to purchase dvd based content.

Tiscali Picturebox, BT Vision, and Virgin are also offering downloadable content over the internet to watch on a TV. These suppliers are using set-top boxes but delivering their content over the internet to them – cutting out expensive satellite fees, and using cheap equipment which uses the best of both worlds – digital television (to record, rewind, pause live television) combined with internet based technology to give the consumer access to premium content, downloadable music, or the latest films. This is still just the beginning, but downloadable content just doesn’t really cut it when the consumer lives life in the fast-lane – they need content directed to them, personalized for them, connected to their lifestyle, and they need it anywhere they are. So far progress on the iplayer technology has been fairly slow, delivery of content through the player is incredibly slow, and although the speed is set to increase as more users adopt the player – so far – apart from the quality of the content there is little to differentiate it from the more established SKY download services.

What’s needed is an entirely new mechanism for delivering content for the mobile generation – make way for JOOST…

Posted in MediaLab, Tech