All this talk of DStv’s BoxOffice has got me thinking. More specifically, thinking about the future of television, which all seems rather unclear at the moment.
As is always the case when traditional media starts edging more and more into a digital media space, there’s a bit of uncertainty as to which approach to take in making that transition. Take a look at print, for example. On the one hand, there’s the view that ‘citizen journalism’, freelance bloggers, and social media will take the power away from the traditional publishers altogether. Then there’s the approach that says that digital is just a new distribution channel for the same content, and the fight between free and pay-walled services within that. Or that digital consumers expect something more in terms of content than traditional print consumers. And, finally (though probably not), the debate as to whether to continue to distribute things through your own channels with dedicated sites, tablet applications and the like, or let people get the content wherever they like (a la Flipboard), and to figure out that whole “how do we make money now?” issue later.
For television, though, the changes are even more disruptive.
How I watch
This is where the BoxOffice debate kicks in. In the days of old, the television experience was incredibly limited by the technology that could be utilized to actually provide the content. Locally, the launch of PVR finally allowed consumers to choose to watch their favourite content at a later time. BoxOffice is the next big step in this direction, allowing subscribers to once-off ‘rent’ a movie and watch it in on-demand. There’s one very simple reason that this is where it stops, really in SA – our broadband. But as this continues to improve, the changes to the way we actually watch television will continue to manifest.
On the one hand, the concept of a ‘connected TV’ is made possible, allowing content to be pulled into your television experience from all over the web, and an endless library of content streamed on-demand to your television screen. Google is very much leading this charge at the moment, but don’t count out (surprisingly) Yahoo yet (more on that later…). AppleTV opens up your television to the full on-demand power of the iTunes library. While Hulu, Netflix and the like make all of it possible.
On the other hand, there are a whole new range of devices themselves. While television used to be constrained to the living room, tablets and smartphones means that you may never have to switch your actual television on again. Better still, concepts like central cloud-based storage mean that instead of choosing what device you use based on where your content is, you instead choose which device you use based on where you are.
What I watch
In the same way as the news industry is discovering that consumers aren’t interested in the same sort of content online as they are in, for example, their Sunday newspaper, so too the video content people are interested in is different in a different space. While I’m not for a second suggesting that viewers will switch off their TV’s to Modern Family in favour of piano-playing cats in HD glory, a wider network of content with a lower barrier to entry for producers means that the space for a new style of content is endless.
Revision3 was founded some 6 years ago now and has grown to be the world’s most popular ‘Internet television network’, producing and distributing a variety of very niche shows, primarily for the geek community, including the beloved Diggnation. Touting millions of downloads every month, Revision3 represents a new possibility; content made especially for a new era of television.
What I do while I watch
According to Nielsen, a rather staggering 86% of mobile users are busy using (playing) with their phone while watching television, with almost 40% actually browsing the internet, and another 40% social networking. What this represents is an amazing opportunity to do something to augment the television experience, no matter how that is delivered, by making use of the ‘second screen’.
While services like GetGlue and Miso have tried to introduce the ‘media check-in’, in a way that FourSquare has done in the space of the ‘geographic check-in’, there is none more exciting than smartphone app IntoNow. This startup was recently picked up by Yahoo (remember them?) for a cool $20m+, and is essentially the ‘Shazam of TV’. Based on an underlying service called SoundPrint which identifies TV programs based on an archive of over 250 years worth of content, IntoNow ‘listens’ to whatever is playing, checks you in, and allows you to then view information about it, share it socially, and even comment on the show. Not convinced? Try it for yourself. Amazingly, it even works if the episode is being aired for the first time.
While still in very early days, the ability to chat to my friends as we all watch the F1 together in real-time is a hugely exciting prospect, and would go a great distance (to continue the example) to bring the television experience, or at least the experience surrounding it, into the digital age.
So where to from here…
As connected devices and, more generally, connectivity itself continues to improve, television is about to undergo a massive revolution. What does this mean to you? Hopefully, it’s as simple as the best experience winning – more available content, more conveniently, and surrounded by a much more enjoyable, engaging and interactive experience.
Got an idea of what your TV habit of the future will look like? As always, we want to hear it…
If you want to be able download Apps, Music, Movies, TV Series etc from the US iTunes store, even if you live in SA, here is how to do it.