Umming and ermine

Fresh new thinking from the second chamber – that’s the House of Lords, not the upstairs toilet. A new report has claimed there is an ‘overwhelming’ case for transferring TV content from broadcast to the internet, so that the spectrum currently used to broadcast TV can be used by mobile operators.

I salute the Lord’s probable thinking: let’s free up some space for all the mobile TV people will want to watch. Sensible stuff.

I also thought well done, Lords, you’ve appreciated a lot more than many people who work in the media industry: that TV is content and that there are a variety of different ways to deliver that content, one of which is the internet.

But then I thought that if the moon was made of cheese, I could eat it. But the moon isn’t made of cheese, so I can’t even have a nibble. Something similar could be said of the, ahem, pipedream of all TV content – linear and on-demand – being delivered by the internet. We simply don’t have the infrastructure and don’t look like getting it soon – and that is before we get into the thorny issue of who owns it, pays for it, looks after it etc.

Never say never though. Thinkbox doesn’t have a particular preference for how TV gets to our screens; just that it does get there and in the best possible quality.

People who don’t work at Thinkbox probably feel the same; no one is demanding that all TV be delivered by the internet. But it got me thinking about what TV is actually missing. What are viewers craving that they don’t currently get? Obviously they want to watch brilliant, innovative TV content forever – and there’s no sign that is going to disappear. But what of technology? What is technology not yet offering?

Well, we know many viewers like more control to watch what they want when they want it. It started with VHS recorders and now we’re on to digital recorders, a plethora of on-demand services, new devices that allow you to watch TV where you like, and connected TVs. We’re pretty well served here.

We know people want the mobile TV experience to be better quality and quicker (clearly the Lords agree). Watch this space. Could do better.

The evidence suggests that people in the future will be a lot like people now. They’ll want to watch most of their TV as it is broadcast with other people in the room or connected virtually. No problem there.

But, for the sake of it, let’s pretend that the internet fundamentalists are right for a second and that people will want to create their own personalised schedules and will not want to be dictated to by channels and TV companies. This is utter nonsense, obviously, but let’s pretend the moon is actually made of cheese.

I reckon that these people would very quickly tire of having to curate their special on-demand TV viewing on top of keeping their jobs and changing nappies and going to the pub and collapsing on the sofa exhausted. The novelty wouldn’t last.

Channels, after all, are basically recommendation engines. We watch TV channels for the same reason we visit galleries or go to restaurants that have menus. We like them, we trust them and, to be frank, we can rarely be arsed to stare at infinity and pick out the bits we like. It is quite nice having other people dedicated to doing this for us. In fact channels are a form of on-demand TV; if you don’t know what you want to watch then you at least know the flavour of TV you will get from a certain channel.

So, all in all, the future looks pretty similar to the present, whatever the Lords are overwhelmed by.

  • Neil Mortensen
    Neil Mortensen
    Former Research & Planning Director, Thinkbox
  • Posted under
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