By George Peters, broadcast manager, Carat
The UK watches more TV than ever before. According to a survey by Telescope our TV consumption has increased by more than 30 minutes since 2006 and we now watch four hours a day. But only three minutes of this is viewed on a device that isn’t a traditional TV, according to the latest Thinkbox review.
This leaves two options for the future. Either our consumption of TV content will increase, or the way we watch it will change.
In 2013, we have many more devices with the ability to stream TV than we did back 2006. A plethora of smart phones, connected TV’s, set-top boxes, consoles, tablets and even “phablets” means we can access video content wherever we are, whoever we’re with and whenever we want.
Not all of these devices have reached critical mass and many are still in their infancy. Surveys put tablet ownership between 11 and 22 per cent in the UK and just five per cent of homes have a smart or connected TV. Only two thirds of these smart TV owners actually connect them to the internet.
Evolution of these devices will provide us with easier, better and quicker access to content. The USA is two or three years ahead of the UK in the advancement of set-top boxes, according to Nigel Walley of Decipher. Set-top boxes in the US now have 2 TB of storage, faster internet connections, six to eight tuners - Sky+ has two and Virgin/Tivo has three - and smarter software to utilise these connections. In the console market, both Microsoft and Sony will step up the game substantially with their next generation consoles. Microsoft has reportedly filed a patent to project augmented reality 3D images onto walls to provide outstanding quality for the next-gen Xbox whilst the PS4 is largely expected to be at least 4K capable.
Then there’s the technology that may seem a pipe dream but will be here sooner than we think. Google recently asked the public to trial Google Glass which allows people to be connected wherever they want through a simple face-frame. Watching EastEnders as you walk down the road might well be dangerous but that won’t stop people doing it! Both Samsung and Apple reportedly working on a new “smartwatch” whilst researchers at Queen’s University, Canada have developed digital paper, Papertab. It’s easy to imagine how this could turn into devices to watch TV wherever we are.
Then there are innovations which could simply free up our time to watch more TV. Google’s self drive car is one of the tech giant’s latest “moon shots”. It’s easy to imagine that your windscreen could become your TV screen as your car “drives” you about town!
It’s not just the devices on which we’ll be watching TV that needs to be considered – there’s also the question of what we’ll be watching in the future.
The internet is opening up connections for the world to share all kinds of knowledge and creative TV content will surely benefit. The big concern is will there be enough organisations to fund future creativity.
In the UK, traditional content providers such as the BBC, ITV and C4 are looking out for more revenue streams to challenge the likes of Sky, which has income from 10m subscribers as well as advertising. The US Networks are taking less risks than previously, with new commissioning strategies meaning only half of first series are commissioned to limit risk.
However there are new entrants to the market. Netflix has received a lot of PR around its distribution model of the critically acclaimed House of Cards and has picked up the next series of Arrested Development to distribute in the same way. YouTube is supporting popular users of the platform to create new content, such as mock-interviewer KassemG and the Sam Macaroni’s Epic channel. Reports also suggest that Spotify will join this space and start to fund video content.
And we shouldn’t ignore advertiser’s attempts to get in this space. Advertising funded programmes aren’t new but in the past have had to rely on TV channels to broadcast them to large audiences and meet certain “standards”. In the future, with the above expansion of devices and platforms, distribution could become a lot easier, more varied and targeted. Bite-size series, such as David Mitchell’s Soapbox, have already been produced. The only constraint to producing 30 minute shows rather than 3 minute shows will be financial.
In summary the devices are there to free up our time and more people have the opportunity to get in the content game than ever before. If there is demand, there is certainly room for us to watch more than four hours of TV a day.