THE BLOG

Where Next for TV? Racing to Content Everywhere

18/09/2014 16:02 BST | Updated 17/11/2014 10:59 GMT

In the olden days, films were things you only saw in a packed-out cinema. That's when Jimmy Stewart had a wonderful life, John Wayne rode off into the sunset, and Cary Grant ran through a maize field chased by a crop-spraying plane.

Seems odd now, doesn't it? Hundreds of people crammed into ornate buildings with balconies, cornicing and a single massive screen, all desperate to see their hero or heroine - actors who, between movies, the fans generally only read about in newspapers or magazines. Going to the cinema must have been incredibly exciting. A collective experience that was hard to beat.

Mass market television

Then mass-market TV came along, and that everything changed. The televising of the Queen's Coronation marked the tipping point with more than 2m UK TV Licences being issued in 1953, almost double the previous year. But there was still a long way to go before TV became mainstream; most people didn't even get their own black and white telly until the late fifties, just in time to see the start of commercial TV and the first episode of Coronation Street in 1960.

Oh, to remember the excitement of watching the grainy black and white TV picture and the not-so-exciting experience of having to bang your fist on the top of the television set at regular intervals to stop the picture from flicking up due to a dry joint in one of the circuits! But however you regarded the monstrous, crouching, wood-encased box in the corner of the living room, as a kid, you knew that it was the future.

But even though we could tell that TV was going to play a big part in our lives, I'm not sure there are many of us who could have predicted what we have now: a country dominated by handheld devices of all shapes and sizes; slim, stylish gadgets you carry around in your pocket or bag; little crystal-clear, full-colour TV sets on which you can watch Scarlet O'Hara declaring 'Tomorrow is another day'.

When you get home, if you want to ditch the device, you can choose from thousands upon thousands of feature films, box sets and TV shows streaming them straight onto your TV screen. Sometimes, even to me, it can seem like a miracle transformation; a leap beyond what must have seemed remotely possible way back when Dorothy was skipping down the yellow-brick road.

How things have changed

According to The Communications Market Report, published by Ofcom in 2013, the huge growth in take-up of smartphones and tablets is transforming the traditional living room of the 50s into a digital media hub. We're now a nation addicted to being online - interacting with others, emailing and watching TV all at the same time. More than half of adults now own a smartphone, almost double the proportion two years ago, and tablet ownership has grown even faster - more than doubling in the past year. The average household now owns more than three types of internet-enabled device, with one in five owning six or more!

This huge growth in the take-up of mobile devices, especially tablets, has led to a meteoric rise in the numbers of people now using tablets to watch Video On Demand (VOD) programmes - films and TV shows downloaded to watch later or streamed to the tablet to watch in real time. According to the report, VOD requests coming from tablets increased from 3 per cent in 2011 to 12 per cent in 2012 - a massive increase in a very short time. We are clearly at the start of an explosion in alternative viewing habits that will have a colossal impact on the way service providers must operate if they're to survive in this new media age.

The next phase and the importance of content

But, where next for TV? In a market where you can watch television wherever you want, content is the real differentiator. People flock to different channels or platforms because they have the latest episode of the new top series - or their catalogue contains their favourite old programme. I know lots of people who subscribe to a number of different entertainment services because they each have a different library of content. In this new world - where there's so many more programmes, shows and films on offer - content really is king.

Over the last few years, we've seen the fundamental important of content come to the fore in the industry. As content is viewed by a wider variety of people with different cultural sensitivities and in different language, producers and studios have been forced to think about the way their packaging this content. Individual films and TV shows now need to be subtitled, edited for different audiences, versioned for the appropriate language in that international country and repurposed for the hundreds of different types of digital file formats used by broadcasters worldwide.

Only then can the service providers license the video - much in the same way as businesses and designers license photographs from Getty or Corbis - and eventually make it available for us to watch. Content processing and licensing is now becoming more and more important.

Content Everywhere is the future of TV Everywhere. Very soon, not only will be watching TV Everywhere delivered by the traditional broadcasters and service providers but we'll also be watching new video content from all manner of new, non-traditional sources and businesses, tailored for differently audiences around the world. We're living in exciting times and I, for one, can't wait to see content, literally, everywhere!