Who’s in control of the TV?


Only three decades ago, families would watch their clocks eagerly ready to sit down around their TV to view their favourite programme, selected from a choice of just 4 channels. If you missed your long awaited programme, you had to hope that a friend had videoed it and could lend you their tape – then spending considerable time trawling through the tape to find it! What you watched was determined by the TV schedule, cups of tea were made during the adverts; the machine controlled your viewing! In the late 1990’s Satellite TV appeared and later Freeview, providing viewers with more choice and variety.  More recently, advanced recorders like Sky+ and PVRs (personal video recorders) have allowed viewers to take control of the machines. We could record many programmes or films and watch them back when we wanted at a time that suited our busy lives. On Demand viewing had been born.


If we now fast-forward to today with PCs, laptops, tablets, iThis and iThat, it seems as though the machines, or in fact the marketing people, could now be in control. There is now so much choice, so many options to choose from and so much technology and jargon thrown at us. Unless we have our wits about us and are sufficiently interested to read and understand, we are in danger of spending money on technology that is not fit for purpose, over priced or oversold so we end up paying for technology we never understand how to use properly or even need - take 3D TVs as an example.


However, for those who are keen to keep up to date, high-speed broadband and its capacity to store and access every programme or film ever made is the perfect partner for an HD TV and together create the possibility of true On Demand viewing. With a bit of PC knowledge and an unhealthy disregard for copyright laws, you can now watch almost any TV programme, or any film, at any time. For those wishing to remain law-abiding citizens, however, new devices like Media Players and Smart TVs should be the answer. These connect to the Internet and stream content to your living room with only a few clicks on a remote control. Well that’s the theory.  As with any new technology though, the devil is in the detail. You’ll need your wits about you. Stores can be economical with the truth, with advice like, “just connect it to your wireless network” – I’d advise you don’t. Add in problems such as poorly positioned routers, Firmware updates and Broadband issues amongst others and you could be looking at a potential minefield to realise the On Demand experience.


The film industry isn’t exactly making things easy either. It is desperate to avoid the same fate as the music industry when Apple changed the game with their iPod/iTunes combo. Consumers could download almost any music they wanted, simply and quickly. Great for consumers, even better for Apple, disastrous for the record labels and musicians – Apple were making all the money. The film industry,  keen to avoid a similar scenario, are dithering and disagreeing meaning that progress in providing On Demand services has been slow, especially in the UK.  LoveFilm and Netflix have struggled with contractual and technical issues, resulting in a particularly limited choice of films on offer. Incidentally, LoveFilm is owned by Amazon and Netflix are heavily dependent on Amazon’s infrastructure.  Apple, quite naturally, also wants a slice of the film and TV market. So it’s possible that in the next few years the TV and film landscape in the UK could become a battleground between a mix of American giants and familiar UK names such as the BBC, Sky, Virgin and ITV. Rather ironic then that the forthcoming Smart TV from Apple, possibly due in early 2013, will allegedly be called the iTV!


© Peter Johnston, ByteSupport Ltd  2012.