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The future of TV: welcome to channel Richard

December 23, 2014

Richard Craig-McFeely   

Business Development Director of Media Services

During 2014, predicting the future of television has been a full time job. This will continue through 2015. Every day there are statistics, opinions and new technologies to consider in making a prediction. It is very easy to get carried away!

Imagine your own situation… you have come home from a tough day at work and want to relax. There are lots of options vying for your time but ‘crashing in front of the box’ is one of the most popular past times. We know how that looked 30 years ago and how it looks today but what about in 12 or 24 months’ time?

Experience, not technology

The future viewing experience will not be driven solely by the technology despite the claims of the consumer electronics manufactures. It will be driven by ease of use. It will be all about user experience, known as UX. The skill is in hiding the complexity from the viewer. Who wants to worry about technology after a tough day at work?

Viewers want to be able to simply access the content they want using an intuitive user interface. HBO Go, for example, has been described as “the cord cutter’s holy grail” because it speaks to the needs of the viewer, who may want to indulge in the latest episodes of Game of Thrones one week then revisit The Sopranos first season the next.

Users don’t care where the content comes from and the complexities of delivery or rights management. To cite Wired’s Gary Myer, they want the three Ws: ‘whatever content they want, whenever they want it, wherever they want it’.

Linear channels

Looking ahead the key drivers affecting TV consumption will be driven by a rapid increase in number of channels (many niche or local oriented) and lack of time.

So what’s my view on the impact of this? Long live linear channels! Many predict their demise but I believe consumers want to relax without making lots of choices. To draw a parallel with the music industry, would you expect to use a different music streaming service to hear an album released by Universal as you’d use for an artist signed by Sony? TV services can’t survive by limiting themselves to deals with certain studios, because it will inhibit the user experience.

In the future, I will have my own personalised linear channel which learns and knows what I want to watch. Though it’s nowhere near ready, this is how streaming companies like Netflix are setting themselves up; the more you use the service, the more relevant your recommended content becomes.

Eventually I will have “Channel Richard”, complete with all the shows I know and love, plus relevant new series and films to explore based on individual tastes, whether that’s a Scandinavian detective drama or the latest Hollywood rom-com.

TV becomes the second screen

We hear the term second screen (as well as third, fourth and even fifth screen now) all the time but I believe this definition has started to reverse. Yes, there was a time when the TV was the primary screen and the mobile device an addition to the experience. But how many hours per day do you honestly spend watching TV vs looking at content on your mobile device? You carry it all the time and it knows so much more about you than your TV. Whilst your TV will remain a viewing device, the experience will eventually evolve so that all control comes from your mobile.

Your linear channel will not only be fuelled by what you’ve watched on your TV set, but will be inspired by your wider passions and your social activity. You read a recipe on the BBC from Jamie Oliver; perhaps you’d like to watch his latest cooking show tonight? You listened to Beyonce’s new album; perhaps you’d like to watch her latest film? It’s not as far away as you may think.

What these services, channels and even brands must remember is that providing the undercurrent for all this innovation is great content and perfect user experiences. After all, viewers will still watch great content in black and white if it’s that good.

Do you agree with Richard? Tell us in the comments how your viewing experience has evolved, and what you’re looking forward to from the TV of the future.