Connected broadcasting: The future of television

Talk about television to most people and they’ll think instantly about that large box sat in the corner of the living room.

Connected broadcasting: The future of television

Connected broadcasting: The future of television

Many others may not have such an instant association, though. For these people, thoughts might instead turn to a tablet, or their computer screen, depending on where most of their TV consumption takes place. This tells us a lot of what we need to know about the future of television.

In simple terms, TV’s future is one of connectivity, powered – like so many other areas of modern life – by the internet

As these two world-changing technologies continue to get closer and closer, we’re being introduced to new services and devices on what seems like a weekly basis.

It’s catching on too. Consumers are taking to these new technologies like ducks to water – embracing video-on-demand (VoD) and time-shifted mobile viewing with their arms wide open. Not that I’m surprised; we can now watch pretty much anything, pretty much anywhere. What’s not to love?

One giant leap

The TV industry is no stranger to evolution. Ever since the first mechanical sets began appearing in the late 1920s, researchers and manufacturers have strived to keep pushing things forward. In recent years we’ve watched the latest models get slimmer, while their displays become brighter and clearer to the delight of viewers everywhere.

Not since the arrival of colour television have we seen a shift quite this big

However. The move towards connectivity presents a whole new world of opportunity for both broadcasters and their customers. It may also present challenges, but that’s to be expected isn’t it? Whichever way you look at it, we’re about to witness something pretty special in the TV industry.

A new age of interactivity

Traditional television – the stuff we’ve been used to for decades – is essentially linear. Broadcasters choose what you watch, and when you can watch it. Of course we’ve had some hacks and workarounds like the humble VCR, but on the whole it’s been very much a one-way thing.

With the internet seemingly taking over the world, and technologies like mobile and cloud computing becoming more accessible, we began to see the potential for real change. Lo and behold, that change is happening. Consumers already have more power than they’ve ever had ever before, and we’re only just getting started.

As over-the-top (OTT) TV services grow in prominence, consumers are being given more choice about what they watch and how they watch it. The fact that these platforms are delivered over open networks means viewers are no longer restricted to one service either; a single internet connection is enough to allow access to everything, and the range of programming on offer is expanding constantly. Some options might be available for a small subscription fee, while others are free, but you can essentially pick and choose what you want.

What’s more, the ability to leave our own personal network and still enjoy the same content makes it possible to watch on the go, using mobiles, laptops and various other devices.

It really is a new level of freedom

The best of both worlds

I really do see IP being a huge force for change in TV over the next ten years, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Instead, it’s going to take us into a new kind of hybrid phase. It won’t replace conventional broadcasters; it’s simply going to enable them to deliver better television in a number of new ways.

How will it do this, though? Well, with the support of the internet, content providers can start offering better TV interfaces with more interactivity and information, helping consumers find the content they’re looking for. This solves a problem we’ve had ever since cable and satellite technologies hit the market: we have hundreds of channels delivering gargantuan volumes of content, but the fact that they’re all arranged in a line makes swift navigation almost impossible.

Next, content providers have a wonderful new friend in the form of data

Connectivity breeds data, with every single interaction generating some kind of information. Not all of it will be useful, but with the stuff that is, you have the chance to learn a hell of a lot about your audience. It’s this kind of insight that will enable broadcasters to make their programming more engaging and improve the overall viewing experience.

No more boundaries

The World Wide Web, as the name suggests, is very much a global thing. This is hugely important to bear in mind when talking about internet-powered broadcasting. At present, television is very much a local or regional thing. We have channels that span the country but go no further – certainly not in their original form anyway. From the content-owner’s point of view, you either live with the restrictions and focus on the one market, or you go through the lengthy process of arranging industry deals in every country that takes your fancy.

The internet gives us an opportunity to break free from these shackles, and having such easy access to a global audience is something that could reshape the way providers think about the distribution and monetisation of their content. It goes without saying that content must always be relevant to its audience, but the tools and mechanisms are now in place to make global delivery possible.

When you consider all of this, it becomes clear that...

we’re standing on the brink of a television revolution...

With a cocktail of experience and imagination, we can take some decent guesses at what will happen in the broadcast sector over the next ten years, but there’s also so much we don’t know. As time goes on, I’m certain we’ll encounter plenty of new untold opportunities, and there will be a few obstacles to overcome, but it’s all pretty exciting nevertheless.