Whilst having a look at the new Blinx Remote this morning (via The Guardian), I suddenly realised that I no longer watch ITV (with the exception of watching the over-paid tax-dodging Formula 1 drivers). Over the last couple of years my TV habits have changed beyond all recognition, and ITV has failed to keep pace.
First I started watching TV programmes online. Whilst 4OD and the iPlayer both offered downloads, ITV offered streaming which was not particularly practical as I started to suffer from my old ISP’s throttling measures.
Then I subscribed to Virgin TV which has given me the iPlayer and 4OD programmes on my TV with Virgin’s TV Catchup: Anytime with no download problems. Unfortunately ITV hasn’t signed up, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t find any indication online that they plan to.
Whilst I find myself streaming the BBC on my Eee PC whilst doing the cooking, catching up on the TV, and even watching live for those can’t wait programmes (such as last night’s Summer Heights High), ITV has been relegated to point where I don’t even know what is on anymore.
Whilst I have never been a fan of ITV, it is important to have a competitive domestic market, so they need to start catching up!
On the same day that the BBC announce tomorrow’s launch of version 2 of the iPlayer, comScore release some details of where UK internet viewers are watching their videos. Despite all the whinging from the ISPs, the BBC is a distant second to Google’s collection of video sites, both in terms of the number of videos watched and the number of unique users, unfortunately they don’t compare the number of hours watched (the BBC programmes are likely to be a lot longer…and in the whinging ISPs defense, higher quality).
What is particularly interesting is that neither 4OD or ITV’s catch up service even make it on the top ten list. Reiterating the point I made when the BBC were criticised for over-spending on their online services: The BBC is not competing with commercial UK companies. Rather than criticising the BBCs spending, other content providers should be looking for ways of working with the BBC. Whilst the elusive project Kangaroo will help create an online presence for the traditional TV viewer, it is probably not enough.
People have changed the way they watch video, they are now seemingly watching shorter videos as they click through sites like YouTube. The traditional providers need to find ways of getting part of that market. Whilst attempts are made to make short clips available, it tends to be with a top-down approach, rather than giving the users the free reign that they want. Obviously such free reign is difficult as the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV work within copyright rules, whereas YouTube takes a more laissez-faire approach.
Its obviously not all doom and gloom for the traditional video providers. The iPlayer is still relatively new, Kangaroo will put a bit of bounce in the figures, and as the TV is replaced by computer entertainment systems people will probably start watching longer programmes again. Nonetheless, before the UK tv stations fall further behind, they need to start thinking outside the box a bit more
The BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4′s 4OD, and the streaming content from ITV.com have fundamentally changed my TV habits; about the only programme I now watch when broadcast is ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ (available from 4OD, but for a price). Unfortunately however the iPlayer and 4OD don’t work perfectly, with the iPlayer being especially erratic (occassionally having a frenzy that eats up all the processing power), and the two downloaded services often rub each other up the wrong way as they use similar technologies. Hopefully a single player will solve many of the current problems and will increase adoption of video on-demand.
Whilst a Mashable posting has a little bit of a whinge about the use of DRM, compatibility, and UK only access, it seems be missing the bigger picture, as TechCrunch states “Ultimately the biggest winner from the deal will be the British viewer who will have unparalleled access to legal TV content online in the one spot.”
DRM is a necessity in the world of broadcast television, as is the restricting of access on a national basis, overcoming these boundaries are years away and will require unprecedented international cooperation (DRM-free music is a piece of cake in comparison). Compatibility will come with time, but it makes sense to start with the dominant system.
I did notice one comment on the TechCrunch site whinging about the BBC TV licence (and I am sure there will be more to come), so in the interests of keeping the balance, I would like to point out that I would willingly pay an increase in the TV licence!