Broadcast media – Internet TV may no longer be 'a joke'

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Much as we do many things very well in the U.K. – from pop and rock music to graphic and web design – there are some things that we still don’t seem to get just right. And no, this isn’t a slant on our public transport.
Take internet TV, for example. Those of you who are old enough will remember a groaning, will-it-won’t-it-be-remotely-watchable-thanks-to-my-dodgy-connection service that came pre-installed on Windows machines back in the mid-90s when the world of PCs was desperately trying to prove itself cool, current and fit for more than the usual computer-based tasks. Needless to say, the trend didn’t last long.
The idea, though, has huge potential. So much so that internet TV did not go quietly into that sweet night, but was re-appropriated. Skip forward to the late-noughties and the PlayStation 3 came pre-loaded with a host of catch up and on-demand potential. Meanwhile, unscrupulous types and your mates were using the internet to access subsription sports channels at no cost. And that’s all really just for starters.
Granted, none of this is really shaking up the very nature of broadcast media itself, but then as more and more of us receive channels via our broadband providers, it makes sense that the next shift in viewing habits could well see the relationship between online and on the box become much closer, albeit perhaps not in the way you immediately guess.
Over in the U.S. Sling T.V. from Dish is beginning to show us how this all might end up eventually. Or so said The Guardian last week. The OTT (Over The Top) subscription television service provides 20 live channels for $20 a month. That’s not particularly good value for money if you ask us, yet it’s taking off, with the focus being on millennials- that hard to reach demographic we keep banging on about.
On the face of it then it sounds a bit like young people being taken for a ride by a dodgy taxi driver when for a small amount more you can have access to hundreds more stations. But then you begin to think about it a bit more. Sling is not only simplifying the channel surfing nightmare, emphasising quality rather than quantity (so far Disney is a major force on the platform, which accounts for ABC and ESPN too). It’s also available on every platform imaginable, from iOS to Android, which not only boosts the potential to be popular, it feeds into a more youthful attitude that old guard businesses are more interested in profitability and deals than end user experience (almost every major streaming service is in bed with a tech manufacturer for exclusive rights).
There are plenty more interesting talking points here too. Maker Studios is bringing YouTube content into major broadcast territory via a Sling channel. Sports channels in the U.S. are also regionally focused because the country is so unfathomably big, whereas on Sling TV people have a choice about what games they want to watch wherever they are- a bit like Sky but without the ridiculous price point.
Needless to say, there are criticisms, or at least concerns, as there always will be with a new platform. For example, there will have to be an continued increase in the choice being offered. Another has to be the fact that this is entirely geared towards a U.S. audience, and therefor for Sling to make it to our shores we’ll be looking at a few years down the line, and only when equivalently tempting agreements are put into place. Nobody in Sheffield is going to pay £15 a month for a few entertainment channels and ESPN, for example.
Yet what the Sling TV model shows is that in order to try and reach the next generation of decision-makers and industry shakers- of which there are currently 12million who don’t subscribe to pay-TV in the U.S. alone- firms, irrespective of their industry, need to think long and hard about stripping away the excess fat, providing a service people actually want at a price they can afford, and giving them that all important factor- personal control and choice. After all, the age of forced consumption and content dictatorship died ages ago.