The End Is Nigh

The End Is Nigh

The future of traditional broadcast media is something that has been debated for the past several years. Recently, however, there seems to be a general consensus; traditional broadcast media will not last for another 5 years.

Television as a medium is dead. People are sick of having to watch content when a channel deems it fit. Previously this was the only means of getting programming out into the world, but this linear format is defunct. The technology for the public to have content, on demand, has really been around since the 80s. The video cassette recorder allowed the public, at home, to be in charge of the content that they wanted to watch. For the first time you were in control of what you watched and when you watched it. The success of this technology is evident, we still use video recorders to this day; in the 21st century though, they have evolved onto the digital stage.

The huge future of video on demand services was truly realised when Digital Video Recorders were introduced. TiVo and Sky+ allowed the public to record a seemingly unlimited amount of content and watch it when they wanted to. The problem with this system is that you're still restricted to the big television companies controlling how often you could record your content. You had to wait for the programme to be broadcast over the television network, so that you could record it in real time. It still wasn't truly content on demand.

The BBC started experimenting with internet radio towards the end of the 1990's. They had discovered the potential that the internet had as a content delivery system. In the early 2000's the BBC started to allow users to stream archived radio shows for up to a week after their original broadcast date. The quality was poor, the technology was flaky, but it allowed people to realise where the future of on demand content laid, the internet. The technology behind the BBC's online radio services was so successful that other broadcasters started to follow suit.

When Bill Gates started talking about IPTV at CES back in 2007, personally I was imaging television (in its current linear format) being streamed via the tubes of the internet, to a television. A new delivery system. I now realise how wrong I was. Within the past 4 years the phenomenon of podcasting has gone mainstream, many people don't realise that they're doing it, or don't call it podcasting, but the basic infrastructure is the same. Companies such as Mevio (or Revision 3) are starting to deliver fresh, high quality, custom created content to viewers worldwide every single day. Admittedly the primary way of watching this content right now is by streaming it through a web browser, but imagine what one could achieve if it was incorporated with a tool such as Boxee. We would truly have a seemingly unlimited amount of fresh high quality content, right at our finger tips, on demand.

Sometime within the next one or two years, perhaps even within the next few months, we'll start to see boxes under television sets replacing digital tuners. No more satellite, no more cable, no more freeview; just the "magic box". Hopefully this box will be running a system such as Boxee, but it will give everyone intuitive easy access to great quality content. We'll have our "Channels" delivered in a way that Mevio currently is pioneering, where you can hop in and hop out of programming. We'll have our films ready to go at the push of a button. A back catalogue of all of our favourite shows will be forever easy to watch. I am aware that there are systems that exist like this anyway, what I'm trying to say is that this box will be your ONLY box. The BBC, ITV, ABC, NBC will have to realise this soon. The only way that they're going to survive is to make all of their content on demand and to lose the linear format of broadcasting. The linear format is old, it's tired, it's outdated, it's no longer practical.

The end is nigh for traditional broadcast television, make way for the real digital media revolution.

Chris Leydon.