The future of TV

Barry Ronge had an article in the Sunday Times about the future of TV. He makes a good point. Our viewing habits are changing quite rapidly with developments like the DSTV PVR (the local version of the TiVo), YouTube and mobile TV. The fundamental shift, as I see it, is the move away from watching whatever is broadcast to us to watching what we want, when we want it and how we want to watch it. The PVR is a good illustration of this because, like the TiVo, it enables us to manipulate our TV in ways that we just couldn’t before this shift began. I didn’t fully appreciate how fantastic it is to be able to pause live TV or skip through ads (this is something that really frustrates advertisers who are coming up with innovative ways to force people to watch ads). These are pretty simple features and they can make such a difference. They mean we are no longer tied to the box at specific times, especially because we can record up to 80 hours worth of TV and watch it when we want to watch it.

Services like YouTube and Google Video provide another source of entertainment. Through these services we can access user generated content and watch it on a computer with a decent Internet connection and a web browser. It sounds pretty simple when I talk about it here but when you consider that before broadband you could only watch visual content on your TV.

The technology which will really change viewing habits even more dramatically is mobile TV, typically using a technology called DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld). This technology allows you to watch TV on your mobile phone, albeit mobile phones that support this feature. In a country where there are more mobile phones than fixed line phones, this has the potential to really get TV out to people who otherwise may not have had ready access to it.

I heard a rumour that we may also soon see on demand movie downloads over our DSTV services. This is a further shift away from the old model because we will be less constrained by TV schedules, irrespective of how many channels there are and how many times movies are repeated. We will be able to watch the movie whenever we want.

This shift is analogous to the move away from traditional command and control marketing that was the dominant method of marketing to a more conversational method of marketing. Instead of command and control TV, we have shifted to a model where we, as consumers, have far more choice over what we watch and when. TV 2.0? Perhaps.

Om Malik has a pretty good post that talks about mobile TV and two standards in particular, MediaFLO and DVB-H. This post is worth reading if you would like to learn more about developments in this area.

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