Where TV is going

By James Cook on September 16th, 2013

We’ve come a long way since the days of families huddled around their oversized television cabinets. Television has become a multimedia experience, taking place on devices of various sizes and expanding into video content that lets users interact with it on the screen.

No longer is all content consumed on one screen in one room. Television is watched on subways on your iPhone, in the bedroom on your iPad, and in the office on your laptop. The importance of these screens converging means that content providers are scrambling to make the right content available for the right person on the right device.

Ever tried to watch a YouTube video on your phone and seen a “This video has not been made available for mobile devices” message? For a television channel, that message spells failure. In the UK, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are all expanding their online catch-up services, including apps and the ability to download shows to watch later. Everywhere that television can conceivably be watched, they’re scrambling to get there.

Lengthy credits are at the end of a film for a reason. Modern moviemakers want to hook their audience in as quick as possible. Watching films from the 1950s and 1960s, the credits are often at the beginning, scrolling words over a panoramic background. As far as hooks go, knowing the name of Michael Caine’s assistant isn’t an especially good advert for the film.

The need to instantly gratify viewers has grown as online and digital television has opened up thousands of channels to your average viewer. Content needs to reward the viewer for watching it. Whether it’s funny or instantly informative, lengthy preambles are a thing of the past.

The change in television doesn’t just affect programmes, but advertising too, which is having to rapidly change to match the programmes it sits between. Viewers are increasingly able to click-through from adverts to websites relating to the products being showcased.

Interactive video might sound like a phrase thrown around an advertising company boardroom halfway through a dress-down Friday, but it’s big business. ITV recently announced that it is to partner with interactive video start-up Brainient, after the success of other, similar experiments.

Brainient is bringing its interactive and responsive videos to a new audience, allowing viewers to visit micro-sites insides the video player, and to see relevant links around the current programme.

It’s estimated that between seventy-five and eighty-five per cent of people view a second screen at some point whilst watching television. For television, this is an important barrier to bridge. Successful examples of making the leap to the second screen include the official X Factor app, allowing viewers to be “the fifth judge”.

The second screen experience is a key battleground for advertisers. Not wanting to change the channel, many viewers will immediately Google a product shown on television. If brands can synchronise mobile adverts with their television counterparts, the resulting experience leads to a far more cohesive experience for the viewer.

Another key change in modern television has been the emergence of brands as media companies. Large fashion brands such as ASOS are simultaneously broadcasting high-value campaigns to an expansive distributed audience.

But there’s one name in television that is exerting dominance over the entire industry. The search engine giant Google might seem an unlikely change-driver for the relatively clandestine world of television, but television networks and brands are fighting to make the best use of its services.

Google’s Chromecast dongle is being heralded as key to the future of television. Simply plug it into any television, and a connection between your laptop and the screen is made. Casting internet television to the main screen with this connection means that any browser adverts or interactive features that were previously confined to the laptop now feature more prominently on an actual television screen.

With Google overwhelmed by the success of the dongle and software upgrades currently being developed, the smart television channel will be exploring how to best use Chromecast.

And finally, the big name that is both the ally and enemy of television is YouTube. Many television networks are abandoning development of their own streaming system, instead opting to host past shows directly on YouTube with adverts enabled. Brands are investing substantial amounts of money into building an established YouTube presence.

With such a large audience and content creators flocking to it, YouTube could well be cable operator of the future.