Real-time rules

Not long ago you couldn’t read an analysis of the future of TV viewing without someone (including us) predicting a world where we would all live by our own personalised TV diet.  The story went like this: we now have the ability to create our own TV schedules on-demand, so… er…we will.

If we weren’t reading about that, then it was a story about people somehow swapping watching linear TV for spending time on YouTube or Facebook.

Time – and real-time in particular – makes idiots of us all.  It hasn’t quite panned out like the predictions, as a number of factors show.  Record linear viewing, the modest amount of time-shifted TV viewing (9%) – half of which is watched on the same day as recorded – and the on-demand stats for the biggest, best and most recent TV, all prove that the schedule still rules.  And this last week has brought more evidence that suggests it always will because, if reports are true, YouTube and Facebook are now lending their support to the power of the schedule.

Google had already announced that it was to invest in proper TV content for YouTube (which already has deals with Channel 4 and Five to show their on-demand content). Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, YouTube is in the process of launching more than a dozen scheduled TV channels.

And, at f8, Facebook announced its ambition to become an entertainment hub and is partnering with the likes of Hulu and Netflix, enabling users to announce on Facebook what TV they are watching so that their friends can watch the same thing. It isn’t quite a scheduled channel, but it acknowledges the fundamentals that comprise TV-watching: professional, quality audio-visual content shared in real time with other people. Netflix CEO Reid Hastings cut to the heart of the matter saying “watching content because my friend is [watching] trumps the algorithm”.

Social networks are in the best position possible to understand quite how much live TV drives social activity, and in turn social networks drive more live TV and, through recommendation, can build bigger TV on-demand audiences.

So it seems a case of not beating but joining. I welcome these social giants to the world of TV, as long as they continue to play nicely and try to enrich the TV experience.

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