Posts Tagged: online TV

Now then, now then

Jimmy Saville, among his many gifts, was acutely aware of how time slips away from us, perpetually moving us from now… to then. Hence his catchphrase, which was, I’m sure, a profound comment on the nature of existence itself rather than the irritating and patronising tic that some would have us believe.

Either way, Sir Jewellery draws our attention to the importance of ‘nowness’. It would be nice if you commented on this blog once you’ve finished it, but if you don’t do it now, then I suspect you never will, because the moment will have gone. Now will have become then.

‘Nowness’ is one of the reasons that watching TV as it is broadcast is so compelling. The latest figures from BARB for the first half of 2010 show that time spent watching linear broadcast TV viewing has increased again. Even in those homes with digital recorders, the percentage of their viewing to ‘live’ linear TV has increased slightly to 86.3% from 83.7%. Of the 13.7% that is time-shifted, over 80% happens with 7 days and a whopping 38.3% is VOSDAL (viewed on the same day as live). I didn’t just make up that VOSDAL acronym by the way; it is an official BARB descriptor. BARB doesn’t even publish any viewing past 7 days’ shifting or include it in TV numbers.

Let’s be honest, we all know that the longer something sits on our planner the less and less likely it is to get viewed. I’ve got an episode of Gardeners’ World from this March, all about planting a wild flower meadow, waiting for me. I wouldn’t like to bet on its chances of being viewed before meadow planting season comes round again.

On-demand TV services also show the magnetic force of the schedule with over 50% of catch-up viewing in Virgin homes taking place within a day of the original programme being aired. In fact, many normal people call on-demand TV players ‘catch-up’ TV because that is the overwhelming motivation for using them. They are trying to get back to watching ‘now’. Even if you choose to never watch linear TV, the schedule will be the biggest influence over what you watch on-demand.

Nowness – and attempts to either get ahead of it or catch-up with it – is why sneak previews are popular, why live music events are booming, why we want to see the latest cinema release the first weekend, why Peter Mandelson’s memoirs so boosted The Times circulation (although the supporting TV campaign had more than a little to do with it). It is also, sadly, a motivation behind the piracy that robs media companies – and creative people along with them – of some of their income. And that’s why actual live ‘live’ TV is even more attractive – the talent shows, the sport, the news – and not just because we might want to interact or participate.

It’s about the conversations. Twitter and Facebook updates are emblematic of our desire to connect in real time and share our experience of now. As such, they are a brilliant window into the fact that, even for the fancy media and advertising types that I follow, ‘now’ includes watching a lot of telly. ‘Social TV’ is the trendy phrase to use; it’s making watching TV as it’s broadcast even more magnetic.

Broadcast TV is a real time event that sucks people into its stream, that’s shared with our families, that’s talked about in the moment as well as the next day round the watercoolers and coffee machines. This was true back when Jim was trying not to drop cigar ash on his shell suit; the internet is just making it even easier to enjoy TV ‘now’.

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YouTube finally "gets" TV

There’s nothing quite as nauseating as someone revelling in an “I told
you so” moment but there’s no stopping me; you might like to retreat now.

Jubilation all round today at Thinkbox Towers thanks to YouTube’s new ad
campaign promoting the arrival of proper TV content (courtesy of its deal with
C4) which uses the line, “YouTube’s got TV”.
What they didn’t advertise was “YouTube’s got long-form video”.

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Rio Ferdinand, media futurologist

In a surreal moment, the respected media analyst and futurologist Rio Ferdinand has linked the fact that the England-Ukraine match is going to be online pay-per-view to the recent claim that internet advertising has ‘overtaken’ TV advertising:

“I read that online advertising has taken over from TV”, he apparently said, “so that tells you something about where it’s going in terms of the digital world…So I’m sure it’ll be the way forward and in the future it’ll probably be the reality. I think it’s a good way to gauge how many people are interested.”

If ever the IAB’s claims needed a dose of credibility, surely this is it.

But Rio is not alone, unlike how he sometimes finds himself in the box. Among others, Marketing took a deep breath and declared ‘England game heralds future of sport on web’.

On the flipside is this from Janine Gibson, editor, who disagrees it is a prophetic moment and explained why The Guardian declined the offer to screen the match:

“You had to sign up to an enormous amount of editorial endorsement and promotion for something that we weren’t convinced was of particular value to our users and would feel like a fake endorsement of a one-off match. This isn’t heralding the beginning of a new dawn; it’ll never happen again and it feels slightly opportunistic.”

She obviously needs to have a chat with Rio.

But over and above all this is the fact that the match being delivered by the internet might be interesting and contentious now, but once TV sets are fully broadband enabled it won’t really matter. Viewers won’t care how it is getting to their screens. It is all TV and they will hopefully have the experience they want.

It is unsurprising that England football fans are in uproar over the fact that the match is being screened via an online TV service and not on broadcast TV. They can still see it if they want to, but not the way they’d like to.

Amid all the fuss, we should remember that the game was originally contracted to appear on broadcast TV (with Setanta) and, if it had been an important game with something at stake, it probably still would be. I can’t see a match England actually need to win or a World Cup Final going online only pay-per-view – although maybe a new series of Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups would be ok. It is a fairly unique set of circumstances that have lead us here.

The fan forums I’ve looked at are less concerned with the idea of paying to watch it, though, than they are with a delivery system that means they can’t watch it in the pub or on the big screen in the living room and have to crowd round their laptops or watch it individually instead.

They demand the shared experience that only TV can give them. But having failed to agree rights with a broadcast TV company, it is understandable (or maybe greedy) that the agency responsible for this match – Kentaro – looked for an alternative buyer. The end result might not be as good as broadcast TV but it is better than nothing. Still, that is scant consolation for fans.

The fact that newspapers are so keen to become broadcasters – with the Times and Sun being among those who will show the match – is really interesting but not new. They already have various bits of video content on their websites, but this football match is one of the few pieces of roughly ‘must-have’ TV content they can get access to. TV broadcasters show appointment to view programming all day every day and newspapers clearly would like a piece of the action.

I suppose the main concern for fans that do choose to pay to watch the match is how well the UK’s internet pipes will handle demand. The fact that the number of viewers has been capped at one million worryingly shows how unprepared the UK broadband infrastructure is for major transmission of big events. It needs upgrading, as Digital Britain pointed out, and TV companies are as anxious as anybody to get an additional digital network to digital broadcasting. How is it going to cope when the majority of people are watching TV in HD, or with the other resource-hungry innovations like 3D coming along?

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Most irritating things in media: ‘long-form video’. No. 1 in an occasional series

This is the first in an occasional and cathartic series where we pick one of the most irritating things at large in media at the moment. It could be anything; a word, a phrase, a person, some research, a trend or even an ad (probably not a telly one obviously as they are all beyond reproach). There will be no itch that won’t be scratched, no eyelash beyond the probe of our media fingers; anything is fair game. What is the point of a blog, frankly, if you can’t use it to swat the bees in your bonnet from time to time?

To kick off I offer you ‘long-form video’, used recently by YouTube to describe their recent tie-up with TV broadcasters which will finally get some proper telly programmes legally onto their platform.

People in media have a pathological need to abuse, water down, neuter, twist, murder or mutilate language to the edge of reason and beyond, right into the choppy waters of lunacy. ‘Long-form video’ is a perfect example of this, as used in a Media Week headline this week. It takes a perfectly lovely concept – television – and hammers it flat into bland, technical nonsense.

There is certainly a recognised format of online video; those little windows with moving images in them on text-based websites – that’s online video. More like digital outdoor than TV. Short user-generated a/v, the sort of thing YouTube depended on until now, are also video. We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when TV goes online it doesn’t cease to be TV and become something else like ‘long-form video’. Do we say online video is short-form TV? No, that would be silly. Is watching a film online better described as watching ‘ even-longer-form video’? No. Ask the average consumer what they are doing when they watch Emmerdale, Peep Show or CSI via the web. They will almost all say “I’m watching TV on my computer/the internet.” No conflict there at all between the content and the distribution technology.

There are plenty of very solid reasons why we should kick ‘long-form video’ straight into the bins. TV is a shorter, quicker, neater and instantly understandable word for everyone on the planet. It is what real people call it. Even when they’re watching YouTube, if you ask them what it is they’re watching on YouTube, if it is proper TV they’ll say so.

Creating jargon can often be a means of taking ownership, of being a bit elite and smart-arse about things. We shouldn’t tolerate it. We don’t have to reinvent perfectly round and smoothly running wheels just to make them sound more complicated, new or thrilling than they already are.


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It looks like a duck. It must be a horse.

Has Samuel Beckett become a headline writer at The Guardian? I ask because one of their recent headlines was so absurd, so fist-bitingly contradictory that I spat out my snail porridge and had to have a lie down.

The piece was about Hulu launching in the UK. The headline was: ‘With all this online, why watch TV?’

It might as well have been ‘With all this internet shopping, why shop?’ or ‘With all this blogging, why write?’.

It’s times like this I wish I could ban headlines, or at least vet those that have the words TV and online in them. Headlines are the boastful show-off who wants your attention and is willing to say anything to get it. This is fine with straightforward issues like ‘Man found hanging out of goat’ or ‘England cruise to Ashes victory’, but most media and advertising issues are more nuanced. There’s no little irony in the fact that they can’t always be reduced to catchy slogans.

This particular headline evoked a definition of TV from the 1950s. But things have moved on a bit since then.

The problem is a misunderstanding of TV’s relationship with the internet. TV is about content; the internet is one of the ways we can now deliver it to anything with a glass screen. They are wildly, lovingly and blissfully complementary. They are not on two sides of a fence.

When TV content crosses into cyberspace, it doesn’t magically stop being TV (although some start weirdly calling it video). In fact, simple, free catch-up TV online is stopping viewers falling out of the broadcast stream. It’s a trampoline that bounces them back in.

Most importantly of all, if you ask non-media people what they’re doing when they watch Corrie, Peep Show or The Gadget Show online they’ll say they’re “watching TV…on the internet/my computer”.

If it looks like a duck…

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