In the world of TV things are changing fast. In the UK where I live, digital TV was introduced back in 1997, and by 2012 analogue TV will be completely gone. I understand that the transition in the US has been even faster. Alongside this, there are many more different ways to watch TV. Many people now time-shift TV programmes in a Personal Video Recorder (PVR), and also time-shifting has arrived in the form of Internet-based TV. The BBC created a service called iPlayer, which allows you a second chance to see programmes that otherwise you might have missed; typically programmes are available on iPlayer for a week after broadcast. It’s phenomenally successful; it now consumes 20% of the UK’s Internet bandwidth, and it’s overtaken MySpace as a popular destination.
Services that deliver TV to the mobile phone are also plentiful. I know of services from Orange, 3 and Vodafone, and also premium sports content from people like Sky and ESPN. The mobile is increasingly seen as a “second screen in the house”, and of course the cellcos are keen to capture a share of this emerging alternative TV market.
BBC’s success with iPlayer quickly attracted the other terrestrial broadcasters, and there are also now “watch again” websites from ITV and Channel 4. Of course it’s not convenient for the user to have to visit different sites for content, so an interesting new idea now is the Canvas consortium. In brief, Canvas is a group of companies that have come together to create an open television platform. Ultimately, a special box will plug into your TV and your Internet WiFi or Ethernet, allowing TV to be delivered via the Internet, both live TV and “watch again”. All of the UK terrestrial services are members of Canvas, as are many other companies including YouTube and British Telecom.
One part that seems missing for me is how Canvas relates to mobile? With all of BBC, ITV and YouTube at your command on the TV screen, Canvas should be on the mobile phone too. This would allow teenagers to watch their own choice via mobile (if that is a good thing?), as well as “snacking” on bits of TV while out and about. Perhaps some ingenious company can even allow us to ‘park’ a programme mid-play in the cloud, so that we could carry on watching later on a on the mobile phone, or a different TV?