A response to ‘What does the increase in programmes distributed online mean for the future for conventionally consumed television?’
This article in in response to a piece Bhavesh wrote last week. For context we recommend you read his piece first.
Firstly thank you for taking the time to read my article, I’m glad it stimulated you into writing a response. While these were only minor awards, I believe they symbolise a significant shift in the way television is currently consumed, and is indicative of future changes. In the true nature of a debate, I disagree with the argument you are presenting, taking the stance that in actual fact, increased online consumption is simply an inevitability, sparked from technological evolution and the evidential human desire for convergence.
Your article presented many points to which I would like to counter. To challenge first the idea of exclusivity before ‘catch up’ services. This is a very simplistic view. It was very often the case that soap dramas were repeated on a Sunday afternoon, so you could keep abreast of the latest unrealistic, poorly acted adultery or murder. In addition to this, although it wasn’t common in households of old, you could actually record broadcasts using VHS – although I don’t know if our readers will remember those. From here we progressed to DVR’s, allowing the recording, rewinding and pausing of live television, and this functionality can now be controlled by our mobiles. Rather than diluting exclusivity, I would argue that this is making TV more exclusive, and more personal to each individual.
This individuality does not come at the expense of inclusivity though. Noting particularly your reference to the ‘social totem around which an entire family or an entire group of friends could be together’, I don’t believe that this is lost with online distribution. With gaming consoles and smart TV’s becoming the norm in family homes, families can still congregate in front of the big screen, with the added benefit of being able to take it around on your phone or laptop should you want to. This is actually likely to reduce exclusion as if a member is out of the house they can quickly and conveniently catch up and be a part of the discussion. My girlfriend and I spend nearly every night watching online content that is tailored to our tastes together, due to the fact we hold similar interests. This will ring true in any household, and where tastes differ, somebody is always going to be less happy watching something, even as a group.
Your article also makes reference to a ‘general lack of quality’ from the viewers perspective, which is highly ambiguous. If the comment was in reference to the viewing of content on traditional internet accessing devices such as computers, then this is extraneous to the argument given the aforementioned accessibility of televisions. If instead, the comment was in regard to the actual visual appeal of the content, the resolution of production quality, then this is also highly contentious given the advent of high definition streaming from sites such as Youtube and Vimeo. Netflix has recently rolled out Super HD with plans to roll out 4K delivery in 2014. The production values of the content on places like Netflix are as high as they are on television, seeing as they are syndicating shows that previously aired. Their original content is filmed with the same production techniques as a standard TV series, so there is no reduction in quality there either.
Before I conclude I’d like to make a quick point about cost. The current price of a TV license in the UK is £145.50 (correct as of October 2013). That is a legal, mandatory requirement of every residence in the UK who accesses live broadcasting, even if you only watch one show a week. My television isn’t plugged into an aerial, and we do not own a lead to connect it to one. I don’t pay the television license, but instead have a subscription to Netflix, that I watch through my Xbox 360. The cost of that subscription per year is only £72, making it better than half the price of a TV License, but due to the iPlayer app, I am free to access all the same content those with TV’s do, just an hour later. In the future though I expect this loop hole to be closed.
All of this is meandering to the conclusion that online transmission is just technological progress. Moving from terrestrial to satellite and cable was welcomed with fanfare, and online distribution is merely the next step in this evolution. The switch to internet television means more content than ever before can be viewed on the big screen, but also on the go. It is empowering the viewer, and with systems learning our viewing habits and preferences, better recommendations can be made as to what we want to watch. This model simply provides more accessible entertainment, which I believe is what your argument called for anyway.