Perhaps I should start by explaining the premise of TV here in the UK, for my non-UK readers. First and foremost, any viewer of TV in the UK needs to pay for a TV license, although there's a lesser known caveat to that: Any viewer of live TV needs to pay for a TV license. So, in other words, if you regularly tune in and watch a live broadcast from any channel, irrespective of platform, that is, a TV, tablet or mobile device, you must pay for a TV license. In my household, the wife and I do not watch live TV but, instead, we create our own channel by streaming the programmes we wish to watch, when we want to watch them!
Nowadays, we have every opportunity to tune in to pretty much anything we wish, whether that’s via the likes of Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime TV, so long as we have that all-important Internet connection. With this in mind, traditional TV broadcasters are clearly becoming increasingly nervous, since the programming power they once possessed has now been put into the hands of the viewers themselves.
In fact, the rise of online video services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime may well be signalling the end of television broadcasting as we have traditionally known it. A decade ago the battle was solely between the mainstream channels in a bid to gain the most audience in the primetime domain. It seems an ongoing and heated battle today too, with ITV and the BBC still competing to win over audiences with their routine annual foddering of Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor, Voice UK and Strictly Come Dancing.
Comparatively, the likes of Netflix allows us the viewing freedom of original programmes through the Internet and, consequently, programme streaming is rapidly becoming the new trend. The truly bespoke programming options offered by these Video on Demand (VoD) services allows us, the viewers, to create not only our own channels, but our own schedules on an ad hoc basis, as and when the mood strikes us – an intoxicating and addictive mix of power that latches on to today’s “I want it now” culture.
ITV and the BBC haven’t missed out on delivering their respective content online either, with a spat of ‘apps’ allowing us to ‘catch-up’ on missed programmes. But, for me, it just seems a half-hearted attempt at joining the party. Again, the traditional broadcasters serve their content with a retrospective view to tune-in to a broadcast that you have previously missed rather than delivering a dedicated Internet streaming option. Surely, it’s time to banish our aerials to the recycle bin and remove those atrocious satellite dishes from our roof-tops?
A New Era of Programme Making
Questioned and mocked at the beginning, today no-one can deny the power of streaming content. Netflix originals such as ‘Orange is the New Black,’ and Amazon Prime’s recent Golden Globe winning ‘Transparent’ have changed the way that we choose to digest our entertainment and their growing audiences are a strong indicator that this is just the beginning.
In the UK the Royal Television Society has released reports suggesting that Netflix is prepared to outbid both the BBC and ITV to commission ‘The Crown,’ an epic 20-part, £100m drama inspired by Peter Morgan’s successful West End play, ‘The Audience,’ which starred Helen Mirren as the Queen. Produced by Left Bank, this will be Netflix’s first original production to be made in the UK, something that has left the likes of the BBC quaking in their oversized broadcasting boots. According to Richard Broughton, Broadband Director of research company IHS Technology, “by the end of 2015 Netflix will be on course to have well over 3.5 million paying consumers in the UK.”
The Internet Couch Potato
I see the future as being one where, along with our binge-eating TV suppers, we’ll also satisfy our viewing appetites with the ‘binge-viewing’ attributes of our little Fire TV boxes. Yes, today’s couch potato has now gone digital! What’s more, we won’t even have to toggle any search buttons as the clever little Amazon Fire TV remote has an amazingly accurate voice-search feature, making finger exercising a thing of the past. With a Netflix subscription and numerous other ‘apps’ that can be downloaded to your Fire TV, the service has opened up a wealth of content that will sustain our ‘square eyes’ viewing.
There’s also another little app called Plex. This little gem, once installed on the Fire TV, PC, Mac, tablet and smartphone (or any combination of these) within the household, can allow me to source content from my home network across to the 100-inch screen in our cinema room with ease. The wife and I now have a multitude of content available to us, so why is it that, overwhelmed by choice and variety, we still so often scratch our heads look at each other and ask “What shall we watch this evening?” Ah, so much content, so little time!
Until Next Time …
As I intimated in last month’s feature, Mobile World Congress is up on us at the beginning of March and I’m awaiting a little more fanfare compared with CES. Nonetheless, Microsoft and their Windows 10 Technical Preview caught my attention in January. Yep, I have installed this, namely build 9926 and I personally think it’s fantastic. Even the wife has dabbled in trying it out, but she has mixed feelings, as the upgrade ultimately rendered her PC sluggish and unbearable to use. Sarah had to resort to undertaking a complete refresh and placing the PC into its original factory settings. But the ‘refresh’ retained build 9926 much to my surprise and her frustration. We both expected it to roll back to Windows 8.1!
So, the wife’s PC is now back to its zippy self but, alas, she is still unconvinced by the latest technical preview. You see, Microsoft regularly asks, in its new notification centre, “Would you recommend Windows 10?” Well, the wife has a few other choice names for the operating system, whilst I rated it a three out of five, offering more of a constructive critique on the work so far.
So, this is where a Windows-loving build 9926 Dr G signs off.
Originally published in Technically Speaking.