After Hours

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Goodbye TV?

I'm in the US watching UK television...
Written in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, via free Wi-Fi

When I was a kid, TV was black-and-white, controlled, licensed and very limited. But it still damaged the movie houses and impacted Hollywood for quite a while.

It evolved to provide colour, higher definition, multiple channels, satellite and cable distribution. For more than 50 years, TV has been a safe channel and a dominant industry feeding entertainment into the home. It has also become the mainstay of Hollywood sales via VHS and DVDs.

TV has, however, remained regionalised and controlled. Despite the hundreds of channels available, the viewer still has to watch, or not, what is served up.

Well, it is all about to change really fast! Here I am on the road in the US, watching broadcast TV out of the UK. Moreover, I have access to a vast library of past programmes plus a growing online community of video blogs. And from stage left, most of the sources have stripped out all trace of advertising material. How come? It's down to a raft of individuals determined to provide yet another set of free services.

Is there a catch? Oh yes! This is MP3 downloading all over, only this time it is movies and TV programmes. Is it legal? Not really!

And what does it say? There is a demand that is not being satisfied by the industry, and people seem keener on downloading than streaming. So once again it looks as though the customers have a different model in mind.

The downside for the industry is obvious but with a few new twists. For students going to university, and in offices and homes, there may not be a need for a conventional TV feed in future. Ergo, in those countries where licence fees support the TV network, as well as those that run on advertising income, the revenues may start to tank!

Hmm, I think I'll have another coffee while I look up the weather report back home. I may have to remind my son to water the grass.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.