Last month streaming service Netflix entered the UK to great fanfare and with a stated aim to challenge the likes of Sky when it comes to winning TV subscribers. A nice soundbite, but one that got me thinking about where we’ll get our ‘TV’ content from in the future. Obviously internet streaming companies such as Netflix and Lovefilm (and even Sky themselves) are now pitching themselves as the savvy choice for those who want to sign up and download the latest shows and films, often before they make it to TV.
However often that same content is available through other channels, ranging from iTunes to that old staple, the DVD boxset. So what can internet only services do to differentiate themselves, apart from price? There’s a lot of talk about creating their own content, from both Netflix and established brands such as YouTube but you need to either be spending big on stars or sporting events to stand out or focus on established shows that are already hits. Given the power of the likes of Sky, which can simply create new channels to maximise the impact of its content (as it has in F1), it will be a tough ask to muscle in. Just ask BT which saw its Vision service comprehensively outmarketed by Sky when it tried to go head to head.
Before I’m accused of being a Luddite, I do think Netflix will be successful enough. People do want to access TV content over the internet, and either play it direct on their internet-connected TV
or through tablet or laptop. Just look at the tremendous success of the BBC iPlayer and other TV catchup services to show how, promoted properly, viewers will flock to an easy to use solution.
Where the real opportunity is going to come is in super-services that make it easy for mass market consumers to access whatever programme or film they want, when they want. Consumers don’t care if it is on Netflix or Sky, just that they can click, pay automatically and watch. Essentially it has to be as simple as surfing to another channel without having to register or download software. And it has to span multiple channels – so you can watch the same content on your TV, laptop or mobile device wherever you may be. Get that right, build a brand and that will be the platform for control of future TV.
As well as ill-thought out resolutions, January traditionally brings a slew of predictions for the year ahead. Rather than join the tech soothsayers, here’s my view on the five things that won’t happen in 2011 – but would be amusing if they did………
Queen joins ChatRoulette
Following on from her successful debut on Facebook, Queen Elizabeth pushes the social media envelope by moving onto Chat Roulette to meet her subjects. After encounters with a naked student, guitar-strumming Americans and an OAP that looks suspiciously like Prince Philip she abandons the site as being too close to reality.
Google buys Belgium
In a bid to outflank its competitors and to stop the EU investigation into its business practices, Google buys Belgium for a mixture of cash and shares. Very few people outside the country notice. Facebook use is immediately banned and everyone forced to switch to Gmail and Google Docs from Microsoft Office. It could be worse – at least they don’t have to use Wave.
Steve Jobs launches iClock
Seeing a market opportunity after the iPhone alarm clock storm in a tea cup (how exactly did that make the BBC News at Ten?) Steve Jobs launches the iClock. Stephen Fry buys twelve. A snip at $499, it promises a completely new timekeeping experience with downloadable apps available via iTunes. However in a launch glitch the alarm function only works on Pacific Standard Time, now renamed Apple Time and patented by the company.
Government abandons technology
The combination of shrinking budgets and rising unemployment means it is cheaper for the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition to swap manual processes for technology. Tin cans connected with string replace desk phones and flocks of carrier pigeons carry documents instead of email. Young people are trained to read barcodes to process incoming forms as an alternative to mainframe computers. Productivity rises.
Met Office joins the Cloud
In an innovative public/private sector partnership the Met Office and IBM launch a new cloud computing service. Utilising real clouds to store and transport data, satellite based technology downloads information as and when needed across the UK. Difficulties arise when the country swelters through its warmest year since records began, with high temperatures and cloudless skies from May to October. Well, you can but hope………..