Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The tale of a mouse and the end of TV as we know it

A Provocation for Media Futures
A one-day BBC conference. 20 June 2008. Alexandra Palace, London

Extracts from “Live TV over Live Web: Or what happens when John Logie Baird meets Tim Berners-Lee”, a talk presented by Milverton Wallace at the 4th One Day Conference on Service TV, Barcelona, 5th June 2008. (http://mobayboy.blogspot.com/2008/06/live-tv-over-live-web-or-what-happens.html).

In his speech at the 2008 Web 2.0 conference (San Francisco, April 2008), Clay Shirky tells this story:

“I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, ‘Looking for the mouse’ ”.

What lessons do you draw from the story? This is what Shirky concluded:

“Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for”.

So I put myself in the place of this four-year-old ten years from now and imagined what a 14 year-old would expect to see when she looks at a “TV” screen in 2018.

Here it is:

The first thing to notice:

• There's no brand. No BBC, No ITV, No TV3, No Canal Plus
• Just feeds
• Programmes must compete on quality, not marketing

Our 14 year-old doesn't care which brand supplies the programmes that make up the menu of things that interest her. She checks "nature", and the feed reader trawls the network and serves up say, six items from various channels. She samples (previews) them and chooses the one which most closely matches her requirements and decides whether to pay for it or endure the commercials and watch it for free.

The second thing is:

• Our kid is not a passive consumer
• She can socialize the experience

How? By subsuming it into her social networks.

She can:

• Share it with her friends
• Or blog it or bookmark it
• Review it
• Send comment to programme-makers
• Tag it and rate it

Adding a new social media application is as simple as downloading a widget.

What's happening here?

Each programme is wrenched from its corporate wrapper and stands or falls on its own merits in the marketplace. Its been Individualized. Re-distributed. Networked.

Question: Are the TV networks ready for this de-centralised world?

Ready or not, this is the shape of things to come.


The network favours:

• Plurality over monopoly
• Personalization over aggregation
• Sharing and networking over monopoly and control.

Because of this, consumer electronic companies will build web services into the TV screen, because anything less would not command the attention of our kid.

Oh brave new world that hath such features in it (begging your pardon, Mr Huxley).
Very provocative indeed! I believe On-demand and social will definitely make inroads, but
- People are inherently lazy. Many will stay on the same channel watching different genres of programmes irrespective of the alternatives
- I can' quite see the end of network TV. There will always be the big "event TV" programmes - talent shows/sports etc - that need to be viewed live. I'm not sure if on demand can cope with this.

This post has definitely got me thinking about exciting things in the future, and a fantastic graphic to boot!
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