Soon we will be able to watch the internet’s television-on-demand services on our TV sets. What will this do to our viewing habits?by Peter Bazalgette / June 21, 2010 / Leave a comment
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The peace and certainty of our television viewing is about to be shattered. We’ve coped with the introduction of multi-channel television via aerial, cable and satellite. We’re well into the habit of time-shifting with devices such as Sky+. We’ve upgraded to high-definition without too much trauma. But from next year the internet, with its chaotic profusion of content, will become available on our television sets. Project Canvas will launch in early 2011, probably under the name of YouView. It is a partnership between terrestrial broadcasters (BBC, ITV, C4 and Five) and companies (including BT and TalkTalk). It will offer a set-top box like Freeview which enables catch-up services like BBC iPlayer to be used on our television sets. The recently announced Google TV, which will launch in the US in the autumn, offers a similar service, as will others.
The evidence suggests these will be popular. Virgin Media cable customers can access iPlayer and account for one in four of the programmes watched on it. Games consoles such as the Xbox also allow the internet to be linked to the television for multi-player games. (Prospect readers with teenage sons will already know this because they won’t have seen any telly in months.)
Internet-delivered television may have major consequences for the traditional channels. We rely on ITV, Channel 4 and Five to aggregate shows we want to watch. But now companies like Google will be competing with them. In addition, the terrestrial commercial channels sell advertising more cheaply on their catch-up services (ITV Player, 40D and Demand Five) than on their networks, and so might face a drop in revenue.
Internet television will also compete with Sky and Virgin: both will still have their exclusive sport and additional services such as Sky+, but will we continue to pay their subscriptions when the internet can bring us extra choice? This question has been exercising these two television platforms and is reflected in their vociferous opposition to Project Canvas. The true convergence of the internet and the television may prove highly disruptive to all the business models of the television industry.
It will also change our viewing habits. Sky+ has loosened the grip of the schedule, but internet television could put a bomb under it. The iPlayer’s slogan is “Making the unmissable unmissable.” You can watch anything from the last seven…