Darling “Whats on TV Tonight” – “Nothing the Internet is down again Honey”.

In response to: http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/10/19/the-future-of-television-the-digital-living-room/  (Best If You Read it Too, first)

I hear what you say but have you actually thought about the real people in the street and how a population is catered for, not the technologists, or the likes of you or I and all those who wait for experts to reveal their thoughts, or spend hours writing their thoughts…real people the majority who have a life, a job, not as much disposable income as you might think. I will select a country outside of the USA – France…an Internet savvy country who has a traditional Broadcast TV and also a long standing PayTV sector. They have a strong technology market but all in all people have 1 TV screen in the home, maybe 2…I am talking about the masses here. Satellite (Canal+ and TPS) battled it out for rights to Football and Rugby etc. and sold PayTV packages to make money. It costs a lot for the average household and is deemed expensive, as is Sky in the UK. France then went more digital and launched DTT (Digital terrestrial) Standard Definition they went from 4 channels to 30…Content degraded rapidly (filler just like a Music CD)l. They piggybacked the Canal+ onto that DTT offer with Conditional Access…it’s fairly unsuccessful. People still watch the 4 main channels but now a little clearer with better sound…after reaching about 3million homes they decided to go HD and a new receiver hit the market…at a re-jigged higher price than the SD Boxes which by this time had dropped to 30€…so mainstream France kept buying at 30€ not at 250€ for the new box…Content in HD did not do it. Strategy failure numero uno!

Prior or alongside the DTT rollout IPTV popped up and the Telcos went after our bucks with the 29.90€ flat fee as of today for Broadband, VOIP Telephone and TV. The infrastructure breaks down a lot! The metropolitan areas are better covered but it still goes out the rural areas poorly served. Routers breakdown, lines get cut by accident and all in the entire infrastructure is, when all said and done, weak. With the www savvy French piracy became a huge issue and they had to make a law (3 strikes and you are out) the letters are already in the hands of the biggest culprits. Back to the infrastructure. Call centres are run out of Tunisia and its forever and a day to get through the press 1 for this and 2 for that to end up with a miserable call centre clerk who hates their job (and you are charged whilst on the call) … for an engineer to come out forget it and if it’s a busy period you wait and wait and wait. I have seen cases where people have been cut off from the Internet for weeks at a time. There is always a Satellite signal, there is always a Terrestrial signal and it’s tried, tested and trusted it will not go away for some time to come that we all agree on.

Meanwhile Broadband speeds have increased no doubt. So AppleTV and Connected TV and Boxee and Netflix etc. (and French equivalents) popped up to exploit that. Here they piggyback an infrastructure that is already offering a mediocre service in terms of QoS and delivery of bits and bytes and the content on the incumbent ISPs IPTV systems is not too hot. The Orange IPTV interface is clunky and slow which all drives people to moan and look for some alternative…Why not GoogleTV or AppleTV and all the content you want when you want…and yes it exists but there it all falls apart: Price of the products, more cost to the consumer for additional packages, same old slow connectivity and more cost as it is not free content that is on offer but PayTV in another form on top of the subscription that you pay for the TV anyway (including Govt. License Fee per annum on top of any PayTV package). TV Business Models are relying on a 30€ receiver to view some stuff or a subscription package and receiver rental so will the Internet!

So what content does the average French person want? What does the average any person in the world want…well we don’t know, nor do they the most part of the time. Programme line-ups were put together for people to follow something that a person thought might make compelling viewing and created in such a way for Broadcasters to have eyeballs glued to the TV to sell advertising to buy/make more programmes etc. So now over the Internet we make a shitload of content available from anywhere in the world and people can access it, no have to find it…So we invent Search engines and now recommendation engines…to do what? Search for something that you have seen already… because if you have seen it you know about it and you have a search string in your head…and then the question is raised why do you want to watch something that you have already seen? And if you go generic like “Dora the Explorer” how do you know that you have not already seen it. It’s not the music industry, its visual and we consume differently. It’s often a last resort thing to watch a repeated show/film on TV. A hard drive full of same genre or similar genre content is very boring I can tell you.

GUI and claiming the Remote Control with which GUI do I get to where I want: The Broadcasters or GoogleTV’s GUI or Boxees GUI; how many GUIs will we have on a screen in a home?) Then when we do get into the mood and start to seek instead of being fed TV… “If you like this you might like this too” is the catch phrase of new TV and suddenly you are bombarded with like for like programming offering little variety. The Amazon example is “people who bought this book also bought these” – No they didn’t they bought one out of the same genre, the one they thought was the best for them. Like the music Industry it’s about the singer, books about the author, films about the actor granted so we can have one type of search that bears fruit. Variety is the mainstay of French TV – Music, Cabaret, Stand Up Comics, their own CSI called CIS of course. Their own Gendarmerie stories and a whole host of chat shows where all the guests have a book or film or DVD to promote…They also like French movies and they make damn good films. Hollywood re-makes most of them into bastardized American equivalents some with great success. The French masses are quite regular folk, people who have only so much viewing time and they are very well catered for in the market. There is no “problem to fix” just a technology trying to become something it is not supposed to be and that is another delivery mechanism for the same old stuff we can already get.

You are right saying that the Telco’s stepped outside of what they are good at and they bleed cash today… they are going back, especially in Europe and the tide is slowly turning…but they have to do it gently, gently. They are going back to trying to monetize the pipes. So where is this leading you ask…well they have decided to clamp down on freeloaders (pirates). They have started to stop “all you can eat” data downloading as the masses got into iPhones saturating the infrastructure. Pay as you go is coming back. As video consumption increases the pipes have a problem and we are only at the beginning of this effect of saturation. So new bundles are being offered and the whole business model of TV is in question. Meanwhile the DTT still sends boring, banal shows to boring, banal minds who are exhausted after a long hard day in the factory or in a truck on the road….and it is consumed. My own daughter has now stopped being an active consumer over the Internet to a passive in front of the Broadcaster because after a hard day teaching at school she is now ready to be fed TV and the PVR is a nice place to fill the gaps between shows you don’t want to see… Yes we trundle on in the TV world inventing a new “paradigm” but in this windy discourse I have highlighted, a small part of the whole problem. Each country has different rules, different languages, GEO-LOCKING has not even been mentioned so we see that that TV was created for the “masses” in each country and even with the advent of the Open Internet or World Wide Web we see that businesses still need to box cleverly, close doors and protect their businesses in order to sustain revenue in order to have infrastructure for TV programmes to ride upon. That model needs looking at more deeply to see whether we are just creating an OTT Internet Bubble that will Burst just like Internet of yore…Nobody has actually asked this because its considered stuffy, not inventive or innovative, however – Perhaps the Internet is great for Multimedia (Text, graphics and short videos a la YouTube and functions OK just the way it is and that the coming of streaming TV will swallow up the bits and bytes and make “regular use of the Internet” a slow painful experience once again…Now wouldn’t that be amusing… Darling “Whats on TV Tonight” – “Nothing the Internet is down again Honey”.

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