The road to nowhere in particular


So CES was the year of voice activated devices according to many with human beings talking to inanimate objects in order to complete tasks like switching on the lights and turning on their music systems. One amazing use-case was:

“It’s great I can now switch on my wife’s electric blanket without getting up from couch”

Haha!  The film Wall-E comes to mind.  Lots of fat and useless human beings who have not moved any muscles for so long they have lost the ability to do anything for themselves.

We are now well on the road to nowhere in particular are we not?

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The Reality of the Lazy TV Audience


So let me start with a few extracts from a blog piece that was written by Mr. Will McKinley a New York writer and author. Why? Well, I want this subject matter (Streaming versus Linear TV) to not be seen as my opinion (because I don’t have the clout when it comes to people taking note of what I say … But I do say things that other more famous people say, often way before them – Sometimes that is frustrating. Sometimes it reassuringly delights.)

I love the convenience of streaming. It’s thrilling to have easy access to every episode of shows (and movies) I love, and have loved for my entire life. But, in a landscape where there’s so much choice, having everything can almost feel like having nothing. There’s no call-to-action, no immediacy, no reason why I should watch one thing over another right now. But perhaps more importantly, there’s no shared experience…

But perhaps most importantly, a linear network means that someone else is doing the work for you. Because sometimes you just want to plop down on the couch and watch, not assemble your own custom lineup from across multiple streaming platforms (and I speak from experience, because I subscribe to pretty much all of them)…

Will on-demand streaming be a dominant force in TV? No doubt. In a sense, it already is. But creatively curated linear programming will always be an important option. They call TV viewers couch potatoes, not couch amateur TV executives for a very good reason. Never underestimate the laziness of the American public.

While this ‘Linear versus Streaming TV’ narrative plays out across the world, it was interesting to see at IBC 2016 show in Amsterdam that TV technologists can now introduce SVOD content into EPGs as if it were a Linear channel. There are also companies that will, for a small fee per annum, curate Free on-line programmes for you (e.g. Rabbit TV’s Freecast) so that you do not have to do the hard work of being your own amateur TV executive – Thank you, Will McKinley, for that expression, which I too have used in many previous articles to express the burden TV viewing is becoming.

Let’s not forget that TV, despite its modernisation, is a product that has to appeal to the masses. i.e. The old, not so old and the very young. I don’t like to use the term Millennials because they too will have life-events that will make them lazy couch potatoes. So as far as the majority of TV viewers is concerned, being entertained must not be hard work. So if TV streaming becomes the norm, we will be expected to be our own TV show curator, which means that we will end up stuck in a viewing rut, as our limited knowledge of what is available from the global pool of entertainment is limited by our ability to memorise the planet’s content. Yes, we are we now expected to take the cognitive burden of knowing what content is available from what provider and whether we have already seen it or not by having to dig through all the buried content.

Live broadcasts are also an opportunity to encourage sampling by channel-surfing new viewers, in a way that streaming will never offer.

I agree with Mr. McKinley when he says that we still need the lazy person’s option for a long time to come.

A Short Play Called ‘The Death of TV’


Setting the scene: The evening light is dimming.  It’s 8pm and the children are snuggled down in bed and the husband says,  “Dinner is almost ready honey, can you find us something to watch on TV?” …

 

Picking up the remote the wife switches on the TV …

“I don’t know darling!” “Why not honey?”  “Because there is only a bunch of icons on the TV and I cannot see any TV shows, that guide thingy we used to have, it’s gone darling!”  “Gone! Why would they do that honey, it was very convenient.”  “I heard that you are supposed to know what you want to watch darling, you just ask for it now.”  “Really honey, OK!”  “Are there more programmes like that documentary on South Africa we saw the other night?”  “Maybe darling, what was the programme called?” … “Ermm, what channel was it on?”  “I cannot remember darling.” “Neither can I honey.” “Oh!” “Now what shall we do?” … “Ask the TV honey its got that voice thingy activated.”  …

Wife fiddles with remote control – pushes button …

“TV,  Can you find me any travel programmes about South Africa, but not about South Africa as we have seen that, what about somewhere else please.”

Screen icon turns … searching … searching … searching … TV replies

“Can you be more specific, I have 24,000 programmes on South Africa and 30,000 programmes not on South Africa and I have several shows called Somewhere Else.”  “I have them in English, Greek, Spanish, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Polish, German and 25 other languages, what do you want me to do?”

8.45pm: “Have you found anything honey?” “No darling, I’m afraid not … its not that instant anymore.”  “Shall I put the radio on honey?”

The End.

If I Can Talk To My TV Aren’t TV Apps Dead?


The subject of this piece is navigation, search and recommendation on modern day television platforms. The standard way of navigating through the hundreds of channels via the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is heavily criticised. The EPG is called antiquated; Linear TV channel and programme line-ups are very old-fashioned is all we hear.  Surely we have a better system?  We know we do and it is called Apps!  The future of Television is Apps is it not?  After all we do Apps on the telephone, tablet, so why not on the TV? Let’s have an Apps dashboard approach for the navigation of content.

Simple! Errrm! Nope!

An Apps driven navigation platform expects everyone to have a mental programme/film database for the plethora of coloured tiles (Apps) that hide content within them.  As we split the content into a myriad of ‘coloured tiles’ on an interface, we all start only watching the top ten that we can remember.  There are thousands of programmes that do not get watched, not because the content is bad,  but because it just never appears anywhere.  Then the Apps all need to fight it out for prime position on the 42″ screen. Everyone wants to be the only entertainment theatre in town, so it is a real-estate war (As it is on the EPG).  Just as in Google search if you are not on the 1st page between 1 and 10 you are purportedly toast.  Android TV just added 600 Apps.  This is just the start.  So is there an answer to rid us of all of this fragmented, App, coloured tile, buried content complexity?  Can we offer a better system that makes it easier for the consumer? Well, it seems we can. It is already deployed. It is called voice!

“Hello! Is it ME your looking for?” Yes, we can just talk to the device and ask it for something to watch. Yes, we can just ask the device for a particular film, programme or TV personality and the system will present all the options available to us across the TV eco-system. It is called Universal Search and it is a new way of navigating the millions of programmes available on the system. Simple! As we travel around all the TV business to business seminars, people are raving about this new system and how this system is the saving grace for accessing all TV content.

Wait a minute! Does this not mean the end of the App? Because in the case of Universal Search it quite honestly does not matter behind which brand a particular content features anymore, does it? It’s just stored somewhere, and we ask for it with voice and then it is presented in a selectable list. No need to bother yourself with what sits behind what App; woohoo! Who cares whether it is is Hulu or Netflix, or NowTV or Roku or ESPN or Disney it is the content that we want to watch … So we just ask for the content and it will appear!

Simple.

Wait a minute! As we will never see anything presented in any format in this new buried content paradigm how will we get to know what content is available across all of our services connected to our TV? Perhaps we can go back to the old paper TV Guide and can look up content that is available (Like a Karaoke Catalogue) and then holler to the device so it can do all the work. The TV industry can then stop wasting money on all this Apps malarkey and the need for continual software upgrading, supporting of all their complex individual back-ends et al. The TV world can just fill a big repository with wonderful content and go about promoting it…We as consumers will get what we want when we want where we want, by asking for it…and in any language.

Wait a Minute! How will the content be monetized? Well, as it will be true ‘a la carte’, so you only pay for what you watch, or not, if it is Ad supported.

Simple.

I believe that Amazon has already hatched this plan …