The streaming future of the BBC

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For years BBC’s iPlayer has garnered high praise as one of the best streaming platforms out there. The iPlayer app has become so popular amongst media consumers, that a significant part of the audience for programmes it airs now comes from viewers on the app.

The iPlayer platform has evolved over the years and like other streaming services has dabbled with putting up online exclusive material on the app and in some cases putting episodes of shows on iPlayer before they air on TV. Whilst iPlayer has been growing and evolving, so has the rest of the market and these moves could be seen as ways to compete with the likes of Netflix, who have had great success with exclusive content and great success at cornering the ‘binge watching’ audience.

Another step in to the streaming world

The BBC took another step in to the streaming world this week, as BBC Three became an online only channel. This move has been known about for years and was done as part of a cost cutting exercise by the BBC, but as a media professional it is exciting to see how it works out for the channel, the programmes and the BBC.

If you don’t have a TV package that allows you to record or pause live TV you use things like iPlayer to watch TV, so I don’t see the audience dropping for this channel through it’s move to online. The one thing I worry about though is it’s potential to find a new audience, those that might have flicked by on the Freeview channels or seen a programme in the TV listings that may not find them now they are not there on Freeview.

Value for money

The TV License is always a big issue with the BBC. The BBC is currently funded through the compulsory TV License fee but if this push to online continues to grow, will there be more calls for it to be scrapped? If the BBC was to move everything to online only, then the £12 odd a month we currently have to pay, ma not be seen as good value, when you can get the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime for cheaper.

Yes the BBC is more than just TV, it’s radio, it’s websites etc. etc. etc. but price and value for money is important to many people and if you don’t use parts of the service you don’t want to pay for them.

Dare to be different

I think where the BBC can be different is to offer an app, which has all the best bits of the BBC in the same place. One experience where you can grab the best of TV, Radio, News, Sport etc. Imagine being able to get the best TV, music and readable news in one app. This would be something to me that would be worth the higher fee and I think is something the BBC should explore, to keep them relevant and ahead of the game. It is a critical time for the BBC right now and I think bravery is needed to navigate the changes in the media space.

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How streaming and binging changed traditional TV

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Before the explosion of streaming platforms, there seemed to be great frustration from the majority of the TV viewing public when channels would schedule repeats or show old runs of TV shows. Fast forward to modern day and it seems that showing old re-runs is now something TV companies promote to the hilt.

Playing catch-up

Traditional TV channels that are eager to either catch-up with the likes of Netflix, compete with them or appeal to their audience are now filling their schedules with various seasons of programmes that we all used to have on DVD box sets but are now just gathering dust. I remember fondly the day that DVD box sets were the most sought after Christmas presents but now whenever I walk past them in the shops I just think to myself ‘I bet I can watch it all online somewhere.’ DVD’s no longer fit with the way we consume media. We want to watch episode after episode at the touch of a button, we don’t want to have to leave our chair and grab a DVD from its case and put it in the machine.

TV channels on the whole seem to be favouring this method of programme acquisition over commissioning new programmes and paying top dollar for exclusive first airings of new progrmming. TV companies seem to want to buy old programming on the cheap and instead invest money in promoting it. Instead of risking money on new programming it is seen as more beneficial to resurrect old programmes where there is a proven audience for it.

Cheap content

Because the content maybe cheap, channels are now no longer worried about making it stretch over weeks and months, now they can schedule it in ways so that you can binge watch like you can on streaming services. Also with series link features on satellite and cable providers’ people can store it up and watch it completely like their favourite streaming service.

I think personally it is a little too late from the TV channels to try and be a bit like your favourite streaming services. I think they traditional channels should be trying to be different and innovate. TV channels will never be able to completely replicate what the likes of Netflix can do, so why even bother. If I were them I would be trying to do something different to offer an alternative.

It seems that the likes of Netflix are now trying to invest even more in original programming and having more success in that market. This is only going to lead to more and more talent and companies being taken that way so if traditional TV want to keep relevant they have to up their game.

Life without Satellite or Cable TV

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This month our contract with Sky a UK satellite TV provider comes to an end. We have now decided to cancel and although I am a huge TV fan, I am excited for life after Satellite TV.

Before the broadband and On Demand explosion the only way to watch a lot of good TV seemed to be through Satellite and Cable, but sadly for those in that business those days are over. I think Satellite and Cable TV is no longer a must have and that it is a convenience purchase more than anything now.

Lots of options

We live in a world now where there are so many boxes and sticks you can plug in to your TV to access a range of content with no subscription required. There are also a range of TVs which have internet, streaming and On Demand built in and then there is the old fashioned way of just putting a HDMI cable in to your laptop to connect it to the TV, which works just as well for the cost of a few pounds for a cable on Amazon.

I am a subscriber to Netflix, which I can watch on the TV and not only this but I can watch a host of On Demand services from various channels as well through the TV. So although I will lose out on some programmes and content, I have enough so I won’t get bored. Then if all else fails there is always Freeview if I want to watch TV in the traditional way again, which is something I rarely do these days.

For those that are less scrupulous than I, I am sure there are many non-legal ways out there on the Internet as well to watch other content you normally have to pay to view. Not only this but most streaming platforms security is weak so allows many log-ins at the same time from one account, so friends and family can share accounts so that not everyone has to pay for it.

A bit of work

I enjoy the features Sky has like live pause, record and series link but these features aren’t enough to keep me and by doing a bit of work myself I can get round these issues. I just have to wait to watch things On Demand and make sure I watch things in a certain time period before they disappear from the On Demand service.

So my advice this week is – if you want to save money, try living without Satellite or Cable, I think you will be surprised how much TV you will continue to watch and how little you will pay.

The slow death of the TV talent show

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This year will see the final series of one of the forerunners of the modern era TV talent shows, as American Idol bows out with it’s 15th series. With declining viewers and declining advertising revenue, not only has the decision been made to end with this final series, but this final series will also be shorter than previous years by 4 weeks.

I remember when TV talent shows were drawing audiences of 15 – 20 million per show. Now it seems like anything between 5 and 7 million is seen as a success. The thing with TV talent shows is that they are all geared around advertising, sponsorship and phone ins. If it wasn’t for these things then the viewing dip wouldn’t be as important, as for some programming 5 – 7 million is a good number. TV talent shows got lots of promotion and the best TV slots because they were cash cows but without the support of the viewers they will soon be cancelled, as the only slots they can exist in is weekend prime time.

Change in consumption

When TV talent shows were at the zenith, smart phones and tablets weren’t in every hand, streaming wasn’t mainstream, youtube wasn’t being used as it is now and Tivo (DVR) wasn’t in nearly every home. TV talent shows rely on us all sitting down to watch the programme live and that isn’t how we consume TV any more.

TV talent shows tried to combat what was happening by focusing the shows more on the soap style storylines rather than the talent in order to get headlines and column inches, which worked in the short time and kept interest up. However the more sensationalist the headlines got, the more the public and the media got jaded by them and the less newsworthy the shows became.

I do have a soft spot for the TV talent show but I must admit to rarely watching them any more. Back in the day I would watch all the British TV talent shows and even the US ones like American Idol. UK TV stations fighting over the rights to American Idol (an import), just showed you how popular the genre was, that in the UK we were lapping up anything we could get.

Saturation

The main reason I don’t watch them anymore is because when the popularity was growing, the number of programmes and length of programmes in a series just seemed to grow and grow. Live shows turned in to 3-hour marathons and then moved from just Saturday night to Saturday and Sunday night, which meant giving up most of the weekend to follow them.

You can’t just blame one thing for the slow death of the TV talent show but I think viewer fatigue and the way we consume media now means that at least for a while I think they have had their day.

What viewing statistic is most important?

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In today’s viewing world what is the measuring stick for popularity? Is it TV audience viewing statistics? Youtube views? Social Media engagement? Streams? Downloads? Number of saves on to a DVR? Or is it a combination of some or all?

Camouflage

I think it is much easier in today’s world, for media companies to camouflage poor performing programmes by using different statistics to the old fashioned TV audience statistics or by using a combination of statistics.

If you ask most companies that produce programmes the figure that will be most important internally is the TV audience figure, as that is what can make them the most money, if those figures are high they can sell their programme for a higher value to a TV station, without it they have little chance of making good money.

Profitable

When companies find ways to make putting content on Youtube more profitable and ways to make more money out of social media engagement then these will be very important areas to grow but I don’t think we are quite there yet.

TV production companies want to make the most money they can per viewer to their programming so this is where Youtube and Social Media can help in an indirect way. By boasting big numbers in these areas, they can use these to help in negotiations with TV companies to squeeze more revenue from the channels and networks.

Streaming

Nowadays programmes are licensed to the big providers like Netflix and Amazon on a revenue per stream deal, so if no one watches your programme you don’t make anything. This is why I love the streaming market as although the revenue per stream should possibly be higher at least then a programme gets a fair revenue based on its viewership. Some TV stations have been stung in the past by paying big bucks from programming, for it to not to deliver the numbers that they expected for their outlay.

The problem with media is that in a lot of instances you have to speculate to accumulate and although you can have great research to back up a theory on why a programme is going to be successful, until the numbers are in you can’t take anything for granted. Thankfully all sides of the media have to do this from the Production Companies that fund programme creation to the channels that acquire it.

There are a lot of shows on TV but few runaway successes and I think everyone in the media game has to remember that.

Christmas TV

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I remember as a child getting excited in the run up to Christmas, when the TV listing magazines would come out with the Christmas TV schedules. I would put a ring around the programmes and films I wanted to watch, then I would refer to it everyday to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I still do the same today as an adult but now instead of planning what to watch, I will put a ring around what I want to record and then set all the programmes I want to watch to record on my Sky Box, knowing that for most of them, I probably won’t get round to watching them until January.

DVR

Going in to the Christmas period I have had to do a cull on my Sky Box of all the things I will never watch again or get round to watching, so I have space for the Christmas period viewing. Over Christmas I will probably spend time catching up with the 44% worth of programming that made the cut and that is currently clogging up my Sky Box before I get to what is recorded over Christmas.

On top of this I have super long watch lists on streaming services like Netflix that I usually like to catch up with over Christmas. Christmas is a time of year where every provider of programming is after your attention and although I have lots of time off over Christmas it is a time of year where my viewing pile normally goes up and not down.

A time to binge

For many, Christmas is a time to binge on food and drink but I think now it is becoming a season to binge on media and it is a time where I will do most of my so called “binge viewing”, where I will try and catch up with some series that I have missed this year. That’s the great thing about having a long holiday, you can afford to give a day away to watch a series from start to finish, unlike weekends when time seems to be a bit more precious and life a bit busier.

Everyone has their Christmas traditions and their favourite Christmas specials that make the season for them. I think this is an important way media plays a part in Christmas festivities for families as it helps create memories and things to look forward to.

I hope everyone enjoys their festive favourites this year.

Getting the best out of the Internet and TV revolution

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My wife and I are always looking at ways in which we can make our money work harder for us. One thing we both recently did is move away from our iPhones. When we both recently had to upgrade we chose phones that did everything we would want but at a fraction of the monthly cost, saving us a good £40 per month and £480 per year. That money would afford us a brilliant holiday, a home improvement or many other great things.

Cutting ties

Now we have cut our ties with our iPhones we are starting to look at our TV and Internet packages. Our contracts are up in January with our current provider and we are determined to move away to lower our costs. We are currently with Sky because my wife and I are big sports fans, so we got it for the football and the F1 mainly. Since we have been with Sky however they have lost a lot of sporting rights and prices have continued to go up.

So the first thing we are looking at doing is getting our Internet and TV possibly through two different providers. Yes there are great deals out there to have them combined but the problem is you are then tied in to both services and if you start having problems with one you have to keep paying for both until your contract ends.

The other thing we are thinking of doing is purchasing a Freeview+ Box or a Youview box. Yes they are expensive but after that upfront cost everything you view is free and you are not tied in to a contract. These boxes also let you pause, rewind and record TV, these are the features my wife and I most love about Sky. Yes these options won’t have all the sport we want but they will have highlights, some games and some races. I remember growing up not having all the sports channels, I just think I got too used to having them as an adult but now I have realised that I am happy to go back to not having them.

Options

An exciting development is that there are many more specialised streaming options out there at the moment with many media companies having their own subscription service like Netflix so you can buy smaller packages, which are more closely tied to your interests. For instance I am a subscriber to the WWE Network, which I watch a lot and I hear other big players are following suit soon like Disney. I would rather pay for 3 or 4 four small subscriptions to things I like rather than one subscription to 200 channels, most of which I have no interest in.

I think its time for us all to become more media savvy. To pay for what we want and not for what we don’t. Don’t just let your contracts roll on month after month, think about what you want and get out of them if you don’t want to be in them. If you want a better deal, make it happen. My advice if you re happy with the service you have but not the price is to ring the provider up and try negotiate a better deal. The market is more competitive than ever and companies want to keep your custom, use this to your advantage.