Monday, 3 March 2014

Another blow for traditional TV

Be honest, how often do you sit down and watch TV as it is broadcast, live? I have to admit that this is a very rare phenomenon in Clegg Towers these days, mostly limited to the news. And Amazon has kindly just put yet another nail (admittedly a rather small and wonky one) in the lid of traditional TV watching's coffin.

When we moved house a few years ago we abandoned Sky, the price of which had gradually crept up until it was getting ridiculous, going Freeview+ across the board. Now a little payment has crept in, but we still pay around 1/10th what we used to pay for Sky in a typical month. Here's the line up:
  • YouView box - giving us the ability to record a couple of programmes at once. As a result we hardly ever watch a programme live, except the news. If it's a commercial channel, then you have the added benefit of being able to skip through the ads. And even better - you've got 7 days catchup on the main channels from the same programme guide. So anything we didn't record we tend to watch that way.
  • Apple TV box - we pay £6 a month for Netflix and for that get more movies and TV boxed sets than we are ever likely to consume. Just finished the second season of House of Cards, which was absolutely brilliant. Currently hovering over starting Breaking Bad, which we've managed to resist. If we really need to watch a recent release, the same box gives us iTunes access to rentals in HD at comparable price to what we used to pay for DVD rentals.
  • Blu-ray Player - Just occasionally we do still get things on disc, if only as presents, or where it's too obscure for the iTunes/Netflix, like our recent foray into The Lovers. The player has just got an added bonus as it's internet connected and has what used to be a Lovefilm Instant app, but is now Amazon Prime - so as Amazon Prime customers we get free access to the Lovefilm Instant free stuff. Not as good as Netflix, but some interesting non-overlapping content. I might finally get round to seeing Twin Peaks, which has come off Netflix, but is still on this service.
Of the options the Amazon/ex-Lovefilm is by far the worst, because its user interface is fairly poor (this may be down to the Sony Blu-ray player: we haven't tried it on a computer yet). But even so it's yet more stuff to watch at no extra charge. (Admittedly you have to be an Amazon Prime member, but we are.) I can honestly say, it's delightful having so much material instantly accessible, meaning that you can easily avoid Ant and Dec or any other primetime rubbish that is put out by the main channels, while still picking up the good stuff (like the new series of Silk, just started).

I suspect to the youth of today there's nothing remarkable about streaming TV over the internet, but I still get a frisson of excitement that I can get such high quality video and sound, on demand 24/7. And on the whole, with the occasional glitch, it just works.

The fascinating thing is that TV has gone through a bigger revolution than the e-book entering the publishing market, yet at the moment the traditional channels seem to be thriving. Profits are up at ITV, for instance. It could be because there are so many households that do still watch stuff as it comes through the aerial or the Sky box without practically everything being time shifted or streamed. So it could be a case of dead service walking. But these are certainly interesting times.

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