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Demand for Content

In an on-demand world, where is all the quality content going to come from?

In an on-demand world, where is all the quality content going to come from to satisfy customer expectations? Jane Seery looks at some of the options including original new shows and user-generated material and the changing relationship between producers and the new broadcasters. 

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With the emergence of new platforms such as connected TV, smartphones and tablets, offering increased choice in how we view content, it stands to reason that when it comes to what we choose to watch, expectations and tastes are likely to change too. Internet growth and development has provided a limitless supply of material but it has also created a culture of immediacy and impatience where only the best in terms of entertainment is going to satisfy a short attention span. Sites like YouTube have grown in popularity because they combine this 'feast of footage' with a platform for users to communicate with each other. Spouting off an opinion or engaging in conversation about what's being viewed is becoming as important as the content itself.   

Google - via YouTube - has already started to commission and even make its own shows.

Having more hours to fill on additional platforms will inevitably mean a need for more content but the question yet to be properly answered is where all this additional content will come from. The open source nature of these new services suggests that some programming will be obtained from brand new providers. Indeed, Google - via YouTube - has already started to commission and even make its own shows. 

Independent producers could also provide content direct to these channels in the same way that they are commissioned by broadcasters. And maybe there is an opportunity for viewers themselves to participate more. 

Back in the early 1970s the BBC set up a department called the Community Programme Unit. Its remit was to help members of the public create short programmes that could be broadcast nationally. It produced series like 'Open Space' and 'Video Diaries' and would generally highlight an issue or topic that was of concern to the person making the programme. In a sense it was the earliest forrm of 'reality TV'. In an age where social networking has become part of our lives and is already being utilised within TV programmes to encourage viewer participation, giving control to the audience to create its own entertainment is an option with potential. A new social television network called Youtoo TV recently launched in the US, giving users the opportunity to upload their own video and have it broadcast nationally on TV. Viewers film themselves answering a specific question, upload it to the site and then wait to see if they are selected for transmission around the network's programmes. The scope of this technology suggests that it could take viewer interaction to a whole different level, if used within shows rather than promoted around them. 

As the merger of web and TV evolves, and providers like YouView offer a unilateral platform for content, how will this affect individual broadcaster VOD services?

Will they be forced to reinvent themselves as destination sites offering broader content such as games and social media, rather than purely 'catch up' for linear TV? Channel 4 recently announced plans to establish a more direct relationship with their viewers by enabling them to create an online account through their 4oD service. Its aim being to personalise the service through creation of playlists, storing and viewing history and then, in return, receiving useful, targeted  information back from C4 based on individual interest. 4oD has also recently ramped up publicity for its back catalogue of shows, an asset that enhances the value of their service.     

The increasing popularity of DVD box sets, also appears to be having an effect on the content offered up by on demand players. Back in 2005, US drama "The Wire" was transmitted in the UK on FX, a small cable channel with an audience to match. It was lauded by viewers and TV critics alike and dubbed 'the greatest TV show no-one's actually seen'. It took another four years before it was finally picked up by a terrestrial broadcaster, but in the meantime sales of the dvds steadily increased as it became a word of mouth hit. In homage to 'boxset viewing' BBC2 scheduled it across five nights with all five series shown back to back. 

BBC iPlayer now features a 'series catch-up' option for a selection of its shows. By extending the availability window beyond the standard 7 days, viewers now have the option to watch a whole series in one go.

Continuing this theme, the BBC iPlayer now features a 'series catch-up' option for a selection of its shows. By extending the availability window beyond the standard 7 days, viewers now have the option to watch a whole series in one go. In the US, online VOD services such as Netflix and Hulu are also looking at offering bulk viewing for a number of their drama series'. Shows such as 'Mad Men' and British series 'Misfits' are amongst their most viewed and, in some cases, deals have been struck directly with the makers, cutting out the networks that originally aired them. 

Perhaps the most marked shift in the offering of VOD content is that of ITV who plan to introduce charging, in the form of micropayments, early next year. As well as subscription fees and one-off payments for original content, they also plan to follow the BBC and make 'series-stacking' available on the ITV Player.   

How successful this strategy will be remains to be seen but clearly the type of content viewers are willing to pay for will play an important part.