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
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
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
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.