Did we ever establish any good collective monikers for the two decades that have just passed? The Noughties never really caught on and the last ten years have largely gone without name. No matter what they were called, however, these were seminal times for our industry. In 2001, for example, the BBC first live-streamed the Wimbledon men’s final in the sports section of its website. Sure, it was an awful user experience with the video repeatedly cutting out – and even when you could see the action one could barely spot the ball – but the genie was awake; eager to materialise out of the bottle.
YouTube launched in 2005 swiftly followed by the introduction of VOD services from Sky and Channel 4 in 2006 (I still remember the excitement I felt when downloading the 4oD desktop app for the first time. Such a geek!). ITV Player went online in 2008 and Netflix joined the party (in the UK) in January 2012.
The biggest moment for me though remains Christmas Day 2007 when BBC iPlayer went live. This was when the idea of on-demand viewing hit the mainstream. Widely publicised by the nation’s biggest broadcaster, directed at a captive audience desperate for something novel to wile away the holiday ennui, showcasing great content, accompanied by a brilliant marketing slogan (“Making the Unmissable, Unmissable”), and appearing just when broadband speeds had become fast enough to allow it to work properly, iPlayer captured the zeitgeist. We’ve looked back, repeatedly, ever since.
Whatever happens next, we can be sure that video-on-demand will become the mode for watching most television. Linear will stay alive for news, live sport and appointment-to-view shows but for this correspondent at least, we’re undoubtedly entering The Streaming Twenties.
Happy new year, everyone!
Kauser Kanji has been working in online video for 19 years, formerly at Virgin Media, ITN and NBC Universal, and founded VOD Professional in 2011. He has since completed major OTT projects for, amongst others, A+E Networks, the BBC, BBC Studios, Channel 4, DR (Denmark), Liberty Global, Netflix, Sony Pictures, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and UKTV. He now writes industry analyses, hosts an online debate show, OTT Question Time, as well as its in-person sister event, OTT Question Time Live.