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Industry Perspectives: The End Of The Industry As We Know It, Or Just The Beginning For TV?
Contrary to what the naysayers claim, TV's future is bright, as long as broadcasters move with the times and respond to what viewers want.
Mon, July 20, by Tom Weiss
[Editor's Note: Industry Perspectives is a regular feature in which vendors in the streaming media space explore issues and trends on which they can shed unique perspective. The articles reflect the opinions of the authors only, and we print them as a means of provoking thought and starting discussion.]

Too many people are talking about the changes in technology that are driving through our industry as if they augur the end of the industry. They might foretell the end of an era, but this is really only just the beginning for TV.

The overriding driver is that technology is driving down cost: the cost of production, distribution, and marketing are all a fraction of what they were only ten years ago, and the result has been an explosion in the amount of content made available: it’s not just YouTube and Hulu, but it’s the 300+ channels available on digital satellite and cable platforms worldwide.

The lower cost base does of course mean that the leviathans that kick-started the TV industry have no longer got the barriers to entry to protect their market shares, and they are all investing substantially in more expensive formats, brand building, and building closer relationships with their viewers. This is no bad thing for the viewer who ends up with more choice and better TV.

During 2008, we saw massive growth in the terrestrial broadcasters' web TV plays with the iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand Five all receiving substantial airtime and strong uptake: Although viewing online is not yet included in BARB’s figures, I’d be surprised if we don’t find official viewing figures having a substantial online component by the end of 2009.

Equally, new entrants including tech giants Apple and Google have been refining their propositions: They’re still not close to the broadcasters in number of households, but their online reach and ability to innovate technology make them ideally placed to capitalise on direct to consumer plays from production houses. Why licence your show to the BBC if Google will pay you more for it?

Over the next decade we will see an explosion in the amount of video content produced and consumed by viewers. The days of the nation sitting down to watch a single show are clearly over, but the opportunity is there for more and more business to produce television of a quality that will entertain and inform.

This is good for the industry, and ultimately good for consumers, but the uncertainty, combined with a recession, seems to have thrown the industry into a crisis, with too many people questioning whether there is any future in TV at all. With Sky posting record profits and viewing hours up, how can anyone say the industry is dying?

It’s not the end of the industry, it’s just growth and fragmentation. The costs are coming down and more viewers are getting what they want: choice.