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How will television evolve?

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June 02, 2009 6:09AM

Broadcast television is undergoing a change that is the largest since the intruduction of colour, back in the 60s. Display technologies now offer high definition, broadcast chains have grown to allow a multitude of channels but the most important development is the convergence of data and broadcast. A decade back, television was delivered via broadcast networks almost exclusively. Domestic tape and DVDs reduced the reliance on broadcasters for feature films but generally we watched programmes at the time the broadcaster chose. The increased data rates to homes via broadband allows video to be streamed to a home on demand. We are far less reliant on the broadcasters' schedule than before. Broadcasters have responded by providing delayed channels, one hour behind the primary channel. Increased numbers of channels are used to offer a greater diversity of content. Inevitably, the ever increasing bandwidth to homes and offices will drive consumers to select programmes for download or streaming to suit their preferences. There are three major consequences of this move: First, broadcasters will respond to the "on demand" culture and offer more and more via Internet. They are likely to focus more on live only production - news, sport, live entertainemnt for example. These still lend themselves well to a real time broadcast, will attract big sponsorship and big audiences. As a result, production and transmission budgeting will be driected towards them and away from other output. Second, there will be an increasing scope for small production and distribution organisations to deliver content to viewers. Already, increased channel numbers are delivering niche market content and this will increase as data can be transferred more quickly across networks. We should expect to see many more low budget reality and lifestyle programmes from specialist programme makers, driven by their interests rather than the need to fill broadcast slots. Third, broadcasters are now experiencing decreasing advertising revenue as advertisers see opportunities in diverse areas. As the trend continues, advertising budgets will move more and more towards targeted markets. the "long tails" of internet markets will decrease the national campaign budgets. The major broadcasters will either respond to this and look towards video on demand markets or lose ground to the small content distributors. Finally, as the market for national broadcasting contracts, production budgets for each programme will be reduced. We are likely to see a reduction in the big budget dramas, for example, as programme makers see declining revenues. Sadly, this will also be reflected in an increasing amount of programming that is underfunded and generally poorer quality than we have seen in the past. Although technical advances make improved image quality a reality, content quality is not being enhanced in the same way.