It was reported this week that teenagers consume more on-line media than “linear” broadcast TV. What surprised me about this was the surprise.
My family watches almost no live broadcast TV; the only exceptions being news and sport, the rest is from non-linear services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer. This news also seems to justify the decision to make BBC3 an on-line only channel – its how its target audience prefers to watch!
And this caused me to reflect on a conference I attended in Cannes a few years ago on broadcast evolution where an academic presenter pointed out that while each stage in the evolution of media has brought fantastic benefits, it has also typically taken away something.
For example, an Irish Seanchaí was (is) fully interactive in the way that Gutenberg’s books aren’t.
While they lacked interactivity, books introduced a choice of place and time – what, when and where you read – that radio and then TV eroded.
On-demand services like Netflix have added back freedoms to choose “what” and “when”, and WiFi hotspots and the improving state of 4G networks are beginning to return the freedom of “where” (although I know there will be comments about the state of rural broadband and mobile coverage within a few minutes of me posting this).
But what about interactivity?
Ahead of the 2012 Olympics, London’s Queen Mary College previewed what they called “My e-director“; a kind of personalized, dynamic live-action iPlayer that allowed the viewer to interactively choose camera angles rather than passively consuming what the edit suite dictates, allowing you to follow the athlete of your choosing rather than the action chosen for you to passively consume.
As far as I can tell this project didn’t make it into production, which is a shame, but the BBC’s R&D Department are continuing to rebuild a sense of interaction and have recently released a 5 minutes video worth watching (thanks to Graham Long for pointing it out).
It may have taken almost a 1,000 years to recover the freedoms that mediaeval storytellers took for granted but we are on course to have it all – interactivity with a choice of what, when, and where.