I have been getting to know my Apple iPad over the last couple of weeks and also upgraded my Apple iPhone to iOS 4.3.1. One of the features of this upgrade is Apple’s Airplay which allows me to connect either device via WiFi to my Apple TV box and stream media through it. This is useful for video that has been shot on either device and it also allows content from certain sites to be streamed onto your TV via Apple TV.
While the iPad is a fantastic media player it can be advantageous to be able to stream content to a TV sometimes when there are a group of you all trying to cram round the iPad to watch, say a YouTube video. I was really disappointed to find that content from the BBC provided via the BBC iPlayer cannot be streamed.
I missed last Sunday’s “Wonders of the Universe” with Professor Brian Cox and thought I could catch up with it online and stream it through my TV. Well sadly this is not allowed. I am not sure if it is being blocked by Apple or the BBC but I can only think it is by the BBC who are happy for you to catch up with shows you may have missed online but do not want you to gain the full TV experience at the same time.
I have spoken to a number of people about this and one suggested that maybe the Beeb where concerned that if people could watch stuff online any time then it would lead to a dip in TV sales. This could prove disasterous for the funding of the BBC who rely on a licence fee paid by every household that owns one or more TV sets. My counter argument is that if anything this would be less likely to lead to a dip in sales as you would be able to watch your favourite programs when you wanted on the medium that it was really designed to be viewed upon.
Another suggestion was that the BBC may be concerned about the impact on viewing figures. These are currently calculated based on people watching a program when it is broadcast. However, peoples viewing habits are changing. With the onset of DVR’s, Sky Plus and cable stations we are now more able to watch what we want, when we want rather than having to watch a program when it is transmitted.
In the last decade there was a sea change in the way that music charts were calculated. They now take into account of sales of music on download as well as CD and vinyl. We do not base our top 10 on vinyl sales anymore and yet we seem to be doing the equivalent with TV viewing.
One possible solution would be to take into account the number of people who have played a program via a TV station player. This would be relatively easy to implement. When a TV program is viewed online information can be collected from the browser to say what has been watched, how many times it has been watched on that machine etc. You could even tell if the program has been watched through to the end to get feedback on what programs work the best. It is possible that TV companies are already tracking this sort of information already. In my scenario all the views of a show that were watched between Sunday and the following Saturday would be counted. This would be likely to swell viewing figures rather than diminish them.
Perhaps now is the time for TV channels to change the way that they view their output over the airwaves. As people change their viewing habits and move to a more On-Demand society then maybe it is now time for TV stations to look at how they interact with consumers. Rather than seeing a TV station as the pinnacle of programming perhaps they should adopt a different model in which the TV channel is merely a shop window of the content that they can provide. Sure, they will put the content out first on TV, but then have the facility for those that missed it for whatever reason to be able to catch up through streaming direct to their TV set. This could be just the thing that our TV channels need to adopt in order for them to still remain relevant in an ever increasingly connected society.