It doesn't seem long ago that there were only three channels on our televisions and a pretty limited choice of programmes. Families would gather around the television on a Saturday night to watch weekly highlights such as the Generation Game or Morecambe and Wise. Then came digitally transmitted TV and video on the internet, which revolutionised how we consume TV. We now have many sources of video content to choose from and the ability to watch it just about anywhere we want, both in and out of the home. We are getting to a stage where we can watch what we want, when we want.
But according to a ’10 year outlook’ report compiled by BT Innovate & Design's research and technology team, the way we interact with and view television is going to alter even more over the next ten years. And the internet is going to be the main catalyst to this revolution. Its ‘good-bye’ bulky set top boxes, aerials and the other clutter we usually associate with TVs, and ‘hello’ new technology.
The report’s author Ian Matthews, senior researcher, future customer experience in BT Innovate & Design, predicts that the traditional TV set will be replaced by three types of device.
“First, powerful multi-functional ‘smart TVs’ will supersede the traditional large television in the home. These devices will have capabilities similar to that of computers, so you will be able to use features such as playing interactive games, social networking services, and streaming movies directly on the TV,” he said.
“And you will be able to download apps onto them to increase and personalise the functions they can perform.”
Added Ian: “TVs without these advanced capacities are categorised as the second type of device, and will be used as ‘dumb’ network screens to display the content from other mobile devices.”
“And finally, for secondary locations around the home such as bedrooms and the kitchen, devices such as tablets and smartphones will be used for TV viewing.”
In fact, researchers predict mobile devices will play an increasingly central role in everyone's lives because they are personalised, versatile and portable. Smartphones and tablets are carried everywhere and customised to meet each individuals needs. Since they use wi-fi and next generation mobile networks to access the internet, they do not require a traditional aerial or cable connection and can be used just about anywhere. Plus, because TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones are all connected, a photo captured on a phone can be viewed easily on your TV.
Internet delivered TV will also result in an explosion of channels and programmes from around the world all vying for our attention. But in order to find programmes of interest a lot of rubbish will have to be sifted through. This means that recommendation engines and social network sites will be increasingly used to guide us towards relevant content. As a result, large established television networks will have to tap into these systems if they want us to notice them. Why? Because television viewing will become a more personalised and tailored experience.
Research has shown that UK viewers still like the TV schedules from the main channel providers, as it provides a well-chosen pattern and “brand” of programming that viewers become accustomed to and trust. However, services such as catch-up TV and on-demand movie catalogues allow users to shift these programs to suit their daily requirements, and watch something completely different if they decide to.
If you thought the changes to TV over the last ten years were radical, it seems like the next decade is set to herald even more change. The move to ‘smart TV’ is going to make viewing a much more flexible and interactive experience. For anyone who likes nothing more than settling down on a sofa to watch their favourite programmes, this change can’t come soon enough.