This may be just the thought that you would expect from a year-in-review piece, but so much has happened over the last 12 months that 2010 may genuinely become seen as a defining year, writes Julian Clover.
Such was the noise around 3D and later hybrid ventures that genuine innovations, such as the launch of DVB-T2 transmissions in HD, were almost lost in the fog. Freeview HD is undoubtedly a slow burner, but one that should shine brightly in years to come. The BBC should thank Channel 5 for deciding that it didn’t want to take an allocation that could have changed some perceptions about the last of the analogue broadcasters. BBC One HD already looks as if it has always been there, even if the break fillers that appear every time there is any regional programming have created a sort of high tech potters wheel.
Again we should all thank the BBC, Research & Development to be precise, and the work done with the DVB to put the next generation terrestrial standard on the map. Already it is being adopted in other European markets and even appears to have brought an end to the standards stand off in South Africa.
3D began the year in the front of everyone’s minds, it’s still there of course, but in addition to channel launches we have the sense of realism about the technology that was fostered during IBC. All of a sudden the market surveys that predicted a success for anyone capable of putting 3D into a PowerPoint dried up. 3D has become appointment to view television, such as through Sky’s weekly sporting coverage on its dedicated channel, or the string of video-on-demand platforms around Europe. The near-identical list of attractions suggesting that content remains at a premium.
Ofcom published its much-anticipated pay-TV review, at least those elements related to sports, giving Virgin and BT access to Sky Sports 1 and 2. Almost immediately Sky Sports News left Freeview and the flagship Soccer Saturday lost its simulcast with Sky Sports 1. Just as when the European Commission broke up the Premier League rights into six packages the consumer was left with less. Society’s obsession with football continued while Sky broadened its offering in the arts, lifestyle, and the acquisition of the HBO library for UK screening.
From the operator perspective a defining moment came during a CTAM Europe session when representatives from both Belgium’s Telenet and Portugal’s Zon bemoaned that even when there was content available, the studios added on a nice little mark-up. Same as it ever was and the narrowing of the gap, often known as Day&Date, which has seen US series debut ever sooner in Europe as a means to nullify the attractions of the video downloads.
The availability of online content must come third on the list of overrated possibilities (the second is surely cordcutting). If as has been suggested on demand might actually be more of a threat to PVR than to linear TV then this doesn’t leave much room for illegal downloads.
Besides, isn’t the whole idea of pay-TV that someone provides you with the best content, rather than having to go out and look for it yourself? This for me is the real purpose behind TiVo and the UPC Horizon box.
The user interface that brings it altogether, and that might still be content from outside of the operators network, but I find it unlikely that Virgin, Ono or Canal Digital will be giving competitors the opportunity to undercut them on their own box.