Clover’s Week: The year we went over the top

Julian Clover looks back at 12 months in Broadband TV News.

If we were to believe the inevitable hype then the majority of consumers have already cut the cord in favour of over-the-top delivered services. But as the year comes to an end it seems that those over-the-top services are being provided by the same companies that delivered the premium services the consumers are supposedly, but not actually, trying to get away from.

In some cases, such as HBO in the Nordics, it has provided an entrance for a familiar brand into a new market. In the UK Now TV has become the high-end alternative to Sky, just that it is run by Sky, and unlike Netflix has access to the Sky library.

The Ryder Cup provided the perfect storm for the use of streamed channels on tablet devices. Some 700,000 Sky customers followed the action on Sky Go, available on a range of internet-connected devices including iPad, iPhone and selected Android smartphones.

The combination of a surprise European victory, a late finish, and work the next morning meant that over 7% of Sky’s subscription base were watching.

It should be no surprise that the Olympics broke the record for the number of requests made to the iPlayer. The surprising bit, maybe, is that the record was broken again in October.

The BBC iPlayer clearly retains the same leadership position in free-TV that Sky Go holds in pay. It is too early to say if the long awaited UPC Horizon project – finally coming to fruition in September – or Virgin Media’s TiVo based equivalent will do the same, but the signs are good.

There remains the question of where the other PSBs are with catch-up, and it’s not always good. There was caution with HD of course, but now the vast majority of bankable channels are available in the format.

Not so 3D and it certainly wasn’t the year of 3D Olympics as some had envisaged – though the BBC and Eurosport were there with coverage – and this year’s Christmas Day message by The Queen will be shown in the format. The producer is Sky, which continues to develop the format and maintain a channel.

The new services all require bandwidth and quiet progress has been made by both the cable sector and telcos in genuinely upping the speeds – even if rural areas remain lacking.

So the area to watch in 2013 is the allocation of TV spectrum and the real prospect of telcos going beyond the digital dividend.