back to article TV's iPod moment?

Last month, the British television industry belatedly joined in a ritual that has been performed by a variety of industries over the past decade. Pointing manically at the rising tide of digital technology, it shook itself awake, and demanded a little more panic. The occasion was the annual Edinburgh International Television …


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  1. wim

    japan ?

    I live in Japan and I wish I could download an hour tv in 16 seconds.

    Maybe he was talking about the actual content of an hour TV in Japan. After you skip the commercials you have about 15 minutes left. Or maybe he was talking about an hour TV for an iPod screen. The lower resolution would make it possible to transmit one hour maybe in 16 seconds.

    What is it with Western people and their obsession about "technical Japan" ? I lived here for quit some time and it is getting annoying to explain that Japan is an IT dysfunctional country.

    Try booking an airplane ticket in a Japanese travel agency and you will quickly understand what I am talking about.

    I agree that TV makers should focus on good TV. If a TV show is really good I think it will get its public. Also I don't think that TV shows will be consumed as music. Watching a show while jogging (not on a threadmill) is maybe not recommended.

  2. Chizo Ejindu

    re: japan

    IHMO the unfortunate truth is that people who don't know any better will equate the Japanese love of high tech gadgetry to a love of IT which in actuality are 2 different things. I would suspect (tho obviously this is my own supposition with no basis in fact :P) that PC's per head is significantly lower in Japan than most of the rest of the Western world.

  3. Neil Hoskins

    Paxman's right, Cerf's wrong

    British and US television are worlds apart. If I were American, then yes, I'd be looking at alternative ways to view. As I'm British, I'm perfectly happy with our broadcast terrestrial TV, thank you very much. Get your hands off it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE:japan ?

    "What is it with Western people and their obsession about "technical Japan" ? I lived here for quit some time and it is getting annoying to explain that Japan is an IT dysfunctional country."

    Yeah, I agree, Japan's IT is pants. Even a basic thing as web design rarely meets western expecatations. However, it's easy to see why people regard Japan as a technical mecca, and that's because of all the hardware gadgetry on offer.

  5. Geoff Spick


    As the Spitting Image Paxman said.

    Of course as a) Talent and b) BBC talent, he doesn't have to worry about the cost of production. However i'm guessing in America, where shows get axed after two episodes for a bad rating - they count every single cent and spend as little as possible.

    Also, since its now down to about seven minutes between ad breaks over there, why not a rise in seven minute television shows? All of which would make cheap, fast TV the norm in just a few years...

  6. Mark W


    I think they're referring to the ubiquitous NTT B-FLETS 1Gb fibre broadband connections. I know when I bought one for a small office in Tokyo, we put in an NTT 100Mb fibre service for the sterling equivalent of £100 per month. Certainly beats the (up to)8mb 'ADSLMax' product most of us have to put up with in the UK!

  7. Andrew Heenan

    Too Clever By 'Arf

    In your desperation to be 'clever' at the expense of the TV folk, you have mangled to story so much that it's hard to pick out what's really important.

    TIP: Write a straight story first, then add the funnies.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel sorry for Cerf

    Years ago he used to talk a lot of good sense. These days he just gets wheeled out in public and becomes Old Man Google, the respectable and friendly face of the New Borg. It's rather sad.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the US, advertisers, and NOT viewers get to choose what viewers see

    I can't wait until we move to a more pull/subscription type of system.

    Viewers would vote with their $1.00 per show payment and the shows that got enough pre-pays would be kept and the ones that didn't would be cancelled.

    Now it's all up to the TV executives and advertisers who seem to cancel the shows with the largest fanbases. (Angel, Firefly, Drive (and others ) and why can't we get Doctor Who over here at the same time, instead of waiting a year per season and then it only being on extended cable networks. grrrr)

  10. Clive Galway

    Vint closer to the truth than you give him credit for?

    OK, so I am a geek and an "early adopter", but I can count *on one hand* the amount of shows I have watched _as they are being transmitted_ in the last couple of years.

    All the shows I watch, I download from BitTorrent. I have Sky, Freeview and terrestrial, so I can legally access them when they are on, but I choose not to watch them "live".

    I don't want adverts, I want to watch on-demand, I want to be able to pause, and I want the option of watching on my laptop in bed or an iPod on the train. TV does not give me that. A lot of my friends are wising up and asking me how to do it.

    If this becomes mainstream behaviour like downloading MP3s has, then yes, broadcasters that rely on advertising revenues could be in trouble. Same goes for the revenue stream for people like Sky from channel subscription. Sure, my granny isn't going to download via BT and stuff, but all it takes is one friend who does to burn a series onto DVD and suddenly Sky does not seem that attractive.

    All it is going to take is one easy-to-use package that runs on windows and provides DVR and P2P capabilities and the same will happen to video as happened to audio.

  11. Glenn Amspaugh


    <i>Certainly beats the (up to)8mb 'ADSLMax' product most of us have to put up with in the UK!</i>

    You get 8MB? Damn. I'm stuck with 1 MB cable, living 20 miles up in he mountains outside of Albuquerque. Makes remoting into my machines a real pain.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the CONTENT, NOT the Carrier

    All the "concerns" voiced by the music and television industry hacks all miss the real answer. Content is still King.

    It does not matter how media is delivered, it only matters that the media is worth viewing or hearing. They all said the same things when TV began to supplant film, then again when cable began to supplant broadcast and now once more the same crap when internet begins to win over cable/broadcast.

    If you make something that people want and enjoy, they will buy it. Doesn't matter one whit how it is delivered to the consumer, (unless the delivery method is priced out of reach).

    If traditional media channels are upset that they are missing revenue because someone else is delivering the same (or better) product in a format that more people want then that is the "Darwinian Evolution" of the business. Too effen bad!

    Has anyone noticed that some cable providers have decreased the audio quality of programs to reduce analog bandwidth usage? That 5.1 Surround Sound or even Stereo is not being delivered on many channels in "basic" cable packages. (I'm speaking about Time Warner in the US). No, they're "saving" that "feature" for their "HD and or Digital TV packages".

    None of that happens when I download movies or music via the internet. My internet service sure costs alot less to boot.

    Let's face it, Analog broadcast is almost dead, Digital broadcast isn't really ready yet and digital over cable architecture is unfairly proprietary. I'm still pissed that I have 125+ channel digital & analog tuners in my TV and I still need a frigging cable box to see more than 60. That and there is still nothing good to watch on more than 15 of them.

    Here are some clues for the "Media". Make the best product possible and distribute it without modifying it or requiring proprietary hardware to view it. If you can't compete by broadcast, better become an internet content provider/sales outlet now before it's too late. Don't pay other people to sell YOUR product for you, if you are your own sales portal, you will make more money and will have more eyes on YOUR site, NOT Apple's or Amazon's. After all, the ads on your re-sellers site are probably your competitors. Can anyone say "Adsense"?

  13. tim chubb Silver badge

    @ Luxury!

    you get 1mb and live 20 miles away from any where significant???

    Thats luxary!, i live in a village about 12 miles away from Bristol we only got broad band 2 or 3 years ago in my village, 1mb would be nice, but the lines are so shat the best ive ever got is 500kbs and that was b4 every numpty in the village jumped on the broadband bandwagon, since then the contention ratio has gone to hell, and im back on bonded isdn lines as its way faster than trying to use the ADSL lines we got.

    As for cable well that would be nice, but will never happen, just like british gas who has a major pipeline running through the village, but wont connect the village into the network due to lack of demand, despite a petition by virtually everyone in the village saying they would like gas, or at least the option

  14. James Butler


    If you have any sympathy for "poor old Vint Cerf", you should really take any opportunity to hear him speak, yourself.

    You have been misled in your assumptions through sound-bite reporting filtered through a journalist's lens. After all, they have a story to file.

    Vint remains one of the most dynamic technologists alive today, and his willingness to both share his vision and work to discover solutions to some very tricky problems are hard to compare with anyone else.

    I agree that "content is king" ... but anyone who would dismiss the idea that content delivery will be making some huge leaps in the coming years should at least keep Microsoft (re: Silverlight HD streaming, Media Center, etc.etc.) in mind, if not all of the other developers/distributors. ABC-TV won't have much of a lock on advertisers for long, and that'll kill 'em if they don't adapt.

  15. Leo Maxwell

    it's the content stupid

    The means of delivery become less and less important

    In the near future, content will become King, the problem is to monetarise it.

    TV is a fading ghost, yes, it will linger for a while, but it is already history.

    It is interesting that radio listening is increasing, this is not a new trend, TV viewing has been decreasing for years, PPV items repeatedly lose money.

    Youtube et al are just hints at the future.

    The main casualties are going to be the media behemoths, unless they embrace and direct the new paradigm, they will cease to exist.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I get the BBD in HD and all the USA HDTV networks with shows worth watching from usenet, costs me £7 in bandwidth fees not including licensing the content plus £30 for my TV, phone and 20Mbit broadband per month.

    Add in the fees for content and I would pay extra if I could. Once again the TV networks replace medium with content. They are basically high bandwidth ISPs with a good uptime and dedicated hardware, which is what they will become in today's terms.

    When one can watch a pre-air DVD screener of upcoming shows or just a few months or years ahead of the UK for free, why not charge money for the service and rake in the cash. I would pay the bandwidth premium of cents/pence per gigabyte myself and get into the whole recommendation service "a la amazon", remote storage (for watching Family Guy in "hotel, motel, plane, boat") and be happily billed for it each month.

    TV is old and dying, they were serving comparitive 20Mbit feeds in the 1980's but now after 27 years I can get the same feed as an analogue broadcast in digital form right now, on my computer.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Check out Joost (beta), now that's what I want. Dozens of free channels, play on demand, even the inclusion of some ads is OK. Ya gotta pay the ferryman somehow.

    FTA TV is so last century! Especially if they persist with the current epidemic of "reality tv" shite.

  18. James Butler

    @Leo Maxwell

    "The means of delivery become less and less important"

    With full respect, I would say, "The means of delivery become less and less relevant"

    They're still "important", regardless of their relevance to existing technologies.

    Do you think about the operating system or delivery methods used by your telephony partners? I didn't think so.

    One day, computing will be as relevant as the telephone to our everyday lives ... AND as ubiquitous.

    Ch**ge happens.

  19. cupperty

    on-demand not new

    Mrs C. and me (and the kiddies) have been watching on-demand TV for years, via DVDs (and previously VHS). The advantages of on-demand TV apply, plus we save £100+ a year TV licence cost.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @By cupperty

    If you watch dvds or vhs then you must have a TV, TVs have tuners so you need a licence, even if you do not watch broadcast TV. I was nabbed 2 nights ago for not having a licence.

    Its actually disgusting you have to pay a licence to own a TV regardless of what you use it for but that’s the way it is.

    Tuners on TVs should be optional I think or at least be able to remove the BBC channels and then they have no excuse.

  21. cupperty

    Licence not reqd

    A licence is definitely not required if you only view prerecorded dvds / videos. We have been through this in long and involved detail with the TV licencing authority. Definitely not required.

    They advised detuning the TV channels but I have put no-nails in my aerial socket as a precaution - not proof of non-use but helpful reinforcement of my status as a non-receiver.

  22. Joe Harrison

    They already missed the boat

    To Neil Hoskins who is "perfectly happy with our broadcast terrestrial TV." You're not in a minority; at least in our family my wife and kids watch it all the time. It's weird stuff they look at though mostly consisting of badly-acted soaps, house or garden makeovers, and shows centred around phoning premium numbers to vote people off things. Certainly has no attraction for me and I literally never ever watch the box myself. Which is not to say I don't have a few favourite shows which I do get around to watching - just not on TV.

    So I think there's the future - traditional TV in a downward spiral catering for an increasingly downmarket general audience with other relatively niche content whose takeup is fuelled by word-of-mouth and channelled into whichever platform is seen as most convenient by its fanbase.

    It's also laughable to imagine that the really good stuff need fear any competition from grassroots internet content providers. Yes I could make my own rival to Newsnight and get it delivered to viewers, no it would not be a even the merest pale shadow of Paxo's version.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: In the US...

    "and why can't we get Doctor Who over here at the same time, instead of waiting a year per season and then it only being on extended cable networks."

    Because you make us wait for all of your shows. That especially bugs me with a show like South Park which is often pretty topical and so the jokes can lose some impact over time.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    partially @ the chap who wrote the message @By cupperty

    I had a good long phone conversation with the TV licencing people about this. If you live in the UK and watch live broadcast TV - even streamed, on the BBC News website for instance - you are required to own a TV licence. I was considering putting an end to my TV licence, but I decided I was willing to pay in order to continue watching live broadcast motor sport.

    Yes, the implication is correct - if you live outside of the UK you can watch live streamed content from the BBC with no licence.

    Having spent the last 6 years watching tv shows acquired using Bittorrent, I must say I've become quite accustomed to watching my tv shows for free, whenever I want. I would NOT be inclined to start paying per show. Especially considering that once the "fall season" starts in the US my wife and I will be watching up to 10 shows per week. £10 per week for TV? F%*k off!

    Perhaps people such as myself are heralding the death of TV as we know it. Ah well, what a shame. I'm sure everyone will miss BidUpTV, QVC and those late night phone-in competitions for drunks to waste money on. Were TV in its current form killed off, I would probably miss Heroes, House and Battlestar Galactica, but then I missed Odyssey 5 and Studio 60 when they were cancelled and somehow I've managed to survive.

  25. Jeremy French

    Channel Surfing

    "Nor does the idle, semi-attentive consumption of small television clips, impatiently shuffled and skipped through, really sound like plausible viewer behaviour any time soon."

    Isn't this precisely what (some) kids do while watching TV?

  26. Brendan Sullivan

    @ partially @ the chap who wrote the message @By cupperty

    "Yes, the implication is correct - if you live outside of the UK you can watch live streamed content from the BBC with no licence."

    The implication is correct but putting it into practice is another matter as the BBC restricts nearly all of the video content on it's sites to connections using UK IP addresses to access the site, particularly the streaming content. Something which has been quite an annoyance to me as a fan Top Gear and Doctor Who living in the US.

  27. Jim

    watch DVDs with no license?

    Buy a projector. No tuner and a massive screen size (dependent on wall space). We watch 'TV' on a 200" (approx) screen and it is way better quality than most real TVs for sharpness and colour. Not so good during the day but that is what 'outside' is for...

  28. b shubin

    Content and delivery

    if any truly effective content provider would consider either [1] a tight partnership with a best-of-breed delivery technology provider, or [2] vertical integration around a best-of-breed technology, they can then have an infrastructure they will need to succeed in this space. they will still need good-to-great content.

    it is a cliche that subscription services (cable, satellite, IPTV, etc.) deliver more channels showing nothing worthwhile. everyone has heard it, and most people have said or thought it. this leads to the obvious conclusion: good content is king, and great content is god. usual content is merely filler. the winner in this space will create good-to-great content by taking risks (some failure is unavoidable) and producing genuinely new and interesting programming. this is the Paxman half of any hypothetical success story.

    there is another side to this strategy, just as essential: technology for mass delivery of media. the mechanism has to be commodity-priced; easy to deploy and use; technologically effective and efficient; stable, reliable and secure; ubiquitously available; and very effectively marketed. this is the Cerf half of the success.

    only by doing both correctly can a company or partnership achieve the ubiquity and demand that all the companies in this space claim as their goal.

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