Why the TV industry is dying

It’s happening pretty much worldwide. Less and less people are watching television. So there is less advertising revenue (and the recession just makes this worse), so there is less money to spend on making programmes. Except at the BBC where every British household is forced to give them money, so they are the last bastion of wildly overinflated salaries. Not just for their legions of executives but also for their coterie of foul mouthed yob presenters.

The demise of TV is because it is old technology. Quite frankly I find it pretty boring these days. They just cannot compete with computing, the internet and gaming. And they cannot compete because they are not interactive (except in a farcically limited way), they do not connect the user with other users and their content is purely linear. Their main market now is the educationally subnormal,  geriatrics and babies, because these are the only people left who aren’t online.

TV executives have been glacially slow to react. The only gem is the BBC’s world class website. But there is just so much they could have done. For instance why can’t I watch any TV programme ever made, on demand when I want it, financed by micropayment? It would be great to come back to the pub for an episode of the 6 Million Dollar Man, Charlie’s Angels, Monty Python or the Goodies. The technology is there to do this, we have the server farms, it would bring money into the coffers of the TV industry. But they are moribund. Bogged down in a previous age.

This isn’t the only way the TV executives have been inept. They are sitting on a goldmine of intellectual property. But they can’t be bothered mining it, or they don’t know how to. If the TV industry aligned itself a lot more closely with the gaming industry they could make a fortune. And I don’t mean with half baked shovelware licensing deals. I mean with entertainment products that integrate television and gaming, playing to the strengths of both. You could do amazing things with Dr Who for instance. Episodic content and user generated content would work fantastically.

And so we come to this amazing news. Sky TV are exploring using consoles to stream their content. Wow. I bet you are all jumping up and own with excitement. It is a pity really as Rupert Murdoch is in a prime position to put television back on the map by doing something really good to align it closer to gaming. But don’t hold your breath. Television as an entertainment medium is in intensive care and the condition looks terminal.


  1. Unfortunately, the TV industry (like the music biz before them) has fallen prey to the misguided notion that DRM can save them from their customers.

    So the BBC (and the rest) can sit on decades of content (most of which we paid for), and offer only the bare minimum of online services to allow them to claim to be upholding their charter.

    The way in which the (useless) iPlayer service was developed, flatly ignoring BBC Research’s recommendations, is the biggest scandal in the corporation’s history. It will take years if not decades for the damage to be undone, assuming the BBC ever puts anyone in charge of new technology that is interested in serving the public rather than helping their friends in the DRM/snake-oil business.

  2. Bruce, not the ‘interactive’ entertainment is ‘better’ argument again, please! I don’t watch much UK tv, mainly because I don’t feel it’s programming is catered very well to my interests. Instead, I’ll sit on youtube and watch shows from round the world, the past or things made by users instead. Thusly I get to watch Anime, StreetFighter (the game) matches, every sort of music concert imaginable, videoblogs of some incredible people doing some incredible things, a show on Origami etc etc. Talking to my friend who is doing a degree in TV production about this he commented that youtube via search is very much ‘narrow broadcasting’, where a person’s viewing needs are catered for directly.
    Since youtube is worth umpteen millions, I think it’s premature to say TV is ‘dead’. It’s just evolving from set channels to a million possibilities.

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