Tuesday, 27 November 2012

On-Demand and Catch-Up Services

 The internet has revolutionised so many areas of people’s everyday lives. It has changed the way we find and share information, communicate, and keep up to date with the latest news. Often overlooked is a fourth fascinating area that the internet has transformed: TV.

I remember a time when my parents would check the TV guide before going on a night out in case there was something on that they wanted videotaping. Just 10 years on, thinking back to that era makes me realise how antiquated and practically medieval the technology we used then was. I can imagine our children will laugh (the same way we laugh at our parents when they talk about having mobile phones the size of bricks) when we tell them that in the old days if you missed EastEnders and hadn’t remembered to but a tape on you missed it completely.

The advent of on-demand and catch-up services has been revolutionary for the TV industry. All major channels now have on-demand services. BBC’s iPlayer was first launched (excluding beta forms) in December 2007, just four years ago. A relatively short period has seen a massive expansion in this field and, as more people are switching on to the opportunities these innovative facilities provide, it has become impossible to ignore the trend. This has lead to a recent re-vamp for many channels as they work to make their on-demand services more efficient, instant and accessible.

How is this changing the industry though? Firstly, it means that advertisers are following viewers, increasingly putting more of their budgets into online. It also means that programmes are able to reach a wider audience, as viewers no longer have to choose between X Factor and Strictly – they can see both. Finally, as more on-demand services bring out apps for smart phones, TV has become more portable than ever before.

All this sounds great in theory. The problem is that it encourages ‘binge viewing’. I’d go so far as to say that iPlayer is detrimental to my degree. I watch so much stuff online that I just wouldn’t stay in for if it was only on TV. I didn’t just watch Sunday’s ‘I’m a Celebrity’ because I am entertained by c-list personalities sticking their hands into unknown concoctions of bugs (although watching Colin getting nipped by a crab was pretty funny), I watched it because I’m bored and it appeals more than starting that essay for Writing Society. For me, it’s a love-hate relationship. It’s great that I never miss anything, but sometimes I wonder how much I would really be missing (and how many more Firsts I would get) if Facebook, Twitter and iPlayer just went away.


  1. This is very true. On-demand and Catch up has completely changed the way people think about TV. Although you may want to watch something on the day it is aired as you've been waiting for the next episode for a week and know that if not you will only find out everything that has happened from Facebook and Twitter before you get round to watching it. Unlike back in the day, you can never really miss something on TV. It seems we can now choose what we want to watch and when. This has been made even easier for us with the built in catch up functions of Smart TVs. So now we don't even have to catch up on the smaller screens of computers and laptops. This seems amazing, and I have to say I love having such a wide range of programmes at my fingertips and the ability to watch what I want when it is convenient to me. However, as Tara suggests, this is hardly helping to solve problems of'couch potatoes'now allowing people hours on end of watching. It also tempts us unlike with TV. People can decide to start watching a programme from the first series that has been running for a while, therefore after each episode have the chance to watch the next section. How many of us can resist that when we have other much more boring and pressing things to do in life? And i mean whats another 30 minutes? Yet this soon adds up and I am speaking from experience when I say that days can disappear amazingly fast.

  2. I think 4oD is the worst for this. Not only can we keep up with programs that are new and shiny but they put the golden oldies up there as well just to really make sure there is no way you are leaving their website without viewing at least three episodes of the first series of peep show (that you've already seen) and one documentary with no obvious conclusion.Creating a system whereby it is impossible to miss your favorite programs is not in itself evil. In fact, it has already gotten to a point where the idea of missing anything is rather ludicrous and around deadlines this can be particularly helpful. The benefit of all these catch-up devices is that suddenly you can make television work around your timetable rather than the other way round. Sadly, it is up to the individual to ensure that their timetable involves only the best quality programming.


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