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.