Making predictions is a tricky business. Futurologists continuously run the risk of embarrassing themselves professionally with their visions of the future. Mere mortals take an even bigger gamble.
Leafing through a pile of old magazines that were finally on their way to the recycling bin, I spotted an brief article in the 29 August 2006 edition of Ariel. It listed Ashley Highfield’s chronology of the digital future between 2006 and 2011. Back in those days, Ashley Highfield was the BBC’s director of new media and technology.
2006: Share of viewing among 16-24 year olds falls by 20 percent with the internet as popular as television.
2007: BBC gets the go-ahead to launch its entire pan-channel 450 hour schedule through the iPlayer, followed by the release of significant parts of the archive. The shift in consumption from scheduled television to on-demand begins to accelerate, aided by improved search, recommendations and cross promotion. This is the so-called long tail effect where archive, back catalogue and niche tastes account for 25 percent of Amazon sales.
2008: The BBC has put 1.2m hours or archive on the iPlayer and a resurgent lTV creates its own on-demand portal, also releasing content through Bebo, YouTube, MySpace and the iPlayer.
2009: Television's long tail is accounting for 25 percent of consumption and 33 percent of revenues for those commercial players who realised their future lay in on-demand.
2011: Microsoft's digital home is finally working successfully, making it easy to move video around the house from pc to tv set. Those broadcasters who had not created strong aggregator brands for themselves, nor bothered to secure on-demand rights, nor valued their archives, nor invested in the proper technology are in serious trouble. A primetime hit is now 4m viewers. Only two programmes break 10m - the world cup and the royal wedding.
“UK Managing Director of Microsoft (Consumer & Online), responsible for Windows Mobile, MSN, Hotmail, Windows Live/Instant Messenger, and the newly announced Google rival, Bing” (source: Wikipedia)
He was spot on with his prediction that there would be a Royal Wedding in 2011, though the wedding coverage achieved higher (than he predicted) viewing figures: BBC (13.44m, 62.8% share); ITV1 (5.79m, 21.0% share).
The week of the wedding (35 April-1 May), Britain’s Got Talent pulled in 10.8m viewers, while Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale all topped 6m viewers each night. Episodes of hit dramas still achieve viewing figures of between 4.5 and 6 million.
Linear TV isn’t fading fast - but whether Microsoft's digital home yet working is even more questionable!