Platform Communications Views

How tablets are affecting television

The way we watch TV is changing drastically. These days, it might feel positively old fashioned to look for the TV guide, scan the pages to find what program I want to watch and then make sure that I’m sat down at the prescribed time to watch it. I’ve got the options of accessing time-shifted and on demand content at any time, and with the proliferation of smart, video-enabled devices, I can now watch my content anywhere I want.

It certainly feels like a new tablet is released every other week; Google only recently brought out the Nexus 7, Amazon announced its additions to the Kindle Fire range and Apple is rumoured to be working towards the long awaited iPad “mini”. Similarly, the much heralded announcement of Apple’s iPhone 5 has been the culmination of a flurry of smartphone releases, and with it comes the promise that 4G LTE is just round the corner for the UK. The momentum caused by the launch of so many high-performance mobile devices, combined with the advent of super-fast connection speeds, is creating interesting opportunities for other industries.

The interest in the release of every new device is just enormous. It started me thinking about the effect that this explosion of companion devices is having on the television industry, not only in terms of the increased pressures on network operators and broadcasters but also with regards to the prevalence of “social TV”.  Portable devices won’t take anything away from television as a living room experience, despite the advantages in convenience. Instead, tablets and smartphones are proving the perfect counterpart. They provide a means to access content and perhaps most importantly, they provide a means to interact socially around it.

As with most armchair fans, you could say I’m fairly opinionated and vocal about football; I love the fact that I can sit down in front of a live match on my television whilst using my tablet to chat with others watching the game.  Something that perhaps isn’t so much my thing, but that I can only imagine would prove diabolically popular, is users using their devices to interact live with chat shows and their hosts. Oprah already incorporates a huge amount of social media into her shows on her channel, but imagine Jeremy Kyle asking his wider TV audience to tweet in their opinions, thoughts (such as they are) and questions about the unfolding events on the show. Terrifying.

These are only a few examples of how ever-increasing prominence of tablets is affecting how we watch TV. Ericsson’s influential ConsumerLab report recently suggested that 62% of consumers use social media while watching TV, up by 18% since 2011; of these people 40% discuss what they are currently watching using social media.

While I’m trying to keep this blog as light on figures and percentages as possible, one statistic which piqued my interest suggested that of the adults who own tablets, 88% of them utilise it for watching video.[1] New solutions for more efficient video delivery were a bit of a hot topic this year at IBC; more and more consumers are using the variety of different tablets available to access the second screen experience, and the challenge with multiscreen TV is to find the best way to process and deliver the most video formats for online and managed distribution.

I‘m excited to see how the industry capitalises on the momentum caused by the recent proliferation of smartphones and tablets. I think that as consumer demands become more sophisticated and the need for TV ‘everywhere’ increases, we’re going to see more pressure on the networks to efficiently deliver content to an ever growing multiplicity of devices in new and innovative ways.