Earlier this decade I was given one of the first TiVos that ever shipped in the UK – the best freebie I ever received as a journalist. It changed our lives, even though this has become a near-cliché for PVR devices. It also had real kudos – when I showed it off to members of my family they marveled at it It also had real kudos – when I showed it off to members of my family they marveled at it. After a couple of years it broke and I put it up the loft thinking it might be worth something one day (or that maybe TiVo’s PR agency would ask for it back). For such an ugly little box it gave a lot of pleasure.
I ought to confess that we survived the loss of time-shifting. We went back to watching scheduled TV and got used to it again, so it can be done. Finally, we upgraded to Sky+ at the start of 2009 and are back into the world of personalized TV. And yes, it has changed our lives again. But it’s not the only new kid on the block – my wife has got into Facebook so quite often she is now ‘Facebooking’ with a laptop and I am watching time-shifted TV courtesy of Sky+.
Meanwhile, my 10 year-old son splits his video viewing time between children’s TV (linear broadcast) and YouTube or BBC iPlayer (video streaming to the PC) – probably an 80/20 win for the television this week but those statistics depend totally on what content is around. At one point he was on iPlayer all the time catching up on Robin Hood episodes even though they were recorded on Sky+, since he has to share the living room TV with his two sisters as well.
If I had shares in Sky or another major Pay TV provider, would I be worried by what I am witnessing in my own home? Not today. I am watching more television overall because I have better TV and films to enjoy (recorded) thanks to Sky+. I watch about half the adverts that are recorded but I probably only watched half of them ‘live’. With time-shifted content, I get a drink, go to the toilet and settle down to the program, then start playing the content including some of the adverts. Before, I’d get to the break and then zip out the room to do all the other stuff, missing adverts along the way too.
The biggest thing Sky could do for me is include content from the major broadcasters like BBC, ITV and Channel 4 in the Sky Anytime downloads to the PVR. That would get me watching even more.
My son goes where the content is, so providing the Pay TV operator has strong content, they should still enjoy his custom. Despite his love for the BBC’s Robin Hood and Doctor Who, he only watches about 20% of his programmes from the BBC. The rest are on subscription channels that are only available with the Sky subscription and are not found on Freeview (or iPlayer!). To be frank, Sky nailed us the day we bought the children’s package because I’d have to be a real mean Dad to take that away from them!
If we gave him his own TV and had multi-room PVR, my son would have little need for BBC iPlayer or any other broadcaster online catch-up service. It is logistics that drive him online – one television set and limited access to it. A Pay TV company with a multi-screen, multi-platform strategy could also capture him online today – but only if they have the content he wants on their website.
If I were a Pay TV investor, I would be most worried about Facebook. That sometimes takes my wife out of the TV loop for two hours at a time during prime time hours and I know that many of her friends are doing the same thing. She is a good advertising target but moreover, if she isn’t watching the TV she doesn’t have any vested interest in better subscription packages – including HDTV. She isn’t going anywhere else for video content – just watching far less of it. I don’t know what the answer is to that one, so if you do, please contribute to this blog