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OTT: The evolved connected future of TV?

In a world of smartphones, tablets, laptops and tabphones (half tablet, half phone…) all of which stream TV shows and movies at the click of a button, the traditional way of watching television today appears under threat. Is there still room for linear TV with the rapid evolution of connected devices? In 10 years’ time as a consumer I wonder what will be the norm for watching the latest episode of Eastenders, around the living room TV –  live, or two days later on the iPad via a catch-up service?

The ability to watch television at anytime, on any screen, across any device is a growing consumer demand, particularly amongst the “digital natives” – according to Beta Research, in 2012 50% of 18-34 year olds said they were interested in viewing TV on mobile devices, up from 39% in 2011, and I’m sure this figure will continue to rise. This increase in demand coincides with the constant technological developments, like 4G, which enables faster download speeds to multiple devices.  In today’s digital world, it is becoming more and more common as a consumer to expect personalised experiences which cater to your individual needs. A group which has taken full advantage of the rise in multi-screen TV is students. I’m a student myself, so know first-hand how unusual it is to find a television in a student’s bedroom, mainly because of the availability of OTT TV and catch up services; we don’t bother dragging our TVs all the way to uni anymore because we know we can catch up with TV on our laptops, tablets, or even smart phones, for as little as £5 per month subscription to a service like Netflix (which beats the price of a TV Licence!)

Despite the truly amazing advancements within the broadcasting world, I think it’s unlikely that traditional televisions and linear broadcasting will disappear any time soon. Instead, it will become part of a multi-screen ecosystem with other devices, such as tablets and smart phones, as consumers quickly embrace new OTT TV services on newly connected devices. Whether or not TVs will remain the main device for watching programmes is dependent on the family or individual, and how technologically advanced they are. When speaking to my parents (people you would describe as “digital immigrants”) about developments in broadcasting, both agree that despite the convenience of multi-screen, they are happy watching shows traditionally – via a television, in the living room. Now, obviously you cannot generalise from this, but I think this response would be replicated amongst many others in the less-tech-savvy category.

For me, a problem with catch up TV is you miss the excitement of watching programmes live. Take shows like the X Factor for example. I think we would all agree that watching a final, the day after on catch-up is nowhere near as exciting as watching it live. Arguably, Twitter and Facebook drive the desire to watch shows live. I know that if I miss Made in Chelsea or TOWIE, and choose to watch them the following day, I have to avoid looking at my Twitter feed otherwise I could tell you the whole storyline before I’ve even watched it, which is so annoying! Nearly half of all 16-24 year olds use messaging, email, Facebook and Twitter to discuss what they are viewing on TV, as they view it. Social media is used to share opinions and jokes, and people want to be part of these live, online conversations…#FOMO!

We must not forget that TV technology is developing, adopting, and changing alongside developments in broadcasting. Smart TVs are becoming ever-prominent in people’s homes, offering a unique, personalised ‘profile’ for each user in the household to meet their individual demands. Although we are seeing a surge in demand for multi-screen and OTT TV, particularly amongst the younger generations, we should not assume that live television will fade completely. A theme for the future will be choice, and especially choice of content. Consumers’ appetites will be satisfied with the ability to choose when, where and how they watch their favorite shows– and this includes the traditional TV remaining central to the viewing experience!

Sophie Kay interned at Platform this summer. She is a second year student studying history at The University of Sheffield.