Report on “The end of TV as we know it”

A few of the good folks from IBM Business Consulting Services released a report earlier this year on “The end of TV as we know it.” It provides their view on what the landscape in 2012 looks like across the industry for television programming, distribution and consumption. The authors interviewed a number of extensive interviews with analysts, pundits and execs from across a worldwide and industry-wide spectrum.

“Our analysis indicates that market evolution hinges on two key market drivers: openness of access channels and levels of consumer involvement with media. For the next 5-7 years, there will be change on both fronts – but not uniformly. The industry instead will be stamped by consumer bimodality, a coexistence of two types of users with disparate channel requirements. While one consumer segment remains passive in the living room, the other will force radical change in business models in a search for anytime, anywhere content through multiple channels.”


No surprise that the report heralds sweeping changes we will see in television and video entertainment consumption due to the growing and near pervasive success of digital video recorder (DVR) technologies (commercialized now in Tivo, ReplayTV, Windows Media Center systems), television programming distributed via the web (as we see today in iTunes, Google, Akimbo and others) and more (like our own Microsoft IPTV solutions).

When I look back to the estimates we made at my previous company in 2000, I remember that we guesstimated at the hockey stick of DVR adoption, with “DVR in every major household” by, well, just about now. I remember projections that pegged North American DVR households at more that 30-40 million units, and possibly as high as 60-70 million by the end of the decade. Now those estimates may be right, when you take into consideration the number of devices that now enable video entertainment (OK, multimedia) in the home, on the go and across a wide spectrum of devices and services. 

IBM called out is that TV viewing will be predominantly passive, with people watching programming when it’s on, and that the younger generation (I guess Generation X — where I fall — and younger) will be more in tune with content that is available anywhere and anytime they want it, whether it’s via a TV, PC, phone or other portable media player.

For me, the concept is incredibly satisfying. But I’ve found that the experience is increasingly frustrating. That is an area where a complete, simple and interconnected experience will benefit consumers the most. At a time when the average consumer spends less than 20 minutes to learn how to use a new consumer gadget, people rarely have the time or patience to configure and connect all of the devices in the chain.

I do enjoy the relatively simple experience I have today with a Media Center PC at the centre of our system, Media Center Extender and portable Media players – but I still spend time managing, sync’ing and archiving. The vast majority of our entertainment viewing comes through our ReplayTV DVRs — the TV equivalent of “point-and-shoot” digital cameras — which allows us to time shift our programming from the networks. Our family straddles that line between the two cultures that IBM called out, with a couple of GenX and a few of the latest generation of consumers driving us to be more demanding about our video entertainment choices. 

Mind you, TV doesn’t rule our lives, but we’re certainly in the mainstream when it comes to the average amount of television we watch at home. (I recall that TV viewers in the US watches an average of 18 hours a week, although this has declined in the last few years with the rise in web surfing.) Nothing beats a beautiful weekend outdoors… but when the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s great to have a queue of the stuff you want to watch waiting at home for you. 

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