TELLY ANYWHERE ANYTIME could be available in two years because the technology exists and only the legal agreements from television production companies and movie studios need to be hammered out.
This is the expectation of Virgin Media, which will launch in October a multi-platform TV service that allows people to watch the programmes they would have viewed on their goggle box at home on their mobile phone while commuting and again perhaps through their office desktop during work hours. Virgin Media aims to have 80 to 100 hours of television progamming available for streaming on this service.
The October launch will be followed, Virgin plans, for a service to start in mid-2011 that would allow people to watch a programme at home, stop it, grab their mobile or even tablet, get on the train, connect to Virgin Media and continue to watch that programme from the exact same point. If the commute ends before the programme does then the TV progamme can again be picked up at the same point either through a desktop at work or on the return commute or back at home. During this on-the-go experience the programme could be rewound or fast forwarded also. Virgin Media head of product development Rob Wells said at Nokia World's future of TV debate that internally his staff refer to it as three screens, "[this] means content can be seen on TV, the mobile and online."
Virgin already has a pay for play model for mobile phones and Wells said 30 minute comedy shows were popular and that it demonstrated people were prepared to watch video clips longer than a few minutes on small mobile devices. While the technology and DRM allow for streaming today Wells did not discount the move to "side loading", where people move DRM protected content from device to device. However for this truly ubiquitous telly the digital rights management negotiations are likely to hold things up until 2012 at least.
Despite the technical wizardry, and inevitable legal deals, it can't stop programming from getting to illegal download sites because viewers in Europe don't want to wait weeks or months before their favourite show returns. Heroes TV show creator Tim Fring said, "A tremendous number of people were downloading Heroes on Pirate Bay. People who go to the lengths of stealing your product really care about it." Wells told The INQUIRER that pricing was one way of encouraging people to simply buy the product rather than take the risk of downloading illegally. Fring saw the Internet as a medium for developing shows that could find a fan base and then make it worthwhile for the production company to launch the show on mainstream TV channels.
The debate heard no solution to the problem of TV series with a large timeshifted or online, legal and illegal, fan base being able to see a financial benefit from that wider viewership when advertisers only recognise traditional broadcasters' viewing figures.
Despite telly ratings company Nielsen being present at the debate, these issues were not addressed and its VP Thomas Webber could only point to his company's work on devices that would automatically recognise what you are watching and those devices could be mobile phones. µ
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