Friday, 15 November 2013

Solving the problem of too much TV.

At last I can watch something that I want to watch, not that somebody else wants me to watch to sell me something.

A few months back, I wrote about the fundamental problems of TV that had yet to be solved. I wrote about the explosion of choice paradoxically leading to a short tail of content actually chosen. I wrote about how more interactivity led to poorer engagement with the devices. And I wrote about how increasingly sophisticated devices led to a complex and less reliable viewing environment.

However, one company recently has made a very interesting attempt at solving the problem of what to watch next. The BBC's announcement last month of the next version of its online services is quite a significant signpost.

Traditional radio is the most beloved content curation paradigm. DJs are taste arbiters. They decide what you’re going to listen to next, and the good ones will surprise you with songs that you didn’t know you liked yet. And because getting you to listen is worth money, the DJ becomes the gatekeeper to this revenue stream.

Where there’s money, there are people wanting to make more money, which is why we’ve gone from personal tastes that we can identify with, to corporate playlists that reflect corporate agreements. (And on the flip side, there is also an emergence of social responsibility in playlists; e.g. FGTH's Relax being banned from Radio 1, quite rightly in my opinion, so it’s not all bad).

Playlister is a new paradigm in content discovery. It combines curated playlists (by DJs that we can identify with) with personalisation (user has to select which tracks to acquire). Since the DJ represents the corporation, songs are still selected from playlists, but what you listen to is in collaboration with your chosen taste arbiter.

There is an inherent limit to how the BBC can tailor its broadcast content to its viewers. Even with 8 domestic and many more international channels, there is a limit to number of simultaneous channels (well, 8), and therefore simultaneous demographics that can be entertained.

Online delivery removes that limitation; each iPlayer user can select their own content. If we combine this with the Playlister approach, each iPlayer user can now have their own channel.

This has been tried before, with analytics providing a suggestion for your next programme using the “people like you also like” approach. But using a TV DJ, a TV taste arbiter, to curate content has an increased likelihood of the next programme actually being one you want to watch.

The money is there to be made. iPlayer 30 day catch-up fulfils the public service obligation, iPlayer download-to-own / link to BBC section of the iTunes store fulfils commercial obligation to make money.

This will only work because the BBC has a brand that is globally renown, and a legacy of content that is the envy of all broadcasters. This approach won't work for all content producers. They will have to club together to achieve the global reach and globally-relevant catalogue.

There are two problems with TV: 1. Finding what to watch, and 2. Engaging appropriately with the TV. BBC's iPlayer 3.0 + Playlister solves the first. But it still relies upon old PC engagement paradigms for working the iPlayer application, which is the great hindrance to it achieving greatness.

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