Can you remember what you were watching in early 2005? It certainly wasn’t YouTube, because that site uploaded its first-ever video in April of that year. Now, it’s hard to imagine life without it, or to remember how we all used to flock around the box and discuss it the next day.
The pace of change since then has been frenzied, and it’s picking up speed. If you want an early indicator of where we’re headed, pay attention to how your children get their entertainment, because where YouTube led, a raft of other platforms, technologies and billion-dollar businesses have followed – including some of the most remarkable success stories you’ve never heard of: Video on Demand, Interactive Content, SkyPlus, Twitch, Periscope and Vine, to pick a few.
Young people get their news from aggregator websites, or elsewhere in bite-size chunks – a BBC Online insider recently revealed to me that they have three seconds to grab a viewer’s attention, and a further four seconds to convince them to stay. Generation Y watches and circulates short clips, taken from full-length shows they just don’t have time to see. They tune in to dedicated online channels where they can watch strangers playing video games with other strangers.
Why? Because they can, and they want to. And as soon as those two elements are in place, of course someone is going to provide a way to make that experience better, bigger, bolder. And then to charge for it.
The future is all about personal tailoring: tailoring content to suit your tastes, your time, your technology and of course, your budget. Netflix is shredding the cable tv market, as viewers spend their money choosing their own tv diet, rather than being force-fed junk. ‘Double-screening’ is transforming the way programmes are devised and made, as producers recognise that very few of us watch only one screen during a show. In fact, experts predict that pretty soon the living room tv will become the second screen, relegated by the interactive handheld device, where the real action will be taking place. Already, we sense this subconsciously: the glaring anomaly in Channel 4‘s award-winning ‘Gogglebox’, carefully cast and structured to create a true likeness of modern Britain, is that none of the participants uses their phone while watching tv. That is definitely not reality!
The good news is that, however we choose to consume it, there will still be plenty of great content to enjoy. And the reason is that channels – whatever and wherever they may be – still need to fill those spaces between the advertisements. And someone will be paid for the filler. Just nineteen months after airing its first video, YouTube was bought by Google for a staggering $1.65 billion. Now, that’s entertainment!
This article was written for ‘Out and About’ magazine, 2015.