Digital Home Makeovers

These were my opening remarks chairing a session called “Digital Home Makeovers” at the Connected TV Summit in London on the 26th of June 2015.

By Paul Bristow, Founder & CEO, Clear Thinking

Back in 2000 at the height of the first .com boom, we were crystal clear about what was going to happen to the digital home. Everything would be swept away by the Internet. The TV people laughed, and said that the new media didn’t understand the difficulties of delivering broadcast video. It started to happen anyway, the TV side added IP, the Internet started doing Video, and the two worlds started slowly to collide.

And we keep on adding more and more layers of complexity: EPG, DVR, On-demand, OTT, Multiscreen, Quadplay, Casting. But the whole TV service approach still feels 20th century to me. It’s still centralised, rather than decentralized. Content coming from the TV industry to the viewers. We’re so tangled in rights red tape that the only way I can guarantee to be able to watch an entire box set on one service is to buy it from Amazon. From a distance, nothing has really changed yet, and the results of not empowering viewers in a world where they expect to have their say are clear. TV shipments are falling, DVR ownership has peaked and started to fall, and everyone under 40 is watching less TV.

The TV screen itself has lost its crown – with more time spent on mobile devices than watching TV. In this context we aren’t doing ourselves any favours. Television is the only video I cannot share. With the result that younger people today don’t care. If you give them a choice between losing their smartphone or their TV only 13% pick their TV. We cling to old paradigms because they once worked but innovation has moved on. The latest FT Tech 50 doesn’t include a single person from our industry. When I talk to innovators outside our industry not once has anyone mentioned TV in any context other than “dying”. It feels like we are frogs, being slowly boiled.

We have a choice to make. We can take the blue pill and stay in the matrix to continue the status quo, and most likely fulfill the “dying” prophecy, or we can take the red pill, wake up and try to turn the tide. We are ripe for disruption. Uber doesn’t own any cars. Airbnb doesn’t own a single hotel. What would the Uber of TV look like?

One possible hope for us is the IoT. For startups, this is where the action is. There’s a lot of potential for the digital home here. But if you look at this picture TV is just one screen of many.

The digital home is our battle ground. If we can’t win there, we won’t win anywhere. Let’s see if we can stop TV going the way of radio.

You can watch the panel session here: