Understanding who you are is generally rewarding. Unfortunately its also usually a bit painful as well – or even depressing. I say that because I was a bit depressed when I realised in regards to TV, I was pretty much representative of the rest of Australian society. When I found reality TV fascinating, everyone did. When I found it boring or unpleasant, ratings of the shows seemed to plummet. Being a TV bellwether wasn’t something I aspired to though.
So whilst having a casual conversation over dinner on the weekend, something popped out of my mouth that on reflection, I found a bit disturbing. I said.
“I think 2009 will go down as the year I stopped watching TV”.
Despite the fact that Television technology has jumped forward in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, with large hi-res screens, digital TV, surround sound etc. I’ve lost interest in both free to air and pay TV and there seems to be two reasons for it. First reason is that it appears (from my point of view) the commercial stations have gone out of their way to alienate me as a viewer, offering mostly lowbrow crap, regularly moving the few interesting programmes to different slots on different days and even inserting repeats into runs of new content. The second reason is that the competition has got so much better. Specifically:
1. The price of DVDs dropped and the trend to purchase rather than rent DVDs started. After a couple of years of collecting DVDs, our home DVD library now has lots of content to watch. I prefer my children to watch DVDs as they are ad free, and my kids prefer to watch movies as well. Its quite apparent to me that both they and their friends have no “TV habit”. They wouldn’t have a clue what was happening on TV and when.
2. Entire TV series are now available to purchase, and everyone I know seems to prefer watching two to three episodes of a series a night, for six nights straight, rather than having to wait for months to complete a season.
3. All our friends are in the same position as us and consequently we are regularly offered box sets of series (In the last month, MadMen and GetSmart) .
The internet is interactive and more fun, however its not really a couples thing. It does though have vast amounts of both paid and free content available to download.
1. My wife would rather download a free audio book from Libriovox and listen to it on her ipod than watch TV. Although I could download free ebooks from Project Gutenberg or purchase Ebooks through the iTunes store or from Amazon (or a hundred others) I would rather read words on paper, until an Ebook reader comes along thats better than paper.
2. You can now purchase TV shows and movies directly from the Apple IT tunes store and a number of other online shops.
3. There is a large amount of free video content available both at TV station websites and generally on the internet. For instance I recently downloaded what’s known as a Fan Film called Hunt for Gollum which is a 40min long extension of the Lord of the Rings movies.
So if I don’t want to watch Free to Air or Pay TV, what are my technology options?
So if I’m not using the antenna (or Foxtel) on the back of my TV to get video content, what are my options – and thus to the pointy end of this blog.
1. DVD player – Obviously the DVD player is fairly old technology but it has been recently refreshed with two options. Firstly the introduction of Blu Ray to improve the quality of the experience, and secondly the introduction of hard disks inside the appliance so that it can also act as a video recorder. This has extended its life but as a generally “dumb” device at around $500 at the top end, I feel its days could be limited.
2. Computer – A number of people I know have now connected a computer to a TV screen so that they can watch youtube or downloaded movies directly on the bigger screen. Most modern TV’s now have HDMI or PC connections at the back. The problem here is the cost ( an old spare PC won’t usually process video fast enough) and the noise generated by the onboard fan can be irritating. So unless you are buying small footprint, ultraquiet PC specifically for the job, and running software like Windows media centre, it tends to be a less desirable option coming in at around $1,00 minimum..
3. Games Console – At my house we picked up a Playstation 3 with the purchase of a TV, normally $500. Not only can we play games with it, but we can play DVDs, surf the internet and transfer downloaded movies to its hard disk (I networked it to the rest of the home network and the internet connection).
4. Apple TV – Apple has introduce a small player to connect to your TV called Apple TV . With it you can rent HD movies, purchase TV shows, listen to your iTunes music and watch podcasts. Those that have them tend to rave about how its seamlessly integrates with iTunes. A fantastic solution at around $600 but it does like you to have an end to end Apple solution and use their formats.
5. Media player – A reasonably new entrant into the market place is the media player. Not much bigger than a wallet these devices will play a huge array of formats (you’re not locked in) and are extendable as you can plus USB drives into them that they will suck content off. Then can then be connected up to the TV by a HDMI cable. I know a number of people that are now loading a whole lot of movies onto them to take to their holidays (rather than a bag full of DVDs for the kids). At under $150 these devices are becoming highly appealing. I will be picking one up for our next trip away.
But what’s next?
The interesting thing about these technology options though is that they are all converging. The difference between computer sourced video content and TV sourced video content is no longer relevant as appliance solutions take away the headaches. There is also an increasing demand for all devices to be smart and networkable. Who wants to be locked into last years solution , when you should be able to download the latest firmware for your player from the internet .
The big players are all aware of this convergence which is causing a somewhat hidden battle to be raged amongst the major players who would like to own what’s called the last metre – the distance between the viewing appliance and your TV screen. Foxtel, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all know that if they can control the last metre, they can control revenues.
The opportunities here are rich, which is one of the reasons that JB HiFi is continuing to perform so well in difficult market conditions, despite this being the year I stopped watching TV.