Analysis & Opinion

Analyst report: Reed Hastings and the ‘end of broadcasting’

Will it be all OTT by 2030?

Will broadcast TV by dead by 2030?

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?

By ‘he’  we mean Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and by ‘that’ his recent proclamation/prophecy that traditional broadcasting was the horse to OTT’s car, and will have become similarly obsolete (Wild Bunch-style) by 2030.  

Certainly it sounded a bit of a bold statement. IP&TV News turned to Tom Cheesewright (Applied Futurist at Book of the Future) and Oliver Johnson (CEO, Point Topic), and asked both the burning question… would it?

Oliver Johnson: Certainly not, absolutely not. It won’t be perhaps entirely recognisable to what it is today, but broadcast is just such an efficient way of delivering video and information – especially real time. So if you’ve got a Royal Wedding or a World Cup or whatever, it’s great to be able to stream it, but it’s much more efficient to be able to beam it from space over satellite or to beam it from the various terrestrial broadcast systems that we have –there is too much value and too much efficiency in how broadcasters operate to relegate them to complete also-rans.

Tom, however, differed somewhat.

Tom Cheesewright: [Reed Hastings] is 100% right and 100% wrong at the same time. It depends what you mean by broadcast TV. Bear in mind that, if you use it to reach millions and even billions, internet streaming is tricky and expensive, and to actually broadcast is a relatively efficient way of hitting lots of people. But is it much more likely that everything will be carried over the internet in some form? Absolutely. So in terms of the delivery mechanism I think he’s probably right – some form of internet will be the underlying transmission medium for all content.

While there might be some disagreement about the future of the broadcast mechanism, Oliver and Tom were in firm accord about the future of ‘linear’ TV itself…

Tom Cheesewright: The question is if by ‘broadcast TV’ you mean the content. There are certain things that lend themselves beautifully to broadcast TV. You are still going to want to watch in real time, if you’re of that sort of persuasion, things like I’m a Celebrity, or Big Brother, or Strictly Come Dancing, because of that participation via Twitter – otherwise known as life’s Red Button… there’s certain things that will always lend themselves to a broadcast model, either because of the economics of delivering it to lots and lots of people, or because the content itself lends itself to real time delivery and real time watching. Is everything going to be on a Netflix style model where everything’s on demand and it’s a-synchronous? No.

Oliver Johnson: You can see [the popularity of live content] reflected in the amount that all of the broadcasters are prepared to pay for sports rights, for anything that happens live, or for any event TV. You see this echoed in lots of op-eds throughout North America at the moment: it’s all about live TV, it’s all about locking up football matches and World Cups and weddings and whatever. And that has to be viewed live, or in a linear fashion, so you can chat about it the next morning, or on Facebook even during…

For both, it is the way that these distinct technologies and content forms interact that will define the future of broadcasting.

Oliver Johnson: I don’t think IP is ever going to be as efficient in broadcast in reaching several million people with just one signal. The bandwidth, so to speak, is much more efficiently used in broadcast. But you don’t get to choose what you want to watch when you want to watch it. They do different things. I think the actual underlying functionality of broadcast versus IP delivery will continue to exist and continue to serve the relevant markets.

Tom Cheesewright: You want the interactivity that the internet provides. You want the ability to personalise your stream, and that kind of makes the argument as to why you will need to find a way for the internet to deliver broadcast style delivery. Because it’s still going to be broadcast style content, so people will quite likely want to be able to control their own experience of it.

This year’s TV Connect (28th – 30th April 2015 ExCel, London) sees Xavier Amatrain, Research and Engineering Director, Netflix, delivering a special keynote, while BT’s Jerome Tassel will be asking ‘Who Can Push Netflix into Check?’ Click here to download the brochure.

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