TV is Dead, Long Live TV

Like getting up before 4pm on a Saturday, emptying a bin or refusing a free drink when it’s offered, watching live television is something a lot of students don’t do anymore. While home students have parents who can waste money on things like regular meals or a TV license, as a future scrounging academic living on his own I can’t be wasting perfectly good beer money on such things as the ability to watch television whatsoever.

Except for online, that is. Thanks to the internet, we can watch a whole array of television programmes, films and radio shows on catch-up services for free at our convenience. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 3am or in the middle of a lecture you can catch up on everything from Downton Abbey to The Only Way Is Essex.

While this is an amazingly wonderful service for those that aren’t able to watch television at the time of broadcast (and even more marvellous for scrounging students) itt becomes difficult for channels to earn revenue if no one is watching adverts. As a result we have to sit through them every time we want to watch a cat do something hilarious on YouTube or fancy catching up on the latest “episode” of Hollyoaks. (I use that word loosely.)

While the BBC demands that anyone watching live television (either streaming from the internet or on that old fashioned square thing in the corner of the room) must have a license fee, the viewing of playback content doesn’t require one at all. And while this is either a bizarre moral quandary for the philosophers among you or the bargain of the century for anyone with zip all funds, it does raise a looming question of financial viability for the BBC.

With the use of TV catch-up services like iPlayer on the rise (the BBC’s Christmas Day schedule alone was accessed 2.5 million times last month) the corporation could soon face income issues as more viewers dump the license fee and reap the rewards of free television, adopting similar attitudes as they have towards music, films and books.

If our viewing habits continue like this, as I believe it will, I can’t see how they can make any money without resorting to advertising; an action that will invariably have an effect on the types of programmes the BBC can justify making.

Documentaries, narrow interest programmes and news coverage would likely be compromised due to their niche potential and high investment natures, forcing more budget TV and even more repeats to be shoved down our televisual throats. And with 84.2% of BBC3’s content already being rehashed, can we deal with much more?

While the BBC may be forced to turn to conventional means of funding, rival broadcasters are finding the digital age no less easy to adapt to. While production companies used to retain rights and powers over their content, the aggressive freedom online has wrenched such power away from them in dramatic ways, causing concern for the future of the media and eating away at profit margins.

I couldn’t talk about ways of watching TV online without mentioning the ways that we all use. A huge percentage of the people I know either stream programmes or they use torrents to download them and although we all assume it’s illegal, no one is sure of the exact legality of it so carry on.

It’s safe to assume you won’t get locked up in Barlinnie for doing it now, such is the extent of the practise. Why the morals involved are questionable, I like being able to watch a programme without having to sit through the fifteen minutes of adverts that comes with an American TV show. Obviously the revenue that would have been earned from you paying a subscription fee to Sky or buying in the boxset has now gone up in smoke so unless the broadcasters can come up with new ways to monetize the streaming of content online, they’ll sure to be losing out to pirate television for the foreseeable future.

I used to think someone who didn’t own a TV was weird, but since we access up to date news and television via an internet connection the need is becoming more and more questionable. With the new generation of televisions being designed around the internet age, will our televisions begin to function as computers or our computers begin to function like televisions?

[Jake Casson]

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