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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the ongoing digital media revolution « Previous | |Next »
May 26, 2010

The standard account of the effect of the shift to digital media is that newspapers are having a hard time adjusting to declining revenues and circulation, reduced profits, shrinking resources and people moving from the printed page to networked screen. The iPad will not to save the newspapers by offseting the revenue decline of their print businesses.

Yet this is only part of the media story. The next turbulence is not switching off of all the old analogue broadcast signals; nor the existence of a catch up facility along side a broadcast service. It is the emergence of IPTV or Internet Protocol Television. IPTV enables programming to be delivered over a fast Internet connection (courtesy of the national broadband network) to a set-top box plugged into a digital television screen in the living room.

Broadband providers (eg., Internode, Telstra and iiNet) are beginning to move with increasing speed toward installing the IPTV equipment to ensure they are the comprehensive communications provider for each home they serve. Their aim is to provide video, audio, Internet and telephone service to every home with a single fat pipe – and for a single fat monthly bill.

This is disruptive technology because it offers an alternative to Pay-TV of Foxtel and it furthers the segmentation of the mass market into niches. Even though niche content appeals only to a limited subset of an audience (the long tail content), market fragmentation deprives national broadcasters of the mass market that enabled the high ad rates and the fat profits. This undermines traditional broadcast model of the commercial free-to-air media as it depends on assembling large audiences to view regularly scheduled programs.

The scenario is similar to the one newspapers have faced: as revenues recede and profit margins decline so most local broadcasters will reduce the resources they devote to covering local news. There will be a contraction in local news and the content of local TV news will become even thinner than it is today.

The Australian TV landscape is going to change. Sure IPTV today is not viewed as a successful model, the content is not there, and the market is still waiting for it to develop its business model. At the moment we have video content on the personal computer not the television whilst the internet connectivity behind the TV is rare. The big probem for IPTV providers is to create a critical mass of content which challenges that available on the open internet because ‘I don’t pay for it on my PC so why should I pay on my TV?

I suspect that there will the emergence of IPTV Freeview from the ABC with its main stream content; initially in the form of an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) that displays broadcast content schedule two weeks ahead and catch-up content one week behind for all the ABC channels.

Movie content then becomes available with film aggregators like Quickflix, and as our viewing habits change from broadcast to on-demand, we consumers demand the open browser tools (one that handles all video formats and display technologies) to discover the choice of internet-based video content themselves without gate keeping or a walled garden.

The upshot is that the broadcast ‘viewer’ model no longer cuts it in this time-poor, choice-rich world that we live in.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:07 AM | | Comments (9)


our household is happy with just a free-to-air broadcast service with a catch-up facility (Iview) alongside.

I see that the ABC is also offering interactive internet drama with Bluebird

And the role of the independent media in this changing media landscape in the light of New Matilda closing down because of the lack of money from advertising? It is not just the mainstream press and commercial broadcasters being squeezed by the digital revolution. It is also the small independent magazines.

New Matilda boosted their readership but failed to increase their revenue from advertising to cover the increased costs of the site becoming ever more popular for writers and readers. They go on to say that:

The online media environment we’re leaving is vastly different to the one in which we started [in 2004]. Since we launched, several mainstream opinion and analysis sites have joined us, including The Drum, Unleashed, The Punch and the National Times. Although we hope that the newspaper presses keep on clattering for decades to come, it’s clear that the role of online media outlets will only grow in the future — whatever business model they follow.

I have to admit that it doesn't look promising for online independent media in the near future.

Perhaps we spend too much time reflecting on the changes in the supply of news and commentary and not enough investigating changes in demand.

How many people watch TV these days? I don't mean have the set switched on, I mean pay attention to the program to the exclusion of other activities. I'm constantly surprised that people I'm with channel surf, join a program halfway through and then leave before it's finished, have no idea what product is being advertised and so on. Likewise I wonder how many people read any conventional prose at all now, whether it's on paper or a screen.

We tend to assume that linear media with a start and a finish is the 'natural' way to acquire information and entertainment but maybe it's not, and we are entering a new era where people will engage with information in ways that are quite unfamiliar to earlier generations. That will really present a challenge to old media empires.

Almost by definition, small independent magazines provide space for views that do not receive a hearing elsewhere. In New Matilda’s case, those views are inevitably political--dissenting articles with a political and cultural focus that challenge the talking-points of Murdoch's conservative broadsheet-- The Australian. This dissent often struggles to be heard.

Fetch TV have confirmed that they will begin offering subscription based TV over the internet for under $30 a month, putting it in direct competition with a bunch of other pay TV content services--- the likes of Telstra's T-Box and Foxtel via Xbox 360. The IPTV service begins.

Whilst I have both a Transact and Foxtel connection I find with everything going on at home little time to watch live tv even the news, so being able to record is paramount. Whilst Foxtel has the best methodology via my IQ2 box to do so. I long for some real competion as the cost is excessive and half of the offerings I never select. Digital Tv's need to provide better EPG's and whilst now provide inet connection it is still primitive. Roll on NBN and its various applications. Issac Asimov had some far reaching ideas which are slowly coming to fruit

I understnad that Transact, the Canberra -based telco, has launched the first internet-delivered pay-TV product bundled with a personal video recorder set-top box and a broadband subscription.

This includes about 50 pay-TV channels, broadband subscription and a Motorola high-definition-capable PVR, priced from $75 to $139 a month. Rather expensive. Too expensive.

Telstra will soon launch its T-Box internet-delivered television service in order to protect its broadband revenues. This will include a personal video recorder that allows live TV, including the new digital free-to-air channels, as well as seven BigPond TV channels, to be recorded, paused and played back.

2010 is the year of IPTV