/ Technology

If the TV schedule dies, will you miss it?

Falling house of cards

Netflix will soon release its brand new TV series House of Cards. And it won’t just be released online only, it will also be released in one go. It’s the beginning of a brave new world for TV – will you miss the old one?

House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and based on the BBC classic of the same name, is a new 13-episode series launching in February.

It’s high-brow, it’s serious (it’s directed and produced by David Fincher, no less), but it’s not made by HBO, the BBC, or some other established name. It’s made by Netflix, the company behind the online film and TV streaming service that costs £5.99 a month. And, unlike a normal TV series, it won’t be released piece-by-piece on a schedule, but all in one go. This is the future of TV.

It’s only natural –

It’s a natural next step, really. Ever since the likes of Sky let you record programs and watch them later, we’ve been setting the TV-viewing agenda. Research by Gfk suggests that half of 18-49 year olds watching TV in the 8-9pm primetime slot last year, actually watched a recorded program. That’s up from 16% in 2008. The same research shows the number watching live primetime TV dropped from 83% to 64% in the same period. Unsurprisingly, the younger the person, the more extreme the figures become.

BBC’s iPlayer, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength. iPlayer use grew 28% from 2011 to 2012. And with Sky making the shift to on-demand and download services – as evidenced by Now TV from Sky and its polarising new Sky Go Extra service – the TV broadcasters are reacting to our habits.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the TV schedule is, if not dying, in terminal decline. Whatever will happen to the Radio Times?

There’s no need to be nostalgic

Sometimes such developments feel forced upon us, unwelcome and cumbersome. Not this. It’s merely a reflection of what we want. I choose when to read a book, or watch a DVD, or go for a walk – why shouldn’t I decide when to watch TV?

There are exceptions, of course. Sport and live events (eg Strictly Come Dancing) will never cease to be important – not least as social networking gives them a new, interactive dimension. Eastenders and Corrie will probably still be going out at the same time, same place after the oft-promised apocalypse (Hollywood said so, so it must be true) finally arrives. But slowly and surely, the TV schedule will fade into insignificance. I think this is great news – do you?

Pauline says:
3 February 2013

I know we don’t want to watch the adverts but that is what is paying for a lot of the programmes.

Yes – commercial television has always had a curious upside-down business model. What it gets for next to nothing – airtime – it sells at high prices to advertisers; what it makes at considerable expense – programmes – it gives away free of charge to viewers.

It’s amazing that advertising still works, with the choice of ways of avoiding the adverts. No longer is it necessary to make tea during the commercial break.

John, like commercial radio, and advertising that helps pay for magazines and newspapers, free apps and so on. I don’t think it’s upside down, just a way of funding a business.

It’s odd that out of all the channels I do watch, its the one without adverts I watch the least, yet its the one I have no choice but to pay for.

I’ve recently been watching Africa, Great British Railway Journeys, Howard Goodal’s Story of Music, and Have I Got New For You – plus the often-entertaining select committees on BBC Parliament. I’m more than happy to pay 40p a day to the BBC for these quality programmes uninterupted by adverts.
As for the schedule, I like to watch a selected programme spontaneously. TV is not so important to me that I must watch every programme that might be of interest – life is too short with more constructive things to do. But I do value BBC iplayer for particularly interesting or entertaining missed programmes – or those that did not record completely because of time overrun – an irritating feature that seems to have developed.

I don’t have children but I contribute towards the cost of education. On that basis, I do not have a great deal of sympathy for William’s argument.

Like Malcolm and others, I would prefer to pay a modest amount for decent programmes uninterrupted by adverts.

I don’t know how much it costs to provide us with iPlayer but I think it’s the best thing to happen to TV in my lifetime. It would be great to be able to buy a permanent copy of selected programmes. I’m not interested in the popular series that are churned out on DVDs but odd programmes that cover something I am particularly interested in or that involve people I know.

As much of the country still doesn’t have a reliable high speed BB service it’s premature to try to consign scheduled FTA viewing to history. Even a in London suburb my BB goes thro’ patches of very poor service, dropped connections etc. The debate isn’t only about preferences. We need to remember the practicalities and cost too….