TV on Demand

We just received a leaflet from Telewest, the local cable company. We use them for phone, tv and broadband, and they’ve generally been very good. They’re launching a new service this week called Teleport, and it turns out to be a tv-on-demand service. For no extra charge many shows from the previous seven days will be available to watch at any time, as well as over 250 films (at a charge for each) and all of these, as well as live tv, can be paused and rewound. All without upgrading the cable box.

I think this is definitely the way tv is heading. With the US iTunes store offering downloads of Lost and Desperate Housewives, people are increasingly watching tv when they want to, and skipping the advertisments too. Last year I got hold of a second-hand TiVo for this very purpose. Unfortunately TiVo pulled out of the UK, so the functionality won’t improve and will likely be overtaken soon. I’ll likely sell it within the next few months as I find it a pretty high-maintenance gadget – there are just too many things that can go wrong, and it needs constant checking. Anyway, I’m wandering down tangents.

TV scheduling just doesn’t work very well, imho. Watching The West Wing on DVD is a far more pleasurable experience than when it was on terrestrial tv. Channel 4 showed trailers giving away the next episode’s contents, crammed it full of adverts and changed timeslots every few weeks, eventually showing two episodes sequentially so that it finished in the early hours of the morning. I know there’s such a thing as a video recorder, but when this happens with multiple programmes it’s too much of a fuss to keep on track of it all1. On DVD, though, I can watch one episode per week and not have to worry about any of the above.

On-demand content also might make it far easier for a smaller cable channel to have an impact, as viewer numbers may be determined by the quality of the programme rather than what else is showing at the same time. Maybe.

Adverts are the major problem with this business model, though. Most people will skip through the commercials, so how can the channels make their money? Product placement in programmes is becoming more popular – the first episode of 24 Season 3 had no commercials but extensive Ford promotion throughout. 24 simply had Jack driving the correct kind of car, with the logo frequently in shot, but I can see other shows changing the dialogue, which is a little dodgy.

So how about some kind of ratings system for adverts? I’d be happy for shows to have one or two advert breaks if the ads were actually entertaining/useful/informative in some way. The recent Singing in the Rain ad for Volkswagen was genius, but Martin Kemp welcoming me into SCS drives me up the wall. If viewers could rate adverts they like, perhaps the insulting ones would quickly get weeded out. On the other hand, perhaps letting people decide wouldn’t work at all.

Telewest Teleport should be implemented just as I move out, and there’s no cable at the flat. Bastards 🙂

  1. or maybe I’m just lazy []