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Paul Bradshaw's Media Column

TV GOES DOWN THE TUBE

24-09-2006

It's the end of the world as we know it as traditional telly viewing disappears up its own set top box. The Stirrer's media columnist Paul Bradshaw looks at who's already switched on.

Do you still watch television on your TV? How quaint.

Did you wait till 9pm on Thursday to watch Extras? How ‘2004'.

Television is changing, and it's not just a matter of a different screen. Broadcasters, having been eyeing up the web with vague distrust for several years, are finally getting their head around this strange new beast, and the way that we are watching TV is set to change radically as a result.

The BBC, as always, is one of the pioneers. New digital channels BBC3 and BBC4 in last year piloted the idea of screening full episodes of programmes such as The Mighty Boosh online before they even go to air. Not a massive risk, you might think, given the small audiences the channels were getting - but it paid off handsomely, tapping into the target audience's preference for on demand media.

Channel 4 was not slow to catch on, giving fans of Lost access to every episode of Season One online, and allowing users to watch whole episodes of programmes ranging from Decoding Da Vinci to The Album Chart Show - mounting a significant battle with freelance producers for online rights in the process.

They were wise to do so.

A recent Ofcom report revealed “striking evidence that a new ‘networked generation' is turning away from television, radio and newspapers in favour of online services, including downloadable content.” The 16-24 year old generation do not sit around the box.

Another report, from The Center for Media Research, this week released a list of the top ten online broadcast media destinations in America. What struck me most? The lack of broadcasters: only four of those listed - NBC Universal, Nickelodeon, CBS and Gannett Broadcasting - are traditional broadcasters. Of the others one was from outside the US - the BBC - and the other five were non-traditional broadcasters such as Yahoo! TV (at number one), AOL, MSN and TV.com.

This is the future ratings battle, and already big names are being left behind. It won't be long before the battle stretches across the Atlantic. ITV and Channel 5 had better catch up soon.

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