In a report released yesterday, The UK’s House of Lords Select Committee on Communications says that the government should prepare for all television broadcast to be transferred to the internet. The committee is right.
Indeed, the strongest driver of people moving from basic to superfast broadband will be people wanting to access on-demand television. We see this is the case right now during the Olympics. Over the past weekend, the BBC iPlayer saw 1.7 million requests for the Olympics opening ceremony. If the content that people want is available online, people will want to access it. And having all broadcast content moved onto the internet will facilitate more control of that content by viewers. Moreover, it will facilitate more precise targeting by advertisers and brand owners, and experience creations that bring together TV, social and additional online content.
A caveat here is that this will need a much improved broadband network beyond the government’s target of having everyone able to get 2Mbps by 2015. The committee calls this target "flawed" and liable to widen the digital divide between those communities with fast internet access and those living in broadband blackspots.
Instead, the committee argues that the government should ensure that every home is eventually connected to the internet by fibre. Although BT has been rolling out fibre, with 11m homes now connected, the committee highlights that BT is only installing fibre to street cabinets, with old and weather-sensitive copper wires carrying the signal to the doorstep.
The committee’s recommendation about preparing for all television to be broadcast via the internet is especially pertinent given a growing number of households are just as likely to watch TV via a broadband connection as they are to watch it via an aerial or satellite dish. Recent figures from Ofcom show that the number of UK adults with home internet who catch up with TV via the internet at least once a week has climbed from 23% of all adults in 2008, to 37% in 2012. This is highest among 16-24s, 48% of whom do this.
The choice of on-demand entertainment is set to grow. Sky, BT, Virgin Media and, as of last week, TalkTalk all now retail internet TV services bundled with a broadband connection. Ofcom data shows that average total of VoD views per month to Virgin Media homes has nearly tripled in four years, climbing from 33m in 2008, to 90m in 2012.