I remember a time, growing up in the 1980s, when there was real anticipation for what the BBC and ITV would pull out of the hat for the post-Queen’s Speech Christmas premiere or blockbuster.
In an age where video recorders had only just arrived, there were barely four terrestrial channels, and you had little choice but to watch the broadcasters’ choice, this worked quite well.
As video recorders took hold, I began to think that the channel wars were just a tad pathetic. After all, if you really wanted to watch two programmes that clashed, you just recorded one of them and played it back later.
I suppose broadcasters bank on the likelihood that most people will be stuffed and near-comatosed by 3pm on Christmas Day, but really, good though Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 are, they don’t feel like exclusives any more.
Sure, you can stick the “now-bored-with-their-broken-presents” kids in front of the Beeb for a few hours, but really, you could almost as easily tune to a multi-screened film on Sky Movies, or stick on a high definition DVD, or even just leave the kids to muck about on YouTube (because you know they are, anyway).
The increasing popularity of new technology is making it so easy to watch whatever, whenever, and however.
Video on Demand, Web TV, online video, BitTorrenting… not all of them are legal, not all are of the highest quality, some (most) come with crippling DRM that makes them difficult to watch on some systems, or are time-limited, or can’t be copied to the device you want to watch it on — BUT the range of services is increasing, as is the number of people using them.
Stick a decent media server in the living room that can stream all this stuff easily and painlessly from the Internet to your HDTV, and you can watch your own exclusive content whenever you like.
A lot of people will still watch the main terrestrial channels this Christmas, because it remains the easiest, effortless, and most accessible method of getting a range of TV programming.
Over the next five years, though, I think that’ll change dramatically. The mandatory switch to digital TV will bring the range of terrestrial channels to everyone. At the same time, cable and satellite services will continue to lure customers with new offers, and the Internet will be a serious contender for mainstream home entertainment.
The days of everyone watching the Christmas Day network premiere are definitely numbered.
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