29 Jun

About six years ago (having long since ditched conventional TV, the aerial and obligatory licence in favour of the more ‘time-managed’ approach of renting DVDs) I discovered that the BBC were beta testing streaming TV through their website. I was able to watch, for free and at my convenience within 7 days, episodes of Top Gear and Extras. Albeit in a tiny windowed section of the webpage.

Clearly web TV and on demand was the way to go. Or so I thought.

A few years later I tuned into Radio One and the first of Zane Lowe’s Masterpieces series. A documentary on Nevermind by Nirvana to be followed by the entire record being played without interruption. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people were txt-ing into the show to applaud such a move. Why? A huge number of those txt-ers owned the record. I had it. They/we/I could have just put it on at their/our/my own convenience. Surely this was a backward move?

Today, Wednesday 29 June, 2011 I am sat at my laptop with another little window tucked away in the corner of my screen. My twitter feed gives me a connection. Sometimes too much connection. Tonight in particular it’s the #apprentice. Clearly I’m following the wrong people as every second one seems to be watching. I could almost switch it off. Almost.

There are two points here; number one:

In 1998, the reason my wife and I ditched our TV was because much of the time it was simply background noise. We would walk into the house and one of the first things we did was turn on the TV. Not because something was on but because something ‘might’ be on. There rarely was, but we rarely seemed to turn it off either. We observed friends doing the same thing… so when our old dodgy TV finally gave up the ghost we didn’t replace it.

However, in 2011, if I’m not careful, Twitter is the current equivalent. Background noise. Distraction.

The other point is that the technology designed to give us more choice and convenience is also enhancing the traditional TV and Radio model.

For me, Masterpieces in 2007 planted the seed of this idea of the new communal experience. It felt like a brave move at the time but it should have been more obvious. After all music thrived through the communal experience of band stands and concert halls  long before anyone was capable of recording it.

And the shared experience of TV and Radio has always been there, but the sharing had to wait until school or work the next day. Now, it’s immediate. If you are happy to wait for the water cooler conversation the next day you’re still free to Sky+, but if you want the Has#tag experience then you need to tune in now.

From a design point of view the interesting thing to me is that this behaviour wasn’t presented to us through an ‘App’… the tech was simply appropriated by a few while watching TV.

Inevitably the process would be formalised and Twelevision, though I haven’t used it, looks an interesting and fun way of achieving this. I just can’t imagine how you focus on the programme while there’s all this other stuff to do..!?

‘Appointment to view’ was a term used back in the day – before the introduction of devices like the PVR caused major disruption – to describe the experience of TV viewers who tuned in to programs broadcast at scheduled times. 

With a nod to how the real-time back-channel commentary afforded by twitter (and the #hashtag) has emerged as an unlikely saviour of the live TV spectacle we coined a new term for the lexicon – ‘Appointment to tweet’. That’s what Twelevision is about.’

Eaon Pritchard – Director: Digital Innovation, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

So how are you watching TV these days..? Does social media fit into your watching schedule? Are you Get Glue-d & Twelevised? Or are you iPlayering and Box-set-ing?

Answers on a postcard please… remember them?


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