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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 06:07 GMT
Future of TV: The BBC new media boss
Emma Bunton on Strictly Come Dancing
Viewers will be able to catch up on BBC shows they have missed
The BBC is planning to let viewers watch TV live over the internet or download programmes from the past seven days through its new iPlayer service.

The iPlayer is at the heart of the corporation's new media strategy and will launch next spring if approved by the BBC Trust. Ashley Highfield is the BBC's director of new media and technology.

How will we be watching TV in 10 years?

It's a game of two halves. You've got a huge tranche of the market - maybe in 10 years time 50% - for whom television is going to look very similar to how it is today.

And then you've got the other half of the market, ostensibly the younger, who are still going to consume a huge amount of video, but it's not going to be as you and I know it today. That's going to be this rich mix of user-generated content, interactive content and archive on-demand consumption.

In 5-10 years we'll crack wireless around the home. Therefore any content coming into the home - into a PC or a set-top box or an aerial - will be distributed around the home quite easily and consumed on any device.

What does the future hold for the traditional TV channel?

Well, the jury's out on that one.

BBC director of new media and technology Ashley Highfield
You're probably going to end up with an evening's viewing which builds a schedule around you
Ashley Highfield
If the channel means something to the audience, there's no reason it shouldn't still be around. If a brand means something - if it has a clear indicator to the audience of the type of content you can expect to find - then it's a really useful thing. How are you going to discover new programming?

For half the audience, I think the linear schedules will still exist. Even among the on-demand users, there's still a point where you want to flump down in front of a trusted brand and watch what's on offer. Clearly for live and events, there's always going to be a live audience.

You're probably going to end up with an evening's viewing which builds a schedule around you. It might be on-demand, it might be scheduled due to your age or likes and dislikes - and then we'll all be watching X Factor at eight o'clock. And then we'll go our different ways again. Even within the same channel, we might end up watching different things based on recommendation engines and social software.

Will TV programmes be changed by how we watch them?

The big trend that is a move away from middle ground television.

Audiences are either going to go for a big-audience, mass-market, high-quality production - whether it's a sport event or a Blue Planet - or they're going to go for a niche-focused interest. Death of daytime is the other way of looking at it.

Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
Software could use archive clips to compile a viewer's ideal show
And if we can break down all the content we've got and allow the audience to re-compile it, you could end up with quite different viewing habits. I would love to have an evening's watching - it might be an hour, it might be half an hour, it might be four hours - on an interest of mine, Ferraris.

I would love to be able to just type it in and have the software compile for me all the best bits of Top Gear, all the wonderful clips of Tony Curtis in The Persuaders driving around in his Ferrari, and just create for me exactly what I want.

How will the viewing experience and viewing habits change?

I'm slightly sceptical of watching video on very small devices, and the consumption on PCs will converge [with TV].

I can see a lot more video consumption during the day [at offices]. We're already seeing that. There's a new peak at lunchtimes.

And TV screens are getting bigger. I don't think anyone would have a television screen smaller than they did 10 years ago. It wouldn't surprise me if in another 10 years the average size of television screens is over 40 in (1m). It will be a corner-of-the-room, cinematic surround sound experience.

What role will user-generated video play in mainstream viewing?

Watching YouTube over my television set will probably become the norm. But what is user generated content? The production standards and tools are getting better and better until surely it becomes semi-professional or even professional, particularly if they're getting remunerated for it by getting ad revenue.

Will user-generated content become part of the mix? Yes. Will it supersede professional production companies? No.




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