I’ve always been very interested in what the future holds for them many media sites that operate online. Some are there to genuinely embrace the medium, many sometimes look like they made a site just because they thought they better had. You can see different approaches depending on which sector – radio sites are probably the most diverse, newspaper sites cover a wide area and there’s been enormous investment in some of the big broadcasters across the world like NBC, BBC and the UK’s biggest commercial station – ITV.
There’s no doubt that the biggest and arguably the best online media site is one of the pioneers – the BBC. They have an advantage obviously with the backing of a UK license fee which anyone who owns a TV set has to pay, but they also pioneered the online streaming of television broadcasts. You can see it in the quality of the site and how it has developed over the years, for anyone not in the UK you’ll need to use something like this to access it – Watch UK TV abroad.
But there huge advantage as mentioned is funding doesn’t have to be directly generated from the website. The BBC can look at the BBC iPlayer as part of their overall strategy and not a specific income generation tool. Of course commercial operations can’t operate like this, the costs involved in the website, infrastructure and bandwidth to stream programmes across the internet are substantial and that cost has to be covered some way.
Initially it looked like copying the broadcasters original model was going to be the way forward. Just as streaming radio sites run adverts on their shows, TV stations ran video adverts during their content too. At first there were problems in that viewers were speeding past the videos and not watching them, until at least the players were adapted to counteract that.
In the UK the main commercial site – ITV was quite slow to develop their web site, but it’s now quite slick operation. Anyone in the UK can use the ITV Player application to watch the vast majority of their broadcasts (apart from those licensed from other stations). The adverts are compulsory and you are unable to fast forward them as was previously the case. For anyone outside the UK, you’re going to have to impersonate a Brit – try this video – watch ITV Player in the USA.
This operated very similar to the US site Hulu, but both companies have seen the chance to extend their revenue model by operating a premium version of the site. This involves paying a subscription fee were you can watch without the commercial breaks and have access to broadcasts for a longer period of time. It seems likely that these benefits of these ‘Premium versions’ will expand and more shows will only be available on the paid sites. It’s something that’s already happening in the Newspaper sector where the best news media sites are nearly all paid subscriptions now (with some noteable exceptions.)
It will be interested to see how these sectors develop over the next few years, but it seems likely more and more content on the internet will involve a paid subscription – a rather depressing thought.