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Do We Really Need Even More Choice on Ever More TV Channels?

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This one is about personal choice and whether technology has rendered that term a complete myth.

YouTube is set to launch around 60 new television channels in its campaign to take on traditional broadcasters head to head. Wow! Hold me back!

The Google-owned company has invested almost £100 million in British channels after similar intervention into the US TV market. For example, an online video series called Recipe Rehab reborn on Saturday morning TV shown on ABC was just one of some 100 new channels.

The aim is to tap the huge advertising revenues, obviously.

Spoilt for Choice

It is reported there will be six new car channels, a dozen comedy channels, ten beauty channels. Many of them will be backed by existing publications, such as Grazia, or sponsored by companies keen to be part of the new market initiatives.

Others will be deliberately ‘celebrity fronted’, such as the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver and ‘will have a mix of celebrity-oriented, niche, and established programmes’. There will be more rolling news-based programming too.

Of course that puts traditional TV and production company revenue at risk, but many of them are sensibly coming on board by agreeing to make programmes for the new networks.

It signals a dramatic revolution in television that is now well under way. More channels, more of more or less what is available now. More repeats. More recycled celebrity guests on each other’s shows. More celebrities doing things ordinary people or newcomers might like to do in the world’s interesting places. More overworked formulaic reality TV contests.

The war of the devices hots up with YouTube’s programming chief, Robert Kyncl, claiming that it’ll soon be televisions that are the ‘second screens’, as increasingly mobiles become the ‘first screens’, the viewers’ preferred choice.

Favourite Friends? I have none

And another thing. displays links to YouTube showings currently available by popularity. It adds the phrase: ‘A collection of 75 most popular online TV streams. Choose your favorite category and TV channel.’

They are not alone in this contemporary obsession, but they illustrate the point. It seems that nowadays nobody can make his or her own mind up, but they must go by what ‘friends’ do or recommend. Or follow what is ‘trending’.

Just like the number of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ you enjoy on social media is a meaningless term, so the way advertising manipulates choice is not in any way reflective of what people actually would choose if they could.

If you buy anything once, indeed, if you even search for it or enquire about it, suddenly it is ‘your favourite’ and the expectation is that you will repeat it, buy it again. What happened to individual thought? What about changing moods?

What about going off somebody or something? What about growing to like something or somebody that you initially loathed?

The problem is that changing your mind is anathema to the digital infrastructure. Computers never forget and once something is in a system, any system, it is next to impossible to remove it and start again.

Digital Hands

Never mind, enthusiasts might say. We still have the TV remote which allows you switch and channel hop at leisure and doesn’t necessarily remember your ‘favourites’.

Hang on, scientists at Newcastle University and Microsoft Research at Cambridge have come up with a sensor, called Digits, to track to track human hand movement which will allow any electronic device to be controlled.

So, soon a simple wave of the ungloved, uncluttered human hand in the direction of the telly will be enough to enable 3D interaction with the device, or mobiles or toasters or whatever.  Goodbye TV remotes.

Hello yet more choice?

Related topic:

Second Screens Are the Obvious Target for Advertisers Now, 11 September 2012


The Financial Express, 9 October 2012

Image: Chmee2