Editor ©RapidTVNews | 13-09-2011

The linear television Dinosaur can breathe a little easier, for the On-Demand Ice Age may not be freezing up the place quite as soon as predicted, or feared (depending which side of the technology fence you sit on).

That linear television will remain the dominant force for the next decade at least was the very firm conclusion reached by an expert panel at NDS' IBC 2011 Perspectives discussion on the Future of Linear Programming in an On-Demand Universe.

It would appear that universe isn't quite so universal. Christian Constant from Kabel Deutschland: "As a cable operator with 9 million subscribers, we still think for a long time ahead, using traditional (linear programming) is the best way to deliver product to the consumer.

"We're very respectful of anything coming out of California (Apple TV and Google TV) but we have to provide something for everybody. Apple, as it is now and going into the immediate future, is not a mainstream product and a long shot from replacing traditional broadcasting."

Andrew Ioannou, Director of Strategy at ITV in the UK, supports this view, pointing to the difficulties involved in delivering on-demand content in the highest quality when bandwidth is far from unlimited.

"As bandwidth increases, it provides an opportunity to get content to consumers, but I still think there's a way to go.

"Sitting down to watch content in a lean-back situation is still the dominant mode. Customers are looking for simplicity - getting to content easily."

NDS' Senior Vice President, Advance Products and Marketing Yoni Hashkes believes simplicity is critical. "Consumers are simple creatures. They don't like fragmentation and there are too many ways to get content into the home and onto devices.

"Many regimes have come and gone but the best monetization comes from platforms delivering high quality viewing experiences.

"Consumers like following somebody, following the three to four channels they like. How many people break into a cold sweat when they're sitting with their partner trying to work out what VoD film to watch," he says.

Decoupling catch-up TV from pure VoD may be necessary to understand how platform operators view on-demand as a business. It's the same technology but consumed for very different reasons.

"People are using catch-up TV to watch the linear programming they've missed," says Andrew Ioannou.

According to Christian Constant, much of catch-up TV is the result of people "federating" around content, talking about it at work, or on social networks. But it's part of the linear process, not in opposition to it.

"Catch-up TV has to start with linear programming," he says.

"Big appointment television is very important and will remain the backbone of TV consumption."

The popularity of appointment television like X Factor on ITV in the UK shows how important the linear experience remains for most viewers, but also presents an opportunity for channels to use companion devices like iPads and smartphones to pack enriching stuff into that relationship between programme and viewer.

"The 'Now' will become much more relevant, as thousands of people enjoy being able to influence what they're watching," says Yoni Hashkes. "A massive use of technology to enhance the linear experience."

None of this is to say OTT and VoD don't present huge opportunities to platform operators and channels seeking to exploit their often huge archives.

"Content remains King. 52 percent of our content is ITV produced and Apple TV and Google see that as an opportunity," says Andrew Iaonnou. "They are opportunities we are looking at to deliver content and increase revenue."

VoD represents an opportunity to extend the life and value of archives, with NDS pledged to extend functionality and product reach for content owners and channels.

"There's a lot of content sitting unused," according to Yoni Hashkes. "Using technology there'll more distribution, different types of channel will emerge."

However, quality of service and delivery will be immensely important. "OTT for me means something with less quality than an HD channel accessed at the push of a button," says Christian Constant. "Why would a consumer choose that?"

Back to bandwidth then.