Keeping it in the family

By Julian Clover | February 26, 2009

Content remains King, but the royal carriage is changing, and the ruling classes have their eye on the future, writes Julian Clover.

Amid the talk of value added services there is one that can be officially declared as mainstream. The personal video recorder in all its flavours, PVR, DVR, DTR, is now a product that can be ranked above HD, telephony, and maybe even broadband, given its uniqueness to the television proposition.

Being able to record live television has been a realistic option since 1977, when RCA presented the first VHS video recorder in the United States, though it took until the last days of the century that someone came up with one that could be programmed without constant reference to the manual.

Generally speaking the PVR is able to rank itself above high definition, largely because the advantages over not having one can be more easily rationalised, and the numbers that the product is attracting supports this. Needless to say it helps to have a programming offer that is so compelling that the prospect of missing your favourite show is a real possibility. On Monday night I had to juggle three shows all with a start time of 21.00; it goes without saying I have found little to entertain me in the linear schedule for the rest of the week.

The success of on demand services is consequently an easy line to follow and a proven demonstration of the old adage that people actually buy the content rather than the technology. Continuing the theme services such as Canvas, the BBC-led IPTV project, must surely find an easy path into the public consciousness.

It is also achieves a political goal for the BBC and other public service broadcasters to ensure that they can continue to justify their place on the dial and ability to command what remains a public tax, however it is collected. When you analyse the line-up of channels on Freeview it is dominated by the Big 5 and their related channels. Adding their catch-up TV services to the Freeview and Freesat platforms further binds in viewers to the content of the broadcasters that despite the growing number of pay-TV subscriptions have dominated the landscape in the UK since Logie-Baird was a lad.