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The internet will ‘open the door’ to new forms of TV content - BBC

Friday, April 10th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The BBC has said it will use the internet to deliver more programmes and services in the future, as it embraces changes in technology.

BBC chief technology officer Matthew Postgate said the use of internet technologies to deliver programmes will open the door to new forms of content, like Ultra HD or virtual reality.

His comments come amid a steady increase in the amount of TV programmes that are viewed online, and the rise in popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.

Last year’s Ofcom International Communications Market Report (ICMR) revealed that just under a third (32%) of the online population in the UK use the internet to watch TV programmes or films at least once a week – the highest of any European country surveyed.

The regulator’s Infrastructure Report 2014 also found that the number of UK homes with a TV set fell for the first time in several years, dropping from 26.33m at the end of 2012 to 26.02m at the end of 2013.

Writing on a BBC blog this week, Mr Postgate said: “The digital world is changing broadcasting fast and the technology making it all possible is, essentially, the internet.

“It’s not only changing the way people watch and listen to programmes, it will change the way we make them too.

“And we will increasingly use the internet to deliver programmes and services to you in the future – whether that’s to the big screen in the living room or the smartphones and tablets scattered over the house.”

He added: “This opens the door to entirely new forms of content that are much more data-intensive than audio or video – things like Ultra-HD or virtual reality for example.”

Mr Postgate said he wasn't necessarily saying these technologies would take off overnight, or that they would take off “at all”, and traditional broadcast technology would continue to be “critically important for many years”.

'Universal high speed broadband'

But he said using internet technologies was a major opportunity for the BBC’s engineering, digital and editorial experts to “pave the way”.

He used the Olympics as an example of an event the national broadcaster has always “innovated around”, adding: “what kinds of experiences could we provide in 2020 or 2024 if the nation had universal high speed broadband and a broadcast infrastructure designed to take advantage of it?”

BBC Engineering, which was previously known as BBC Technology, is the basis for the BBC’s broadcasting, keeping its services on-air.

Last month Sky’s CEO Jeremy Darroch said connecting customers’ TV boxes to broadband had a “dramatic” impact on viewing habits.

He said around two thirds of Sky’s UK customers were now connected and On Demand users had become the company’s “best advocates”.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has claimed that broadcast TV would be dead by 2030, because of the shift in preference by viewers to on-demand content.

But analyst Oliver Johnson told Cable.co.uk that streaming services may be more popular than ever, but they will never wipe out traditional broadcast TV.

He said: “The growth in total hours watched, streamed on non-linear, is increasing and is increasing quite rapidly but it’s never going to be 100%.

“Streaming serves a purpose, broadcast television serves a purpose, so it will reach an equilibrium but one will never be wiped out by the other.”

Mr Postgate later added to his blog post, saying: “At BBC Engineering, when we talk about taking advantage of internet technologies or being ‘internet first’ we aren’t talking about the BBC doing more with online content or only putting content and programmes online.

“My role is to make sure that the BBC’s technologies that underpin everything we do – from our newsroom infrastructure and new in-the-field production and editing tools, to how we keep the BBC on air and online – are set up in the best possible way, and take advantage of new internet-based technologies.”

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