Posts Tagged ‘Television’

Don’t write-off Microsoft yet. It has patented an application for incentivising people to watch more ads. It’s a clever idea, but may suffer from a fatal flaw. Erm….adverts. They are everywhere.

Have you ever had the misfortune to watch a programme on the ITV player? If you are interrupted and put the programme on hold, and you lose connection, you may have to re-start the app. Each time, you have to sit through the ads before you start watching. If you are unlucky, and keep being interrupted, you have to watch ads over and over again, before you can start viewing the content.

That is an extreme example. But we have all had that frustration of channel surfing only to find ads on virtually every channel. And you must have noticed that on some shows the ads seem to appear every few minutes. Take the ‘X Factor’. In part one we are reminded of what happened last week and what is happening in part two. Then we have the ads. In part two we get the highlights of part one, a sneak preview of part two and then we get the ads. It continues.

So we look away. It’s like a battle between our ingenuity in avoiding ads, and advertisers’ ingenuity in putting their ads in front of us.
Now Microsoft has patented an app for its recently announced Xbox One, due out later this year, using the technology behind its Kinect product to incentivise us to watch ads.

So the technology knows when we are not watching ads, when our eyes are, as it were, averted, but gives us credits when we give the ads our full attention.

It is thought we will be able to trade the credits for free content. There is one snag. Advertisers want to target their ads as accurately as possible. And if people start viewing them because they are being paid to do so, is there not a chance they will be the wrong type of audience?

The advertising industry itself, talks about ads being more interactive; about us choosing to view them. Well, let’s wait and see.

© Investment & Business News 2013


Choice: you could say there is quite a lot of it these days. And now the world of TV may be set to change. If the latest plan revealed by YouTube proves to be a winner, it may be bad news for ITV, BSkyB, Channel Four, Fox TV, and even the BBC. It will be good news for content producers. And the choice will be yours. Forget about a few hundred channels all pretty much showing the same old rubbish, and all dominated by ads. The world of TV is changing, but is this good or bad?

Time was when the nation tuned into the same TV show. ‘

Morecambe and Wise’ on Christmas Day – it was harder to find someone who didn’t watch it than someone who did. It is not like that these days, although certain programmes try to fill that slot. So when a few million viewers tune into the ‘X Factor’, they can share the experience of watching ads every few minutes, and at the end of each ad slot, there’s a summary of what’s happened so far, and a preview of what is to come. Sometimes that’s all we get, before the ads start again.

It is the price you pay for free. Get your content free, and be inundated with ads.

Then there is the dominance of the big TV channels. They decide for us. The programme controllers decide what we want to watch. Some say it has resulted in a kind of mass of sameness. We don’t get TV that’s dumbed down any more; instead dumbed down TV seems like the height of intellectualism compared to what we get – that’s what some say.

Now YouTube has revealed its subscription service. A number of content providers, such as National Geographic and another focusing on Harley Davidsons can provide their content, and to obtain it we pay a monthly fee. The fees start at $0.99 a month.

But project forward. Will your favourite football team have its own channel? Will there be a channel devoted to ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Downton Abbey’ or ‘Homeland’? There could be a vampire channel, or the zombie station. And for those who like their news in depth, channels for investors interested in emerging markets, or investing in bonds, or even a channel for South Sea bubbles.

In short we will see the rise of Long Tail TV. ‘Long Tail’ is a book by former ‘Wired’ magazine editor Chris Anderson, which proposed that in the Internet age, global audiences will emerge and we will see goods and services aimed at niche markets.

YouTube is not alone. There is Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.

It seems the bucks will flow to content producers, and away from content distributors, such as TV channels.

It’s a brave new world, but will it really be that wonderful? Is there not a danger we will only watch TV that conforms to what we have watched before? Are we are less likely to discover new genres and new content from new content producers?

Won’t our pre-existing biases be reinforced?

YouChoose, YouDecide, but YouMayNotWantTo.

© Investment & Business News 2013

Sport. Michael Owen is on the team. So is Robin van Persie. In fact, with Rio Ferdinand in defence and David James in goal, it is not a bad team. But this is no football side. It’s BT’s new sports commentary team. The very tall – at least he looks very tall when standing next to Formula One drivers – Jake Humphrey and Clare Balding are on-side too.

It is just part of BT’s broadside against, well against lots of companies, but BSkyB in particular.

And BT seems to be playing it both ways. So, you can sign-up to the full service, and use BT for your broadband, TV, and…well…the works. Or course, you can just use BT for your broadband and get its sports coverage thrown in for free. So that’s both sides covered. But there is a third side too. Don’t want BT as your main TV provider, don’t want its broadband, but do wants its sport coverage… well you can just sign up for that. So BT is going against and complementing BSkyB all at the same time.

Then there is its second goal – 4G – BT has joined the world of 4G, and is back in the game of providing a mobile service network for the first time since it sold 02. Its third goal – or attempt at a goal at least – is its ambitious aim to roll out its fibre optic network – it already has 1.5 million customers for this service.

And yet BT – along with BSkyB, ITV, Channel Four, Virgin Media, and even the BBC – faces a new type of challenge. There is premium content from the Internet as the likes of YouTube, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu enter the world of TV content. This is the approach that enables content providers to provide their own channel under the auspices, say, of YouTube.

You may be feeling a sense of déjà vu. A similar war was declared one and a half decades ago, as the ISPs – the likes of AOL – provided their proprietary content, and virtually tried to lock users in to their content only. Non-proprietary won the day, of course.

Now the war is being replayed, but this time the battle ground is over TV type content.

© Investment & Business News 2013


Zombies are everywhere. They dominate the TV and offerings at the cinema. They are rife across the economy too. Some say interest rates need to go up; that there are too many companies that are being artificially propped up by low interest rates. They say that if the cost of borrowing goes up the zombies will be slain, and the economy can get on with the serious business of growing again.

One of the problems with taking a look at this issue is that there is very little, if any, hard data. How many zombie companies are out there? Does anyone know? If the media repeats the same thing often enough, it may feel as though it is true – because we keep reading about zombie companies they must be out there.

Last week Capital Economics attempted to take an objective look at what it called the zombification of the UK economy. There is an oddity concerning the logic of saying the economy is being overrun by zombie companies. The evidence for this claim is partly that insolvency levels are low. Does that not strike you as a circular argument? There must be lots of zombie companies out there because the level of bankruptcies is low.

Capital Economics said the low levels of liquidation could “be explained in part by the fact that corporate profitability has held up surprisingly well and by the consequences of the 2002 Enterprise Act in encouraging business rescue over liquidation.”

It also suggested, not unreasonably, that even if there are companies out there that have a kind of zombie feel about them, this may simply be a symptom of the fact that the UK is in the midst of its worse economic downturn ever recorded.

If these zombie companies were allowed to fail, is there not a danger that unemployment would surge? Maybe it would be better to purge the zombies when the economy is recovering.

But let’s say that there is something in this idea of zombie companies. This is a view typically held by those on the right-er wing of the political spectrum who see the solution as creative destruction. (You don’t have to be right wing to hold those views, but that is how it normally is.) Advocates of upping interest rates typically sign up to what’s called the Austrian school of thought. Let the markets decide, and let central banks step back and stop interfering.

But here is an alternative idea for dealing with zombie companies. Keep interest rates low, but increase the minimum wage.

Such a policy shift would have several beneficial effects. So called zombie companies with poor levels of productivity, may find they cannot survive if they have to pay their staff more money. So, such a change would destroy the zombie companies.

According to the Austrian economic theory, the companies that can afford to pay their lowest paid staff a higher wage could then move into the vacuum created by the destruction of zombie companies.

But what about the downside of an increase in the minimum wage? See Is it time to increase the minimum wage?

©2013 Investment and Business News.

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