Until the early 1990s digital television broadcasting was thought to be impractical and costly to implement. It soon became clear, however, that to accommodate fast-growing demand for improved quality of signal and a broader range of broadcasters, all-digital technology was a must, beginning with satellite and cable television services.
Digital transmission has since revolutionised broadcasting, bringing us everything from pin-sharp high-definition programming and niche-audience channels, to new information services and computer-interactivity.
We consumers can now view programmes covering innumerable subjects, from the sublime to the truly ridiculous. Never has it been so easy to find out about sharks, Nazis, celebrity cosmetic surgery secrets and disturbing medical ailments, around the clock and in glorious high definition.
It’s not all been about growth and proliferation. There has also been rationalisation – witness the BBC’s decision this week to close BBC3 as a TV Channel and in its place develop a new online service. This might seem like a failure for the BBC, but it is also recognition of how the channel’s target audience is consuming content.
As well as helping to save £100m a year, the corporation made the move to better target BBC3’s young demographic, who are already considered as the most mobile and the most willing to move to an online world.
Video is becoming a more device-independent medium, with audiences consuming content on what they want, where they want – whether that’s watching their favourite series on their mobile during the commute, watching the TV in their home or watching a live sport event on their tablet in their local bar.
Technology has allowed a multitude of ways in which video content can be accessed on a global level, especially with products like Chromecast and AppleTV making the syncing of content across screens effortless.
TV advertising is being seamlessly optimised for any screen size – not surprising given that it is the most effective of all media channels, including online. And with technology making TV easier to access, advertisers are finding new ways reach their target audience too.
Take the Sky AdSmart service for example. It allows motor trade advertisers to choose which Sky boxes receive their adverts, based on location and customer demographic, so the audience is seeing ads that are of interest and relevance to them. Increasing the efficiency of campaigns and therefore revenue, Sky AdSmart is especially useful for automotive retailers that require more localised advertising.
This kind of tailored advertising service is an exciting proposition for advertisers. New research from ThinkBox shows TV ads hit a record high of £4.63 billion in 2013, and tailored advertising will be critical in sustaining that growth. The average viewer watched 47 ads per day in 2013 – that’s four more than five years ago. It’s predicted that TV ad investment is set to grow further this year, aided by the World Cup in Brazil.
Ten years ago we went through the multichannel revolution and today we’re on the brink of another big transition. Whether broadcasting itself remains independent or becomes a subdivision of global technology companies, channels will still have to use content as a differentiator, find ways to maximise profits from new technology platforms and reach out to a highly targeted audience.
One thing’s for sure, digital has made television more dynamic than ever, allowing broadcasters, and now advertisers, to connect more effectively with their audience.