Looking back over the last ten years of informitv coverage it is interesting to see just how much has changed over a decade. Few would have predicted some of the most significant developments. As we look forward to the next year, what does 2014 hold for the continuing convergence of the internet and television?
With smartphones proliferating and tablet sales destined to exceed those for televisions, the small screen will become an important target for media companies.
These small but increasingly larger screens will become better suited for viewing video without compromise, with high-definition displays becoming the norm as companies compete to deliver higher pixel densities, reducing the challenge of delivering to multiple different devices.
Faster mobile networks, based on internet protocols, will enable high quality video on the move. Broadcasters will begin to explore the opportunities for delivering television channels over these multicast capable networks.
Handheld devices will all be smarter than the smartest televisions and will increasingly be used to complement them as superior user interfaces for media discovery and device control.
Meanwhile large living room screens will also continue to grow in size and resolution. The World Cup in Brazil will drive sales of larger screens. While there will be coverage in ultra-high-definition and some operators will provide showcase services, relatively few people will watch on 4K screens. However, prices will fall from their current premium and 4K sets will soon become the norm.
Initially there will not be much programming available in 4K but the sets will do a good job of upscaling existing high-definition material. The benefits may also be seen in the display of text, graphics and photographs.
There will still be a role for physical formats to deliver the highest possible quality in the home. Blu-ray discs will still offer better quality than most broadcasters or broadband providers can deliver, but a new standard will be required for 4K media.
The UltraViolet initiative to enable people to manage their digital movie collections in the cloud will continue to struggle to gain traction. Consumers will simply expect to be able to access virtually limitless catalogues through service providers.
Netflix will seek to do deals with more cable operators, following the model established with Virgin Media in the United Kingdom.
This will be a critical year for Hulu and its shareholders Comcast, Disney, and Fox will need to commit to its future, having decided to invest significantly rather than sell the company. The strategy is likely to be to work more closely with service providers rather than appear to compete with them.
Pay-television providers will respond with their own services that can deliver premium programming to diverse devices and displays. So far their attempts to offer ‘television everywhere’ have been rather half-hearted, with some notable exceptions.
The availability of a vast amount of video on demand will continue to challenge the concept of the daily and weekly channel schedule, as viewers become accustomed to watching virtual box sets of programmes from back catalogues. Service providers will experiment with release windows, including online access to individual programmes and entire series in advance of transmission.
Network-based services will emerge to replace digital video recorders in the home, but rights challenges will remain an issue.
The concept of a virtual cable operator, offering services over the top to a national or international market remains attractive. As Intel has found to its cost the interests of incumbents continue to frustrate the prospect. Others may find more success.
Major mergers can be expected, as cable operators consolidate to increase scale in saturated markets. Time Warner Cable is a target. Any deal will be subject to regulatory approval. That could in turn pave the way for a possible merger of satellite operators DIRECTV and Dish.
The BBC will begin the process of lobbying to maintain its current licence fee arrangements beyond the current Royal Charter, which runs until the end of 2016. Whether it will be possible to justify the existing model for a further decade, given the rapid transformation of broadcasting, remains open to debate.
Finally, one more thing, Apple may or may not upset the market by disrupting established television models as it has done in other markets. This has been eagerly anticipated every year since the release of the original Apple TV product, before the iPhone and the iPad. If it does, Apple is likely to create a new category of product, rather than a television, and it is unlikely to have a traditional tuner and instead will be a digital media hub connecting to services based in the network cloud.