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Only quick thinking will save TV from permanent disruption

By Gordon Young | Editor

April 2, 2012 | 3 min read

Why I blurted it out I have no idea. There I was in the office of Tess Alps – who as the head of Thinkbox is basically the tub-thumper in chief for traditional linear TV. And what did I do? I told her I didn’t have one. A TV that is. Alps and her head of communication looked appalled. “You’re a weirdo,” said Alps, who can cast insults in such a way that it’s impossible to take offence.

“We’ll send you one,” said her PR man, an offer that I suspect was made in haste – evidenced by the fact that at the time of writing no 50” parcel has arrived. Now I’m not so weird that I would refuse a free TV if offered but I’m still not motivated to hit Argos for one any time soon.

The truth is, for the time being at least, my family and I are content consuming our entertainment on computers, phones and tablets. Admittedly, not everyone would put up with the quality, but the the flexibility of being able to watch what you want, when you want, where you want outstrips this drawback, for me at any rate.

Meanwhile, my three kids simply would not comprehend the concept of a TV schedule or understand what you’d use a printed TV listing for. In other words, the linear model of TV to them is as weird as the fact that we do not have a dedicated TV is to Thinkbox.

Questioning the sustainability of linear TV is almost sacrilege to Thinkbox. This is obvious when you read their recently published review of 2011. In the opening paragraph of her foreword Alps boldly states that technology is not weakening linear TV, but on the contrary, is making it stronger.

Meanwhile, days later The Telegraph published a report claiming that 36% of Britons no longer watch live TV. The very first comment under the piece was from Alps, who challenged the veracity of the data.

You can understand why Alps is so passionate in the defence of this model. Because it is still the foundation stone for the mainstream TV channels who fund Thinkbox to lobby on their behalf. And in many ways she may have a point – for the time being at least. Broadband speeds and online providers haven’t really evolved to the point where they can offer a real alternative to the traditional TV providers.

But that is beginning to change. And as we report in the 30 March issue of The Drum, big brands such as Procter & Gamble are beginning to notice.

This market will soon face huge disruption and it is time it faced up to that fact. If it moves now it might avoid making the same mistake as its counterparts in the music and newspaper business. That is something Thinkbox should be thinking about now.


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