Saturday, 25 October 2008

Season of mists, football and nights-in watching the telly

It’s been one month since I got back from honeymoon. In that time, the tree by the pub in the square has changed colour, lost its leaves and now reveals, once again, the strands of a plastic bag that got caught in the branches in the winter. But there is no one outside drinking anymore to witness the change.

Where have they all gone? Indoors, it seems, in front of the TV. Every year, it's the same story. As the days get shorter and colder, people turn to the TV for comfort. X Factor, Coronation Street and Eastenders are giving millions of people up and down the country a little feeling of warmth while outside it's grey and wet.

Strangely, many people think TV is dying - no one cares to watch it anymore. Some believe that TV will soon be a collection of programmes available anytime, with people watching what they want when they want. Perhaps, one day. Right now, though, TV is as popular as it has been in the last five years; and people are watching it live.

Maybe it’s because we spend all our early years following the class schedule – 08.00 Maths, 08.40 English, 09.20 History… – that we just can’t handle having everything in free-form. We still arrange to meet people at a particular place and time. We do just the same thing for TV. We even speak of having a date with Simon Cowell, when we turn down an evening out.

Yet most talk these days about online TV revolves around so-called catch-up video or video on demand (VOD). I read an article over on gHacks.net about watching TV online legally. No mention of Zattoo, so I put in a little plug for it in the comments only to come away with my tail between my legs, as I was told the article was about pre-recorded content. No doubt about it: but nothing in the title or the article said so explicitly. It's just the expectation.

Yet millions of people are watching live TV over the internet. Some like to keep up-to-date with the news; others can't get to the pub for the weekday game; and so many more like to get their regular TV right on the PC screen, where they're used to spending their time.