TV, Channels and Social Networks – a day with DigiTV

I was speaking yesterday at the DigiTV Stakeholder Event alongside Steven Flower of Substance/Plings – exploring how information providers can ensure their information and services are ready not just to feed into the ‘channels’ young people use, but also into the networks and social networks through which young people and the wider population are increasingly accessing information*.

Presentation slides
If you were at the event and are looking for the slides I promised to share, you can find them as a a PDF download here or Slideshare here.

The future of TV
The last time I lived in a household with a TV was 2003 and that was an old analogue set, so I’ve not yet got my head fully around the current versions of digital TV. Which meant that and hearing Ian Valentine from Miniweb (and formally from the R&D team at Sky) speak about both the present and the future of digital TV was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The convergence of TV set and always-on broadband internet connection looks set to have some really interesting implications.

Below are a few quick reflections on some of the content of yesterday:

  • An interactive platform for the household? – The mobile phone, laptops, and even family computers are set up as private screens. One user at a time. The TV still appears to operate in most settings as a shared screen. With digital messaging (TV e-mail / RSS feed to TV?) and social interaction features (share with a friend etc.) built directly into the television watching experience, not as separate applications that requires a move away from TV watching to access, is there a potential for digital messaging and social-networking features based less around the individual, and more around the household?
  • Digital TV services are not just for access at home – Continuing the theme of the shared screen – one presenter talked about how they have installed digital TV in some community venues they work in, in order to provide access to the services they have developed digital TV interfaces for. At first this seems odd – surely those venues already had internet access and computers which could be used to access the very same services. But the Digital TV interface was, perhaps significantly because of the constraints of the platform, much easier for the target group of the service to use. The idea of simple interfaces to interactive tools on a shared screen is really quite appealing for a lot of contexts (e.g. youth group working on a consultation without other digital distractions etc.).
  • Service delivery via digital TV will no longer just be a way of reaching the 30% or so of internet non-adopters. As the TV becomes a broadband internet access device to parallel other alternative screens such as the phone screen, it is reasonable to assume it will become increasingly important to create TV-ready websites. Ian from MiniWeb spoke a bit about the wTVML markup gateways they have been developing as a way of translating standard CMS driven websites into TV-ready interfaces with the addition of a little XML to the website templates. This makes it more important than ever to develop standards compliant sites from the start.
  • Social Networking comes to the TV. Some of the features of next-generation digital TV shown at the event highlight the potential for rich social networking tools and platforms to be built into the TV. This is one to keep an eye on when it comes to Youth Work & Social Networking – and thinking about safer social networking.

Even so, I’m sticking to the Radio.