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Have we reached the peak of innovation in television broadcasting?
Last week the IET Anglian Coastal Network hosted a fascinating webinar on ‘The Future of TV: Let’s make it personal’ which started me thinking about what the future will hold.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that only a handful of television stations were broadcasting and now with the introduction of digital terrestrial, satellite, cable and other subscription services there are thousands of channels broadcasting all over the world.
We can now watch what we want, when we want to watch it, where we watch it and with more ‘personalisation’, how we choose to watch it too.  So, if I want to watch the next Formula 1 race entirely from the view of the driver then I can choose to do that as well as bring up other information to enhance my viewing experience. But… what’s next?  As TV watching has evolved so quickly over the past few years, what does the future hold? Is there more innovation to come or have we reached a plateau?
7 Replies
Andy Millar
1731 Posts
Oh, I'm sure there is lots of innovation to come - but I suspect from here on in it will be less technology driven and more "socially" (for want of a better word) driven. I have found lockdown has been fascinating in the way it has shown, after a shaky start, how the technology now allows programmes to be developed and broadcast in the most difficult of circumstances. The technology is not the limiting factor. However, many people (of all ages) comment on the "200 channels, nothing to watch on any of them" situation we find ourselves in, plus the very complex question of whether very narrowly streamed broadcasting, where you only see what you expect to see and feel comfortable with, is a "good" or "bad" thing.

It's going to be very interesting times!


Lisa Miles
1231 Posts
I think (hope) TV will get even more personal in the future! 😊

A few years back I used to be the IET Community Manager for the Multimedia Communications Network (now the IET Media Technical Network) and part of my role involved attending the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam every year.  The work that some of the exhibitors showcase there is out of this world!

I would love to see full immersion TV where you can sit in your living room and have the programme projected all around you as if you're actually there amongst it. I know this can be done using VR headsets but to do it without having to use the headsets would be excellent! I remember the last time I went to IBC there was a company who had created a TV 'room' where the four walls were in fact huge LCD screens on which you could display wallpaper  (yes patterned wallpaper 😉) with virtual windows and a clock on the wall or varying sized boxes displaying different programmes on different channels or use the entire set up to show one specific broadcast such as a 360 degree concert. Now I'd want me one of those...! 

I'd also like to see more personalisation by being able to 'dislike' certain types of content so it's not shown to you again and in the case of broadcast channels, perhaps swapped for something you may like instead. i.e. 'I'd like to see more of this and less of that' in the same way that you can do on YouTube. Especially for advertising where certain adverts really irritate me and as a result I'd never buy that product or use that service on principle.... 😒
2177 Posts
Hmm beware the echo chamber, where you only get shown things that re-enforce existing tastes/ leanings/prejudices/ fetishes/ fanatical tendencies.

I suspect the instant gratification of 'more of what you like' will come under scrutiny soon if not already being looked at, as in some cases I think it can be quite a dangerous and isolating algorithm. (I am not of course suggesting you personally are a suicidal teen or a potential murderous terrorist, but some folk are or do become same, and their ideas should be challenged, not strengthened, and the ability to binge watch all episodes of "Star Treck"  or whatever may be the beginning of a slippery slope of believing you can always just have what you fancy)
Like Lisa, I believe technology will make TV more immersive and 360/3D, with personal options as to how programmes/films progress. There is a danger people then filter out views or biases (conscious or unconscious) that are always useful for wider education and information. We do this today by selecting what we watch or do not watch.
Denis McMahon
253 Posts
I should like to come into this more on the technical side and see how it fits with society. To begin I'll relate the development of TV systems in our household over the last 20 years.

In the early 2000s, we had TVs in various parts of the house, mostly linked to video cassette recorders, so programmes recorded in one place could be viewed in another if necessary. Our aerial fed into a satellite receiver, thence to the RF distribution amplifier, so satellite channels could be viewed in many parts of the house if desired. (In fact it still works this way, though of course not in high definition.)

From 2008, DVD recorders started to replace VCRs. I was not concerned at the time that some of the TV sets were becoming fairly elderly - they worked and of course the DVD recorders gave them the ability to screen the new digital channels.

In 2012, when the so-called digital switchover reached us, we purchased two new flat-screen TVs. The emphasis had now switched to modernising the TV set-up, and we purchased a third smart TV more recently. The arrangement of recording on DVDs in many parts of the house was now showing itself as limited. It was not convenient to record in various places and much of the time was spent poring over the Radio Times working out what could be put on the available space on each disk. And of course this did not take advantage of the high definition capabilities of the newer TVs.

From 2017 I started the first stage of wiring the house for Ethernet  This provided a fast and reliable link between the study computer and my laptop, but I also had in mind that this had the capability to carry HD TV pictures. We now have it in many parts of the house, as well as a strong Wi-Fi signal in most places.

Quite recently this year, a DVD recorder failed. This was the prompt to move the technology forward

We now have a Personal Video Recorder (PVR), with DLNA capability. It has a huge capacity hard drive and acts as a server.  TVs elsewhere in the house can connect through the network to it, as well as to the computer in the study, and view programmes stored there. It is much easier to program this central point than to fiddle with DVD recorders round the house, and of course easier to watch these recordings. We are now here as a result of planning and gradual upgrading over previous years.

I have not found compact discs and digital versatile discs to be reliable as archiving media; they deteriorate after a few years, even if stored unused in the dark. My current hopes are based on SD cards. They are useful as backup media for MP4 files stored on computer disk and are handy portable devices, which can plug into to smart TVs, PVRs, etc.

So now we have smart TVs, which can interface with the Internet, handle various vision standards and do many wonderful things as well as the basic reception of broadcast programmes. We have come a long way since Logie. How has society adapted to these developments, which will be successful and what of the future? I have chosen three technologies.

Stereo sound
This has been available on radio broadcasts since the early 1970s, and latterly on analogue TV using the NICAM system. We now have it on digital TV. But I reckon only a very tiny portion of listening is actually done in stereo. To do so on TV to good effect you need to send the sound signal to an amplifier feeding two speakers with the TV in between. I have a set-up like this in our lounge but the number of other homes where I have seen this I could count with the fingers of one hand. I am sure, and hope, that stereo broadcasting will continue but I don't see much increase in uptake.

High definition, and beyond
You would not believe (or would you perhaps?) the number of people with HD TVs who do not use the HD to full benefit. They stick to old ways - programmes 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. for BBC1, BBC2, etc. thus viewing in standard definition. This is not made any easier by Sky, where programme 101, BBC1 HD on Freeview, is BBC1 standard on Sky. BBC1 HD on Sky is obscurely assigned to programme 115, well out of reach. If you were to believe Dr Digital in Radio Times, you would think that the "In Thing" is now Ultra High Definition (4K). There is however no commonly available broadcast service for this technology and it relies on portable media. It needs a very large screen to show any real advantage over HD, and in most households this would be either impracticable or over-intrusive. Having only recently realised the full potential of HD in our household, I am not yet enthusiastic to the idea of spending a lot more money on a technology that I would have very little use of.

Three dimensions
Pictures in three dimensions have been around for quite a while and new technologies have been introduced. The difficulty in this taking off has been even greater than that of UHD. Few people are prepared to spend a vast sum of money on a receiver when so little programme material is available. I personally am quite keen on 3D; it adds so much to the picture and I believe, and hope, that one day, despite earlier false starts, it will eventually take off.

Summing up, it seems to me that society is quite some way behind technology.

Interesting summary.
We bought a 3D TV some years ago, largely because the salesman said that the 100Hz refresh rate made it worth the few bob extra but we did buy a 3D compatible BluRay player.
I have only found 2 discs that are in 3D even though I scour the charity shops every time I go into one, (and one of these is in German) so the lack of media is what is holding me back from using it more.
Denis McMahon
253 Posts
I am sorry, Harry, that you are not getting value from your 3D TV. Amazon has a few offerings, or you could try organisations like Netflix, which have vast resources and are more likely to promote 3D. Or keep an eye on what Sky is doing next. If 3D ever should get going, these are the most likely places. 



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