TV and mobile

Pondering the latest iPlayer stats pack, this comparison really leaps out at me: handheld devices are now as popular as TV viewing for the UK's biggest broadcaster's online catchup service. 

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For those who don't know, iPlayer is the BBC's online catchup service. It has essentially all of the BBC's output (barring a few edge cases) on all channels, generally for 30 days. WIth none of the channel conflicts that beset US providers, the BBC makes it available on as many devices as are practical, for no extra charge. The only restriction is a UK-only geofilter. 

There is an unspoken assumption in discussion of on-demand, internet based TV that a major hurdle to be passed is getting 'it' onto the living room TV, because that is where most viewing will happen. This is where Google TV, Vudu, Roku, Boxee and of course the connected TV efforts of the OEMs focus. 

Yet in the UK, where the single most popular content provider makes its content available on any device, the most popular UI is not this:

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But rather this - a rich touch screen arms-length experience


Now, there are plenty of caveats here. To start with, iPlayer is not yet on Sky boxes, and this will change imminently, which will push the STB numbers back up: given the size of Sky's base that means the 'TV Devices' line could double. And of course PCs remain dominant.

But 10-20% of TV viewing today happens on secondary TV screens. How many of those will be supplanted by hand-held screens? How many people will decide that actually, the best viewing experience is not tied to wires, any more than the best phone experience was tied to wires, and that the combination of portability, a touch UI and the intimacy of a screen you can hold yourself is better than a huge LCD on a wall on the other side of the room? I suspect a large share of secondary screens will convert, and with it a large new slice of viewing as well. That would imply 20-30% of total viewing on might be on non-traditional screens. 

Apple, of course, has a foot in both camps, since the Apple TV lets you browse content on your iPhone and then throw it to the TV screen, as well as browse directly on the TV itself. But perhaps, Apple will never make a TV set because it is already selling a different solution to that problem.