TV used to be a pretty passive experience - you’d sit down and watch what the broadcasters were showing at that time and maybe afterwards discuss the show with a friend or family member.
But today we’re increasingly interacting with our TVs and engaging with shows and fellow audience members in new ways to such a degree that the phrase ‘TV viewer’ no longer really covers the totality of our viewing experience.
As a society we’re becoming ever more data-hungry, and while it’s often claimed our attention spans are shortening, we’re actually embracing a mew multi-tasking approach to content consumption.
Increasing numbers of us pick up our tablets and smartphones while watching TV to join our friends in discussing, mocking and arguing over the merits of the latest crop of Apprentice candidates or talent show wannabes.
This use of non-TV devices to engage with shows is referred to as the ‘second screen’ experience and broadcasters are increasingly looking at ways to harness it, for example with companion apps and tie-in content.
Meanwhile manufacturers are developing their own ways to combine our sudden discovery that one screen isn’t enough and put our expensive gadgets to use in augmenting what our TVs and home entertainment gadgets can do for us.
A good example of this is Sony’s use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology – a very limited range wireless tech – to scoop content from a compatible smartphone and display it on that expensive big TV screen.
This ability to flip content from one device to another isn’t exactly new – it’s the sort of thing the early adopter crowd have been doing for a while – but it’s only just starting to filter down to the mainstream end of the market.
If you’re wondering why this would be of use – consider the potential for carrying on your latest game app but in the full, glorious colours of a large TV screen, or viewing your photos on the TV while playing some suitable music in the background.
Of course, some TVs aren’t only able to display content you store on your mobile devices, they’re also able to play and display content either from the wider internet or closed, subscription based services such as the Sony Entertainment Network which offers Pay Per View films, YouTube and access to big brand content libraries such as LoveFilm and Netflix.
These TVs are known as Connected or Smart TV's and are becoming increasingly popular in homes which want a little bit more to watch then the standard Freeview TV experience but aren’t really interested in signing up for a fixed-term pay-TV contract.
The BBC is currently running a campaign talking up the benefits of Smart TVs, unsurprisingly given that in May 2013 it received 6m requests from such devices for its iPlayer content – double the number for the same month last year.
Last year we dusted off out usual British cynicism and spent hours replaying the Olympic games opening ceremony via the IPlayer, revelling in the way we’d disproven the world’s (and out own) doubts about the UK’s ability to pull off the single biggest live show on the face of the planet.
And while we all expressed polite surprise at the world’s attention to our games, in truth we’ve provided it with some of the most-watch TV events in history.
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From Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation to Charles and Diana’s wedding, through to William and Kate’s 2011 splicing of the knot, back to those games, we have as a nation drawn our global neighbours around their TV screens for unmatched examples of pomp and ceremony.
Here in the UK it turns out that, hat tip to Frank Gallagher, we know how to throw a party everyone wants to come to. And not only does TV allow them to fulfil that ambition, but Smart TV allows them to re-live it time and again.