Advanced Television

Everyone TV CEO: ‘Embrace the streaming age’

January 26, 2023

Colin Mann @ Outside the Box 2023

Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Everyone TV, the freshly rebranded body that brings free British television to UK viewers, has suggested that, going forward, it will seek to evolve the services it offers to viewers, building on the strengths of broadcast TV, and embracing the potential of the streaming age.

Delivering a keynote address at the Outside the Box 2023 conference in London, Thompson told delegates that the universality of access to content was under threat, and needed to evolve to survive.

“But of course while principles can endure, their manifestation needs to change to reflect how the world, technology, and consumers are changing around us,” he admitted. “Universality was a simple premise to understand and deliver in an analogue world, and we’ve collectively done a good job of ensuring it has been maintained in the age of digital broadcasting. But as we move into the third era of television – the streaming age – we must think about how we can ensure that the principle of universality endures,” he asserted.

He argued that innovation should not become the sole or even the main gateway to British viewers being able to find British content. “Nor should it lead to ‘echo chambers’ of TV viewing where we’re served up what we already know we like, not what we might like,” he added.

“Every day, it seems, we hear a warning from the dark-side of social media of the real dangers when consumer outcomes are determined only by an algorithm, based on the philosophy that more of what you want is all you need,” he said. “Let’s not make the same mistakes – and fall into the trap of allowing the future of how people find and watch TV to be shaped not just partially – but entirely – by global players whose fundamental responsibilities are not to British viewers or the strength of democracy in Britain.”

As we start to think about the transition to a TV world delivered over the Internet, he suggested that there was a need to deliver what Freeview offered when it launched twenty years ago.

!We need to ensure that every TV home in this country can access the output of our public service broadcasters, simply and easily on their TV. And make sure the opportunities and potential of the streaming age are available for all – with nobody left behind. And that’s why this future cannot be left entirely to market forces to deliver,” he warned.

“There is now an urgent need for Government to be clear on the public role that TV will continue to play in our society. And establish the framework of what we mean by universality in the streaming age,” he stated.

“A core part of this is the forthcoming Media Bill that we hope will shape the revised prominence and inclusion regime for public service broadcasters. But just like digital switchover over a decade ago, once the policy is set, it should then be left to industry to deliver. For me, there are three parts to how industry comes together to ensure we deliver all the benefits of universal TV in the streaming age. Public service collaboration, industry partnership and innovation.”

He suggested the UK’s PSBs have a long history of collaboration in the way their channels, programmes and players are delivered to viewers. “In a TV world increasingly shaped by multi-billion dollar companies, it is ever harder for one individual broadcaster in one country to shape the future of distribution and discovery alone. But working together, if there is one industry in any country that can do it, it is here and is these broadcasters.

He accepted that collaboration between PSBs was only part of the story. “The health of the UK’s broadcasting sector is also built on a wider set of partnerships across the industry. We need an ecology that is open and competitive – where we can harness the undoubted innovation and expertise of global tech firms. But we can also ensure that viewers have choice and flexibility of great programming from anyone willing and able to create it,” he suggested. “We need to continue to innovate in the services we offer and the way in which we engage our viewers. Our recent merger with Freesat means that we can now think about the future of free TV on a platform agnostic basis – to offer viewers a great service regardless of whether they have an aerial, a dish or an Internet connection. We believe that access to free TV – for all – is a core part of the democratic make-up of our country. And that’s why Digital UK is today, changing its name to Everyone TV. Our goal – working for our shareholders and with our partners, is to evolve the services we offer to our viewers, building on the strengths of broadcast TV, and embracing the potential of the streaming age,” he declared. “To ensure that everyone in the UK has access to great TV, maybe the greatest TV there is.”

“Public service broadcasting doesn’t belong to a group of subscribers, customers or shareholders. It does not belong to politicians to fiddle with and test for ideological purity. It belongs to all of us. Make no mistake, this is a pivotal moment in the story that is British TV. We collectively have the opportunity to shape a broadcasting landscape a decade from now that remains as competitive, creative and inclusive as it is today. If you only take one thought away from my talk – it’s that universality as we know it is under threat – and that we can’t allow the future of what we watch on TV to be left to an anonymous algorithm. British creativity will always remain at the heart of our broadcasting system, but we also need to ensure that the arteries that allow these ideas to flow remain open to all. Everyone TV, working with its partners, will work tirelessly in ensuring that the positive benefits of our unique broadcasting system remain available, for everyone,” he concluded.

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