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Three Screens or Thirty-Three? Multi-screen is the key

by User Not Found | 4月 27, 2009

I’ve been a bit bemused by one of the more recent hype phrases that has come to dominate discussions in the media technology industry: “three screens”. It’s as though for the first time since the 1920s people are now able to choose the size of display on which they watch TV… What the phrase is intended to encapsulate, I think, is “three platforms”. In other words, the “broadcast” platform delivers to “TV”, the “wireless” platform to “mobile phones”, and the “internet” (or broadband) platform to “PCs”. Sorry for all the inverted commas, but the fact is that “screen” is becoming ever more divorced from “platform”, and that’s why the three-screen analogy just doesn’t stack up. In fact, all of these delivery platforms can be used to deliver video to any size of screen. For the last 80 years or more the broadcast industry has been delivering TV to small, and, yes, even handheld, displays. The earliest TVs were indeed only a few inches in diagonal, because the technology behind the cathode ray tube was in its infancy and extremely expensive to execute. And ever since LCD displays were commercialised in the 1980s we’ve been able to buy small, portable handheld TVs which receive broadcast TV. Not many people did buy them, but that’s another story. So “screens” have come in all shapes and sizes ever since the dawn of the technology, and for many years households have typically owned two or more screens for watching TV. What’s changing is how content is delivered to those screens, and for most sizes of screen people now have several choices in how they access content. Broadcasting still dominates for “big screen” TV, but I can buy broadcast DTV tuner cards and USB sticks for my PC, and I can access broadcast services on mobile phones in many countries. IP broadband dominates for PC “screens”, but that’s because IP connectivity became de facto in the PC market more than a decade ago. If I was brave enough I could install connected devices to bring “TV” via IP to my big screen TV, and the process will surely become easier over the coming years. To watch TV on my mobile phone I can use the broadcast (see above) or the cellular networks (combined with IP in some cases). Today’s 3G networks don’t tick all the boxes for delivering TV and video, but that may change as 4G comes along. Mobile operators will certainly be targeting users of other “screens” with TV and video services, though they will have a tough job competing with alternative platforms. So to understand the trends more precisely, media companies really need to think in terms of multiple screens aimed at different user segments and different behaviours. We will all have access to several screens during a typical day, each one is potentially a TV and video display, and each one might be supported by more than one platform. It may not be as neat and simple as the three-screen hype but it does better reflect the complexities, and the opportunities, of the emerging digital media environment. Twitter: Client Reading: Digital Media Survey: Italy Country Profile Add to Technorati Favorites
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