4 year out people are never that popular in the playground:cry:

© gary hayes 2005Didn’t want to use that title but there are limited ‘personal’ pun opportunities sadly. In my time at the BBC from 1995 to 2004 I was caught uncontrollably on the crest of the emerging media wave (my bio for those who are interested can be found here). As a leader within the emerging media part of the organization I was often ‘expected’ to be visionary and foretell the future. This has it’s good points but many, very many bad points. Progress is often slow and even though the BBC is now seen as a pioneer in many ways, inside the organization one was often caught walking in treacle, trying to convince the unbelievers.

I remember after we had developed most of the interactive TV pilots and then early services to air – apart from synchronization and return path (that I partly introduced later) we were unlikely to see very much more innovation on interactive TV. I became attracted very quickly into the potential of on demand TV services (given that broadband to PC was still a poor cousin). In fact I actually produced the very first BBC broadband TV service X-creatures, for a London audience running on 2.5Mbps DSL in 2000 – but that’s another story. Anyway getting to the point it became blatantly obvious in 2001 or so where we (the industry and the BBC) were headed, long term. This was compounded by the fact that I was involved as Chair of the Business Models for TV-Anytime that was already working 5-7 years out into the future on a hyper-distributed, on-demand, anywhere, anytime standards universe. Always being the 4 year out person is tough, people prefer those safe, cuddly 4 week out production people 😉 Here are some predictions I gave in 2000 at a few conferences including Perth’s famous Small Screen Big Picture – not going to make me popular with anyone is it!

“Over a 15 year, medium term broadband future terms such as Film, TV, Radio & the Internet will start to disappear from our next generation’s vocabulary. Audiences will interactively share & access video, audio and games across a sea of devices, partly oblivious of appointment-to-view in the 20th Century.”
Gary Hayes – Snr Producer, BBC. Presentation at Small Screen Big Picture, Nov 2000, Perth

I was caught at one end between production catching up with those early aspirational services and at the other end the joys of developing peer-to-peer and on-demand TV strategies 10+ years out. This does indeed stretch a person because (and it would be great to have a quote for this, suggestions please) to look forward with a sense of realism you have to hold in your mind the trail of breadcrumbs back to the present day. Sounds pompous but if one loses that trail you come adrift, lose the plot, float off into blue sky – many have succumbed to this sadly. I tried to keep feet on the ground and mostly succeeded I hope.

To the present day and it is with great satisfaction that my BBC are finally preaching those words at the Director General level. To quote Mark Thomson again.

I see no reason why BBC broadband reach shouldn’t approach the historic levels achieved by the BBC’s television and radio services…we believe that on-demand changes the terms of the debate, indeed that it will change what we mean by the word ‘broadcasting’. It’s not, of course, the only feature of this phase of digital, but we believe it’s by far the most important as far as the BBC is concerned.
This decade will be the decade of on-demand.

Posted by: © Gary Hayes 2005