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IPTV/VoD – Let's inject a little rock 'n' roll

If dreams could come true...

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The more I think about it and the more the days go on, the more I am becoming convinced we need to stop looking at how to put a TV service together and what to put on, and change the way its watched entirely. I'm not talking about some hyped-up, schedule-busting, on-demand system that is a marketing agency's wet dream, but a step further. We need to really come at it all from a different angle and stop being worried that people won't get it or take it up. We need to put something together that's blindingly easy to use and totally, utterly different in every way to what we're used to.

And while we're dreaming it up, we're going to blast Voodoo Chile and Red House from the rafters so the whole world vibrates to the sound of a screaming Fender Stratocaster. Viva La Revolution.

So lately I've been asking myself what I'd do if you gave me £100m for a new TV platform, and it's a rolling mental project that I'm sure will grow into a wild beast over time.

Naturally, everything on demand. Everything. No exceptions. Damn the consequences. Just let the thing run away with itself. You watch what you want, when you feel like it.

Don't make me do anything. I want to sit back and be entertained. I don't care about the wiring or how it gets to me. I don't want to explore or search. I want the best stuff put in front of me but not pushed so much it overwhelms me. I don't want to have use my remote more than necessary. I'm not active, and I don't want red button services. I want you to tell me so I don't have to work after I've got back from a day a work.

I'd start with the whole idea of a live TV "channel" and ditch it outright. A channel is just a playlist of Digibeta tapes and/or digital files that are scheduled to go out one after another from a data centre. Enough of that. We'll have a "now playing" live transmission but from now on, you can tune into anything on the playlist scheduled to TX that day at any time, including things that haven’t shown yet. When you fire up your menu, you get a list of what's playing now. Every item that runs on the TV channel playlist runs on-demand, instead of a continuous stream.

Then, every channel and file would have a label on it telling me how many people were watching it at that moment or had queued it up on their PVR to record it. They would be queued up in terms of how topical and popular they are. I would base my choices on the herd's thoughts, even if that was the truly dire American Idol. Anything that is universally derided by everyone (dating channels with bad audio, cheap porn tat) drops off the menu. I need to be able to delete anything I don't like and banish it from every appearing on my menu again. Offend my eyes, and you are gone in a puff of smoke.

Then I'd pull out the axe and take a leaf from the Stalin school of content distribution, as Universal music did recently. Release everything for free, supported by advertising. Fight the labels and studios if we have to. If you don't want the advertising, upgrade to software that blocks them. All movies for free. All catch-up TV for free. Tell me if I've watched it in the past already and what other people think. Everything, free. No more Teleport or Box Office. That would cost a lot of money, but we have £100m to play with of course, so we wouldn't lose too much sleep.

Stop trying to squeeze more money out of me for everything. I don't want extra charges on my bill, and I don't want to pay silly money for something I only watch once or twice. Put it all in for free and give me a real bargain. Don't give me added extras I don't need or want or lose me in the small print. In my service, everyone gets everything simple, free and packed to the brim.

The physical look of my service would be totally customisable with themes. Design, share, and load your own programme guide. Download someone else's. Channels appear as animated screenshots with pictures instead of text. When you're watching something, your TV is online like MSN Messenger. Your TV is part of a simplified social network like MySpace, where you can add people and things of interest that can introduce you to new programs, movies, artists and material you'd like with a graceful and simple press on the remote. No effort needed.

Why do we even need a set-top box or remote control anyway? My Bluetooth remote is as big as an iPod mini, has hardly any buttons and is sexier than the Wii. I can carry it in my pocket and I can page it from the TV if I lose it somewhere under the piles of gossip magazines my girlfriend has left lying around. While you're at it, give my set-top box the same amount of flash memory I have on my key ring memory stick, not just the pitiful 16Mb I have now. Maybe then there would be enough to do something interesting, software-wise.

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