Top Gear moves into the fast(er) lane.

Yet another clear sign the landscape is changing.

I don’t watch much TV. It didn’t really suit my lifestyle. I’d binge on box-sets when I got the opportunity to catch up with whatever the world had watched a year or two previously. I did however, watch Top Gear. When it re-launched with Clarkson, Hammond and May, changing from motoring magazine to topical entertainment show, I looked forward to Sunday evenings to watch live when I got the chance.

Now, I watch nothing live, with the exception of sport. (I’ve tried to record important matches to watch later but knowing the result has already been decided means watching it is an over-indulgent waste of time when the result and highlights are easily accessible.) Until recently the power was still in the hands of the main channels as they create and curate the content. But with digital and modern technology levelling the playing field, the power shift is gaining momentum. All the major streaming companies are investing in exclusive content in a bid to win subscriptions and people’s screen time.

Amazon’s recent deal with the old Top Gear trio is a massive signal the ‘broadband era’ brands are where the future lies. Who knows what the next coup will be – will it be an acquisition or new content? It might no longer be a case of, “when it is on” moreover, “when it is available from”. Presently there’s a load of technology that puts power in the consumer’s hand to make the current programming schedule more accessible (Sky+, Tivo, iPlayer et al.)

But the future must surely lie in a system where everything is accessible whenever you want it and the popularity of the program is determined by how much it gets shared, talked about on and offline and ‘goes viral’. People will be sharing links to programs rather than tuning in. Consumers are the ultimate critics after all and will pay attention to each other far more than anyone else.

Does this render the future of Radio Times uncertain?

 

Will Rees-Hooper

11.08.15