The UK digital switchover is almost complete, UK households are the most "digitally aware" in Europe, and next year London will be broadcasting both the Diamond Jubilee and the biggest sporting event on the planet. The Queen's coronation in 1953 catalysed the popularity of the television set in ordinary households; 2012, in contrast will be the year for thinking outside the box.
It was hugely symbolic that this year Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt became the first non-broadcaster to deliver the MacTaggart Lecture, the TV industry's keynote speech. Next year we will see a seismic shift in how we understand, view and make television. Schmidt simply summed up these trends as 'mobile, local and social.'
There are four themes to watch: viewing platforms, content, business models and regulation. They are all likely to change.
In 2012, UK viewers will soon become used to watching, and even making and distributing television online. Internet TV is not new but television providers, large and small, are seeing this as a burgeoning market, and next year this could become embedded into the UK mainstream.
As viewing trends change, so will content. Watch out for participative, active genres to complement the summer Olympics. Channel 4 predicts a 'multiplatform spectacle' where the 'Campaign Factual' genre will inspire action and engage activism, and 'content for televisions - some of it anyway - is going to become software'. Local content could be produced through non-traditional routes, even from non-traditional players, creating citizen-based news or even grassroots "real reality shows".
Changing platforms and content will cause media companies from big broadcasters to independent producers to explore new business models and funding platforms. This could mean greater permeation of product placement, smarter online advertising and 'appification', but could even mean media start-up social enterprises, cooperative models, or crowdfunding.
All of these changes out of the television box and onto smaller, mobile and touch screens will change the regulatory environment. Mobile apps such as BBC iPlayer and SkyGo will rise in popularity and along with IP TV, this will place further scrutiny on the need for super-fast broadband all across the UK.
But, perhaps most surprisingly, while TV devices may be getting smaller, TV is also going to stay big. 'Mobile, local and social' can only truly happen if it's accessible to everyone, and it will complement, not replace, our current viewing habits. 2012 will be the year for smashing our different screens together, but traditional TV sets, schedules and shows will stick around for a long time yet.
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