Wednesday, August 24, 2005

25 Years Online in the Netherlands: A Compact History in 25 Instalments

Instalment 24: Television

It took quite a while before the Dutch public and commercial broadcast world took new media and internet in particular seriously. One of the new media pioneers was Valkieser, which started to produce CD-Is and CD-ROMs, and was able to seamlessly move to the production of internet sites.

Captain Cook, CD-i production by Valkieser; have a look at the promotion movie

Of the public broadcasting companies VPRO understood early on that internet was going to change its business. In the spring of 1994 VPRO broadcasted a series of educational programs about internet on the Sunday night. On January 2, 1996 the facilities company NOB started a new media company NOB Interactive, which produced CD-Is, CD-ROMs and from 1997 onwards Internet.

Broadband developed slowly, so there was not reason for the broadcast world to move fast. One of the first experiments was Snelnet (Fast net) for people who had missed the regular news broadcasts. It is only now that ADSL, cable and glass fibre are spreading that the opportunities for the broadcast companies start to come through. IPTV has now become a serious possibility. Telecom companies like KPN and Versatel bundle television and other services like soccer games and video-on-demand in their ADSL offer, inclusive telephone and internet (triple play). Cable companies have similar offers.

For broadcast companies broadband opens new perspectives. They have now an extra distribution channel for live web radio and web tv. But at the same time they have the opportunity for putting broadcasts online such as news editions, but also drama series to be consulted by the viewer at his/her own convenience. RTL for example is experimenting with dramatic series; the company wants to collect money and protects the instalment from piracy by Digital Rights Management software. NPS and VPRO work together in theme channels like the history theme channel. School tv have produced image banks for various age groups.

Left: history theme channel with VPRO contribution on the worst ice skating event in the Netherlands; right: screen of the image bank for toddlers (both: compliments of

Ahead of all broadcast companies is VPRO with its site, in fact an authoritative online pop magazine. All programmes, news items, festivals and, of course, the huge audio - and video archives have been opened up and are more accessible. In the 3voor12 TV version, radio - and Internet makers have produced a 24-hour TV channel with clips and well-known pop-journalistic programmes for the Internet and digital television. The channel is produced directly from a mini studio and done with a do-it-yourself-mentality.

Screen of 3voor12 music channel

Another trend in the broadcast world is interactive television. With a digital set top box at home programs and plays can be called up. With the four colour keys on the remote control one can move through a program interactively or play a game. Interactive games become in this way an extension to existing programs. As the conversion to digital television has only started recently in the Netherlands, the number of interactive television programs and plays are still limited.

Two screens from interactive television. Left: the Willem Wever game and quiz as an extension to the televison program; right: Dutch interactive version of the BBC program Walking with beasts

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