Two words tell you everything you need to know about today’s announcement that BBC3 is to become an online-only channel: ‘spoiler alert’. The phrase is now part of the cultural language, an everyday reality for consumers of all types of media. And that’s because broadcasting – the notion that we all watch the same thing at the same time – is, for huge numbers of people, dead. Not dying – dead.
That’s why it doesn’t matter that you’ll now only be able to watch BBC3 on the iPlayer. Of all Auntie’s channels it’s surely the best one to be pushed off the terrestrial cliff first — it’s aimed at the yoot, who are tableted and broadband-ed and 4G-ed up to the gonads. The idea that they’ll be bothered by not being able to watch Pramface and Snog Marry Avoid? on that steam-powered thing in the corner of the room called a … what was it again? … oh yes, a ‘television’ … is ridiculous.
I mean, even old farts like me are used to the fact that online is now the mainstream. The biggest TV hit of recent years – Breaking Bad – has been watched by different groups of people at different times via different media. Some people signed up to Netflix for the final series last summer. I was in the group who waited for the series to be released on DVD. It meant a couple of months of making sure that Netflix-enabled friends didn’t reveal anything to me. But they were happy to do that – which is exactly my point.
We live in a Spoiler Alert world now. Everyone accepts that others might not yet have seen TV shows, and tailors their conversation accordingly. The same thing happens with films – I saw Skyfall about a month after it came out at the cinema, long after several of my friends had done so.