The most notable breakthrough, in my opinion, was the introduction of ‘on demand’ viewing, which was made possible through innovative digital technologies. Watching television ‘on demand’ allows viewers to directly choose the content they consume, as well as the order in which they consume it (hence the name). Viewers could also choose to pause live shows and resume playing later on. This new way of watching TV imitates and draws directly from the newly formed web-surfing culture. The instant gratification found by the simple action of clicking on a link was finally translated into the world of television. Some believe that it won’t be long before major television networks stop using broadcasting schedules all together, and let each viewer create their own schedule.
The same technology that turned passive viewers into active consumers is now being utilized towards interactive TV gambling, expanding the entertainment opportunities that come with your television set. Interactive TV could now allow viewers to place bets using their remote control, directly from their couch. These systems are currently being used in the UK by British SKY Broadcasting and others. Similar systems are being tested in Australia as well. With digital TV taking over in all Western Europe, operators everywhere are looking to develop their interactive services, and betting is one of the more lucrative opportunities.
Interactive TV betting is clearly an element TV incorporated into its system directly from the internet. But there is yet another bold connection between TV and gambling that was made possible through the World Wide Web revolution.
The internet influenced not only the way we watch TV, but also the content we find on it. The dominating genre since the year 2000 has been ‘reality TV’ shows. This genre owes its distinct look to the web-cam phenomena, and its credibility and charm to YouTube-stlye camerawork and editing. Shows featuring ordinary people that have been thrown into (allegedly) unscripted dramatic or comic situations now captured the imagination of a new generation of TV viewers. And this new genre brought with it a new betting opportunity.
Reality-competition shows are similar to sports shows in many ways. Both are unscripted events in which the participants have control over the game and can alter its course. Competitors on reality shows are voted off either by their peers, the viewing audience, a panel of judges, or some combination of the three. The results are kept secret by the producers, and are revealed live. Needless to say, these shows launched a brand new betting culture. All major online bookmakers now offer odds for American Idol, Big Brother, Survivor and the likes. Reality TV money-line and proposition bets have become popular online betting options, and are rapidly growing in annual revenue.
Be it reality TV or sports broadcasting, the technology is now available for people to bet on the outcome of a TV show while watching it live, and to do so directly through their TV set. As I have tried to demonstrate, there has always been a strong connection between gambling and television. Now – and with a little help from the internet – the connection is more direct than ever. As gambling and TV prepare for a shared future, the circle is finally complete.