No doubt, there will be someone who ordered a last-minute turkey on eBay, parents who got Amazon Prime to deliver on Christmas Eve and an app that creates virtual-reality snow (maybe not yet…).
However nostalgic I get for the good old days of sitting in traffic trying to get into Brent Cross shopping centre, we are all just going to have to agree that this whole online shopping thing is now just normal – three-quarters of us are doing it. The best retailers have seamlessly blended their physical, digital and social selling. It’s not that we don’t want actual shops, we just want to shop the same way we live – at home, on the move or in-store.
TV is no different. As an industry, we are prone to bouts of overexcitement when new digital frontiers have opened up. When on-demand viewing became a reality ten years ago, we were hyperventilating around the possibilities – "made for broadband" content; hyper-targeted, fully interactive and personalised ads; instant click-to-buy from the screen. While there has been useful innovation, the real star of the show has remained the content itself.
It was perhaps easy to forget in those exciting days that, despite the tech advances, we were still talking about TV programmes. We have a saying at ITV that "a screen is a screen" – whether it’s a TV, an iPad or a watch. This idea enables us to make a consistent offer to our audiences across these different delivery platforms.
Indeed, it may surprise people that more than 30 per cent of mobile use on ITV Hub is people watching live streaming of our channels. Mobile tablets and phones are just as much second TVs for people as anything else.
So now that we have stopped swooning over its newness, on-demand viewing will increasingly assimilate into our lives and do the things we want and expect.
Of course, ongoing delivery innovation will continue to be essential. Audiences value enhancements, often small, that make their experience smoother or more delightful – more relevant ads, better recommendations, premières of shows and rewards for loyalty. But they are alert to innovation for innovation’s sake that gets in the way.
New delivery methods have enabled us to evolve rather than replace our core business. As with retailers, the quicker we normalise this within our business, the more coherent it will seem to our audiences. Success is not needing separate online and digital divisions one day.
Realistically, it won’t be the last time we see press stories of a "digital" Christmas. But all the innovation in the world will not replace the basic need to sit on the sofa – or the train, office or shed – and watch unmissable TV.
Paul Kanareck is the director of online at ITV