Digital Concert Hall now on Smart TVs

It’s taken a bit of a while, but the Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall service has now been turned into a Smart TV app.

I only discovered the development by chance when I browsed the brochure for the forthcoming season; a reminder that print sent in the post remains a powerful way to have a positive impact especially when physical mail is sporadic and underwhelming. 

It’s a welcome development. As a potential subscriber I like the way the Digital Concert Hall keeps the live streaming experience separate from YouTube (where I experience most other live streams), setting expectations high with performances from an internationally-renowned orchestra.

Sign up

Signing-up is swift too – one very clear on-screen prompt directing me to use another device to input a unique PIN. After that the page on-screen updates automatically. Then its one click to watch Beethoven 3 for free. Setting up a login automatically grants me a free 7-day ticket – activated when I select a billable piece of content. 

The full subscription for forty live streams plus access to an archive of concerts and interviews, is around about £140. That works out at £3.50 per concert or £11 a month. That final equivalent is a lot for me (on top of the other services I susbcribe to on a monthly basis), which is what prompted a different line of thinking. 

What is really striking (and fundamentally depressing) is the distinct lack of women in nearly every visual cue – holding slides and video. The talent roster too is dominated by men in both print and in-app. The Berlin Philharmonic appear to have overlooked the fact that the app is a window on the orchestra’s attitude to diversity and representation. In this way, the Berlin Phil presents itself as entirely out of step. The more I think about that observation, the more I think it would stop me from signing up for the service.

What I want next

What I’d sign up for in a heartbeat is a service with a Connected Smart TV app that offered a range of content delivered in a variety of different formats – audio, video, text or imagery, live, catch-up and archive. And importantly, for the arts world to really grab the bull by the horns, it would need to be a rich cultural offering too – visual art, performing arts, literature, etc. It needs to be unmediated – so no presenters please.

I’d also like there to be curation of mixed format content that could be played across devices – eg start on the TV and then switch to a mobile or tablet when I move to a different room. And when I’m in the room with the TV, I’d like the app on my mobile or tablet to run alongside what I’m watching on the big screen in front of me, effectively giving me a second screen’s worth of content supporting what I’m watching/listening to.

Where’s Medici TV’s app?

There’s one other service which is en route. Medici TV does offer multi-disciplinary arts experiences but it is, incredibly, only available via a web browser. Quite why they’ve not gone the whole hog and developed even an app for IOS or Android I’ve no idea. Visit any European concert where Medici TV are partnering and the organisers will gladly tell everyone of the distribution network’s involvement.

Medici is a big deal (even if it doesn’t appear so in the UK) which suggests the capital exists to invest in the technology. Maybe its in development. Where the BBC is concerned, my hunch is that ‘BBC Music’ – a brand often referenced on-air – might be the first tentative steps to a similar sort of offering.

But as far as I can make out, there’s nothing out there which pulls together all of the arts both on-demand and curated in a Connected TV/multi-device app. All that requires is for multiple arts organisations to join forces and recognise what they could achieve together in terms of digital access. For some organisations that’s going to be a little more difficult than for others. 

The much-maligned Digital Concert Hall (it costs an arm and a leg to keep going I understand) is one step closer to that. 

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