One could be forgiven for thinking the future of leisure and entertainment in the UK consists of a couple of hours online gambling, watching sport or ‘participation’ shows on an HDTV before texting in your vote as you listen to downloaded music en route to an actual casino.

While nine out of 10 of us watch TV every day, six out of 10 of us also go online each day outside work. What we do when we get there ranges from looking for goods and services (84 per cent), to downloading music (35 per cent).

Leading the charge are 16 to 24-year-olds. When not online, this demographic is playing computer games on new consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii, both followed into the UK market in March by the much delayed Playstation 3.

Phones for entertainment

The year just gone also saw Microsoft launch the anti-iPod Zune, which was met with reasonable reviews and a collective shrug. Mobile entertainment is still the next big thing, with analysts predicting that connected devices are the future for music and handheld video entertainment.

Forrester Research caused a stir back in December 2006 when it said a 27-month study of credit card transactions on iTunes revealed a 65 per cent fall off in download sales. Apple vigorously denied this. Apple announced the iPhone in January. It will ship in June 2007.

The rise of social networking, the biggest buzz of the last 12 months, and elements such as wikis and blogs pushed ahead, with teen sites like Habbo Hotel attracting huge numbers. Content providers and TV companies have started the pushback at web companies.

First with Viacom suing Google-owned mega site YouTube for $1 billion for wilful copyright infringement and then News Corp-owned NBC saying it would launch a YouTube rival with the backing of some of its TV land competitors.

High power consumption

Also in TV land, the glut of flat panel TVs in the world market will not have been eased by reports that they use 25 per cent more power than traditional CRTs and the oft promised conjoining of IT and TV is still pledged by someone about once a quarter, one of the latest being Apple (again!) with its iTV box.

In November, shoot-from-the-lip CEO Bill Watkins of disk drive maker Seagate was quoted by a Fortune magazine senior editor as saying that his company just helped people buy crap and watch porn. A remark which he claimed was taken out of context and for which he later reportedly apologised to Seagate staff.

In the UK, the move by big terrestrial TV companies into ‘participation TV’ and the ensuing scandals surrounding premium rate telephone lines for phone votes – such as Richard & Judy show – and risible play TV channels is further proof that revenue convergence is here.

Commercial TV companies desperately need call revenues to bolster flagging advertising revenue.

Many TV programmes are subject to investigations and regulator Icstis is calling on companies to “restore trust in participation TV”.

Icstis working to restore trust

Icstis says it is examining connectivity (congestion is leaving votes uncounted); content (competition entries are ignored); costs to consumers (unclear, inaccurate information); contact (ineffective data capture); and value chain responsibilities (broadcaster, production company, and telecoms providers).

Online gambling is now a $12 billion industry – even though you cannot do it in the US – and the UK is leading the charge. This is helped as faster broadband is rolling out, with ADSL 2+ across the UK, promising up to 1Mbps uploads and 24Mbps downloads.

Mobile operator O2 bought broadband company Be to get in on the ground.

Finally, following the widely-watched clip of 1980s A-Team star ‘Mr T’ talking up storage virtualisation on behalf of Hitachi Data Systems, 2007 may see even more technology industry advertainment hitting social networking sites like YouTube, as companies realise the potential of viral marketing.