The Future of On Screen Media - Who Is Right?

When it comes to a discussion of the future of on screen video, there are generally areas of agreement among the various constituencies. One is that the landscape is in constant flux, creating changes to the business model and market uncertainties. Another is that technology forms the playing field. But overall agreement of its future impact on the industry and the consumer mindset may end there.  December’s OnScreen Media Summit  in New York helped highlight the various issues, bringing together many industry experts in the space.

What is the future of on screen video? Discussions of the subject can become contentious. Opinions ranged from Discovery’s David Zaslov’s optimistic declaration that “this is the best time to be in the content business” to Boxee’s Avner Rosen who believes that “the current system is bound to fail. We have a new reality that we ignore at our own risk”. Some, like Doug Sylvester of Avail-TVN, see areas of potential risk, warning that “OTT is a destructive force” and that “the infrastructure needs to be updated”.  Some compared the current video model to that of the music industry whose cautionary tale of industry fall-out remains a gloomy warning to other media facing the same challenges. Others such as Rebecca Glashow of Discovery said the “people don’t want to work that hard for entertainment. We are not the music industry.” All very divergent opinions. Who is right?

One thing is clear: there is a rich and important future for data analytics so that any component of the video landscape can be measured and insights made actionable for sales and strategic decision-making. If we cannot understand how to measure and analyze, we will not be able to monetize. If we cannot monetize, there is no business model. The crucible is data analytics as Joan Gillman of Time Warner Cable noted “It is not the data; it is what you do with the data.”

In fact, there are successful new business models being built today around big data such as addressable advertising and the expanding sophistication of local advertising. Greg McCastle of AT&T spoke about more data and metrics being developed around ROI, made possible via the use of set top box data. In fact, local advertising is one of the richly improved areas for advertisers with more available data (as noted by Rentrak’s Bill Livek) and therefore better, more stable metrics. Some combination of census level data via the set top box and a demographic sample will move this industry sector forward with a robust representative sample.   Add to the mix VOD dynamic ad insertion as described by Kathy Timko of Canoe, and the optimists in the industry may have cause to smile.

New and improved revenue streams made possible by new streams of data and emerging technological advances can not only help stave off media obsolescence, it can also offer a richly rewarded future.  Who is right among all the differing opinions about on screen media? I will cast my lot with the optimists … as long as they are data enthusiasts.

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