If there is anything that is constant about television these days, it is the constant change. From digital compression a few years ago to today’s connected TVs, multi and cross platforming, second + screens, STBs, OTT, Big Data sets, authentication and ACR, it is hard to keep pace. But thankfully there are conferences like B&C MultiChannel’s Next TV Summit to help frame the changes and fill in any knowledge gaps.
Today’s TV landscape faces a viewer in transition. While there are still mainstream couch potatoes, according to keynote speaker Eric Free from Intel, there is also a burgeoning class of connected viewers who tend to skew younger and are not constrained by the current media business model. He spoke of three pillars of change: consumer behavior, technology infrastructure and current business models, which are all occurring right now, ready or not. Free is optimistic about this type of future. He believes that the best attributes of live television are merging with social features so as to offer better discovery and social activity for younger connected consumers that will encourage them to stay within the TV ecosystem. We should hope that he is correct. It may be that the advent of connected televisions will enable the television industry to maintain relevancy with these younger connected viewers. And so, this technology could not have come at a better time.
It is arguably within the current business model that television will find its greatest challenge for future hearts, minds and eyeballs. Content providers continue to experiment with forms of storytelling and methods for bridging platforms to complete the full viewing experience. But cord cutting, cord shaving and cord “nevering” will continue. And therein lies the rub: We as an industry continue to cleave to old and eroding business models, metrics and, yes, mindsets even as our world shifts to complete organic viewing experiences. Why still target demographically, for example, when the marketplace really needs to target psychographically? We say that measurement is critical but the old metrics are still silo-ed by platform and applied to business tracking.
MultiChannel News’ Todd Spengler moderated a panel on TV Everywhere: Disruption, Innovation & Invention which brought the measurement issue into focus. Thomas Siegman of RSG Media noted that the rights issue was impeding measurement possibilities - “We need rights for streaming and we need to gauge the total value of a view.” And John Heller of FreeWheel argued for speed because “moving too slow is worse than too fast.” Watermarking is another challenge. Is there an industry standard?
Michael Bishara of Synacor went one step further, listing the top five challenges of TV Everywhere. They are:
1. Marketing in the form of awareness, early stages of VOD, education, rights and gaps in content and its availability.
2. Economic. How can we monetize?
3. Competition. Content alternatives out there that are equally compelling.
4. Technology… but it will become automated in future. Authentication. Credentials.
5. Consumer experience. Don't make consumers work. Unify and make sense for the consumer.
So how can we as an industry best face the future, overcome the challenges and succeed in an evolving landscape? Mark Greenberg, President & CEO of EPIX may have provided the best advice. He admonished us to change the rules. There is a lesson to be learned from the music industry versus Napster. We need to battle arrogance, indifference and ignorance and find new ways to monetize content on every platform and build relevance among younger viewers. “Cable used to be the revolutionaries” he said. “Cable used to be the destructive force bringing value to the consumers. Now we are the problem. Disrupt or be disruptive. Don't rest on our laurels. Let’s get back into the disruption business.”