The future of Television is a hot topic today and there are many experts offering compelling insights. And so it was at the Cynopsis Future of TV conference in NYC. Conclusions from this conference indicated to me that we will be working in a very different type of television space where the core business of TV is shifting and the business concerns and financial projections must adapt. Here are the major themes as I saw them at the conference:
Business Stresses on MVPDs
There are business stresses that will impact a range of media companies, starting with MVPDs. According to Richard Greenfield of BTIG, cord cutting is here to stay. That is because there are alternatives to cable and that are acceptable to customers - even if that content is available a day later via a la carte. Younger viewers in particular find their entertainment beyond the TV from options such as Netflix. And young people often share accounts with their friends or from their family (as some admitted on a panel).
Business Stresses on Content Providers
For content providers it is the best of times … and the worst of times. Greenfield says that “there is a lack of urgency to watch live television because alternatives are always available. Competition is reaching new levels when you can rent a series on Netflix as easily as watching it live on a network. And because Netflix uses algorithms to recommend content choices to subscribers, certain pieces of content may never hit their radar.”
Business Stresses for Marketers
The competitive set of programming options continues to expand and now new TV content is directly competing against the best TV ever created. “My daughter is just starting to watch Full House” explains Greenfield “Why should I watch live tonight when I can pull up any great show on Netflix?” New content has its digitally personalized advantages, however. A&Es Don Robert believes that good current content drives viewing across platforms. "What is relationship audiences want with our content? Do they want to be able to engage in real time like on Project Runway? Or is it binge viewing?” But it seems to be all program based. What does all of this digital fragmentation do to network branding?
Business Shifts and Opportunities
There are some major themes that could provide great opportunity, if we can embrace the change. Innovation can provide new revenue streams on the multi-platforms. Sean Atkins of Discovery spoke about how integrated commerce and advertising into programs and wraps help create greater authenticity.
There is also true one-to-one marketing. There is a personalization of video providing a more one-to-one entertainment experience. But at the same time, the experience of television content can be shared immediately and globally. “Twitter has become the new water-cooler for the video world,” according to Greenfield.
The World of TV Is Shifting On Its Axis
It’s An App
Greenfield sees TV as just another app. “We have so many personal devices from tablets to laptops to mobile phones that TV is fast becoming just another app which totally changes what TV is. Instead of it being “the Box” it is now defined as just another form of entertainment.”
What Do We Mean By Attention?
There are many cures for boredom with content choices ranging from traditional programming to social media sites. And this may improve audience retention. According to Neela Sakaria of Latitiude, “There is not only a second screen. With a third screen you are less likely to skip through ads and you are also less likely to leave the room.”
There is more choice through more competition. New MVPDs are created with the rapid proliferation of new platforms and the layering on video as an app. There are also more buyers of original programming where quality and originality are at a premium. The general agreement was that the overall experience of TV in an IP world will notably improve.
We need a “holistic measurement” that takes into account all cross platform, says ABC’s Justin Fromm. Some companies are very pro-active in this area: Danielle Seth of Comcast uses “watermarking to get TV more census-like and use clickstream data.” As an MVPD, “Comcast is able to leverage content and technology. We can identify all devices and platforms and we have created an audience interconnected database.” Starcom’s Jackie Kulesza says that she is a “big believer in convergence modeling. What is that messaging driving? How did data affect sales? We are pushing forward in this area and need better measurement and data.”
Implications for Other Industry Sectors
Producer Warren Weideman says that this is a golden age of TV drama that is placing pressure on the movie industry because potential moviegoers can now stay home and binge view a hot series. And Greenfield believes that “Having access to content takes the safety net away from the movie business. Right now, 30 million homes have Netflix which is half of U.S. households. What does that do to going out to movies at the theater if two-thirds of all moviegoers are casual goers? What is the future of movies when you can stream a movie at your home theater the day after it comes out in theaters?” Obviously the television digital evolution is not occurring in a bubble. The impact on a range of entertainment sectors is great and transformative. Stay tuned….