TV DEBRIEF: The media business is first and foremost about content. What has shifted is how content is on the move as it travels through the digital media ecosystem. While this ‘ecosystem’ developed more complexities in the value chain, digital services such as video on demand (VOD), high-definition TV (HDTV) and digital video recorders (PVRs/DVRs) are helping to increase revenues from television.
Pay TV penetration in most countries is still growing and operators are introducing all sorts of multi-play bundles (pay TV, broadband internet, mobile and fixed line offerings in one package) to reduce subscriber churn. A report by Deloittes on global trends in the media sector says by the end 2014 up to 50 million homes around the world will have two or more separate pay-television subscriptions, with the additional subscriptions generating about $5 billion in revenues. And a further 10 million homes will receive premium programming as part of their subscription to another service, such as broadband.
The upshot of this is that content, always a key factor, will become increasingly more important. With convergence a reality as video content is distributed over the internet to consumers’ computers and and mobile devices; VOD and time shifting technologies creating non-linear viewing patterns (enabling viewers to watch when they want where they want) and the popularity of the likes of YouTube and user-generated content (UGC), it is obvious viewing will fragment across channels and platforms.
But I believe traditional free-to-air television (analogue and digital terrestrial television, when it finally happens in South Africa) as well as pay TV will remain the dominant platforms for video access. I still believe when it comes to viewing long-form video content, television viewing, and the television experience, is preferable to computers or mobile devices. I think the latter two devices are useful for bite-sized, three-four minute clips.
It is an accepted truth that as the media business influences the development of technology, so technology is influencing the media business. At the same time the licensing of television content is an extremely complex exercise, requiring multiple parties to approve a particular licensing deal and recurring payments to a variety of players. The final agreement depends on the audience the content can reach through a provider, its appeal, the demographics of its audience, and perhaps most of all, the bargaining power of the provider.
In the case of the big six media conglomerate holdings (Sony, Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, NBC Universal and News Corp.), content, distribution, broadcast networks and interactive services are owned by the same entity, which enables these conglomerates to ‘transport’ their precious cargo of content across the multiple platforms and numerous applications that now exist in this digital space. Of course, Netflix has arrived, and this provider of on-demand internet streaming media is now producing its own content – think House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and it’s even picked up AMC’s The Killing – and has over 26 million subscribers worldwide, making it a game-changer in the world of television.
But back to the conglomerates. What really fascinates me is watching how they (who work in the ‘old media’ space as well as the ‘new media’ space) leverage new media in order to enhance and extend the lifespan of content that is born and exists in the still very dominant space of free-to-air entertainment television.
I found the perfect example of ‘content on the move’ in American IDOL to illustrate this point. American IDOL screened on the FOX network – one of the ‘big four’ free-to-air television networks in the US – . reaches millions of television viewers across the U.S. Needless to say this incredibly popular and phenomenal reality entertainment format show is sold to television networks across the globe. This is the first movement of this content.
The next major dynamic in the American IDOL value chain are the weekly votes – via mobile devices using sms technology. As we know the American IDOL finales generate over 100 million votes via sms this, and this was just American voters.
The next component in the American IDOL value chain is its’ presence, www.americanidol.com, that allows viewers from around the globe to interact with various aspects of the show. Viewers can download or watch video clips of up to136 songs (from the top 10 IDOL contestants); see clips from the results shows (if they missed it the night before highlighting a non-linear viewing pattern); see their favourite idols’ performance in the form a video clip, downloaded onto the internet via iTunes. Beyond that viewers could join the IDOLS daily blog, commenting on the previous nights show; they could also see all the photo albums of the top 10 contestants as they went through the IDOLS journey.
And after that, of course, viewers start ‘transporting the content’ that they have downloaded from the official IDOLS website even further via various social networking and user-generated content applications of YouTube; MySpace; Facebook and Twitter. They send video, photos, commentary, screen savers and wallpaper of the IDOLS contestants to their friends that they share on social networks.
One show therefore MOVES from television screen to mobile phone to iTunes to online, then taken down from iTunes and posted onto all sorts of social networking and UGC applications. The final movement of the show is the country wide tour of the top 10 American idols . Now that’s CONTENT on the MOVE! And it all began in the free-to-air space of ‘old media’ network television.
Broadcasting consultant Clare O’Neil is the guest editor of The Media Online’s TELEVISION DEBRIEF. We would like to thank our sponsor DStv for making the newsletter possible.