New approaches to audiovisual content are impacting on broadcast television and forcing the sector to rethink its approach, writes Melina Meletakos.
While television still gets the biggest slice of the advertising pie, there is a great deal of flux in terms of broadcasting business models due to various introductions to the sector.
Linear TV broadcasting is likely to remain the dominant form of TV consumption, but there are two fundamental factors slowly changing the way people engage with the medium. These are video on-demand (VOD) services, which allow subscribers to consume video content either in real time or download it to watch later, and device proliferation.
In December 2014, Nielsen released its Total Audience Report, a quarterly study analysing media consumption in the United States. According to the report, the average adult spent four hours and 32 minutes per day watching live TV in the third quarter (Q3) of 2014 compared to four hours and 44 minutes in the corresponding previous period. The amount of time spent on time-shifted viewing via personal video recorders (PVRs) increased from 28 minutes in Q3 of 2013 to 30 minutes in the corresponding period in 2014. Time spent using a smartphone climbed from one hour and 10 minutes to one hour and 33 minutes, while time spent using the internet on a computer rose to one hour and six minutes, up from one hour. Significantly, watching video as a percentage of internet use increased from 15% in 2011 to 26% in 2014.
While South Africa still lags far behind its international counterparts, this research is useful for predicting where the local market is heading. Recently, our broadcasting landscape changed significantly with the addition of a number of subscription VOD services.
Times Media Group (TMG) launched Vidi, while Altech released its own VOD offering called Node. Ensuring it doesn’t get left behind, MultiChoice-owned DStv launched Catch Up Plus, an internet-connected version of its Catch Up service. It gives viewers with Explora PVRs access to additional content when connected to the internet. DStv’s other on-demand service, BoxOffice, allows users to rent content on a per-item basis.
Not to be outdone, MTN in late December launched a subscription-based digital entertainment service called MTN FrontRow Services. It gives customers access to thousands of movies and their favourite television series on their devices. It also announced a movie service, called MTN FrontRow Premiere, which gives subscribers the opportunity to rent the latest blockbuster films. Rival Vodacom also plans to launch a VOD service in 2015. The company already offers the streaming service, Deezer, to its customers.
Telkom is expected to reissue a tender request for the supply of VOD services after the original invitation for interested bidders was withdrawn in February 2014. The telecommunications provider told technology blog TechCentral that this was because it wanted its VOD offering to be “based on a business model which is more closely aligned to Telkom’s revised business strategy”.
Tim Spira, general manager of eNCA’s online division, says telecommunications companies (telcos) are well-positioned to enter the video-watching market because they already have the infrastructure and financial resources to deliver content, as well as existing consumer relationships. “This positions them very well as trusted providers of value-added services over and above their traditional data services,” says Spira.
They also understand that the cost of data consumed by users is coming down over time and that they need to find a way to buttress their future revenues, he adds. “Content is a very good way of getting those subscription revenues into homes. People don’t buy bandwidth for the sake of it. People buy bandwidth because of what they can do with it. Video content is very attractive and it requires high bandwidth, so it’s a great marketing device for telcos,” explains Spira.
While traditional broadcasters are being forced to reassess their existing models of content delivery, advertising and audience measurement on the medium is also facing upheaval. Spira says advertising on TV has begun to change because of technology like PVR, which allows viewers to skip adverts. “You are seeing a lot more moves towards non-traditional advertising formats like product placement, sponsored content and native advertising in the online space. The brand message is far more integrated into the content,” he says.
CEO of media agency RMS Media Rob Smuts agrees, saying the next wave of commercial communication will be brands becoming content creators themselves. Despite these new ways of delivering brand messages, Smuts says the conventional 30-second commercial still has life in it but that its days are numbered as streaming services become more prevalent. “Consumers don’t like their entertainment to be interrupted, so they will always choose a viewing experience that cuts out advertising, if they can,” he explains.
VOD services are certainly challenging linear broadcasting, but DStv Digital Media CEO John Kotsaftis says TV as we know it won’t come to an end because there will always be a need for live content, like news and sporting events. “I don’t think it’s a question of upending live TV. I think it’s a question of people’s behaviour and habits changing. They want to consume content differently to how they did before and we’re just adapting to it. DStv and its content will still be relevant; it will just be consumed in a different way,” he says.
Spira predicts that linear TV and the on-demand sector will continue to co-exist for a long time. “(Linear TV) will come under pressure but it won’t be replaced, definitely not in the next 10 years, more so in the more developed markets. That’s not to say that its death is imminent. It’s going to be a very long and fairly slow decline,” he adds.
It’s also important to keep in mind that less than one million people in South Africa have broadband connections, says Spira, and our regulatory environment hasn’t made strides in promoting the growth of broadband penetration and new broadcasting models. But while this has its drawbacks, it also opens opportunities for new VOD players because they don’t need a broadcasting licence to operate, he adds.
VOD services are not the only recent addition to the local television broadcasting landscape. In 2014, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) granted five provisional licences to pay-TV players. Of these, Siyaya TV has already caused waves, even before going on air in June 2015, after being awarded the exclusive radio, free-to-air, pay-TV, mobile and internet rights to all Bafana Bafana, under 23-side and women’s team matches.
Additionally, Kagiso Media’s eastern-inspired channel, Glow TV, was launched on DStv in 2014. As the owner of radio stations like Jacaranda FM, East Coast Radio and Kaya FM, this marked the media company’s first foray into TV broadcasting.
Spira anticipates that more free-to-air licences will be granted in future. “A lot of people are seeing multi-channel opportunities because of the promise of digital terrestrial television (DTT) and other multi-channel platforms,” he explains.
Alternative satellite platforms, such as OpenView HD, are emerging, adds Spira, and online needs fresh content regularly. For this reason, a number of media companies that haven’t traditionally been in the broadcast or video space are starting to invest in it. “There is more demand for video. It’s being consumed across platforms and there are more commercial opportunities for video online,” says Spira.
But VOD services are not the only reason video consumption habits have changed. The platform that has made the biggest impact around the world is YouTube, says Spira. The service has been so successful that it has formed an ecosystem of its own with special value chains like companies that produce content exclusively for YouTube and talent agencies that specialise in representing YouTube stars.
“Some of these are being bought up by other media players for significant sums. Does it pose more of a threat to traditional TV? Not necessarily,” says Spira. “It poses a threat in so far as all of these new platforms are competing for limited audience attention.”
This post was first published in the February 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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