Significant pandemic-related economic disruption and ongoing digital advancements are changing how broadcasters and service providers deliver content – and driving rapid innovation.
Disruption has been the defining feature of 2020: a combination of a global pandemic that has wrought sweeping economic and social changes and challenges with ongoing digital disruption has left few, if any, industries untouched. Television is no exception.
Shifts in how people live and work – largely from home amid worldwide lockdowns and regulations – as well as rapid advances in innovation and the subsequent growth of trends such as over-the-top (OTT) media services have changed the way people watch and interact with TV – and disrupted how broadcasters and service providers deliver their content.
Watching TV linearly is dead, for example. The rise of digital means that people watch the content that interests them across multiple platforms, placing traditional media under pressure. Also placing broadcasters under pressure is the fact that even while digital consumption has seen a sharp rise, advertising has seen a significant decline.
Essentially, the pandemic has accelerated these trends, bringing three years’ worth of changes in three months. The challenge for broadcasters, then, is to manage this fine balancing act to ensure that they can continue to provide this content to viewers in a seamless way.
The TV pivot
There are two key ways to pivot TV from its traditional linear approach to digital: collaboration on aggregation, and speaking to and serving passion points in markets.
Aggregation is increasingly seen as the answer in a digital world, as it captures the attention of audiences with similar interests and characteristics and brings this audience to one, central platform where all content sits. Dplay is our aggregation platform at Discovery, and we are increasingly seeing the value of aggregation in action as different packaging is required in a world where OTT is emerging as king – even in Africa, where OTT is in its infancy and lagging behind markets like Europe, but is undoubtedly taking off.
However, Discovery Networks has long enjoyed the foundation of its success through serving passion points, so we also recognise the inherent value of investing in what sparks the passion of audiences.
South Africa’s market is one driven by the passions and creativity of its audiences. The country, for instance, has a vibrant and rapidly growing food scene, with stand-out stars such as Siba Mtongana and Jenny Morris, as well as fans passionate about sport, animals, and science as part of the larger STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) family. These passions require unique content.
The right content for the right audience in the right place
The key lies in the ability to retrofit global content to make it locally relevant and interesting to viewers – and vice versa, to make local content that is able to perform well on the global stage. A case in point is Siba’s shows on the Food Network, which are popular and gaining traction both locally and in Europe.
What enables success in finding the sweet spot between global and local is the realisation that one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. Even with a global approach and knowledge, it is important to take the learnings from each market and tweak the content to the local market’s needs.
That means actively shaping the local landscape by bringing in local expertise – and our recent appointment of industry veteran Clare O’Neil as our commercial director is an important step forward, bring the right balance between local and global.
In an ever-evolving world, that also means being willing to take a different approach. This could mean using a broadcaster’s expertise and heritage in its particular passion points – such as food or animals – and building an audience in a new area by collaborating with a partner and using their platform to bring content to life and package it in new and creative ways.
In this way, our recent acquisition of global PGA and cycling rights is giving us an opportunity to conceptualise how to present these massively popular sports in innovative ways, including a ‘watch and do’ format that allows us to go direct to consumers and feed their passion by allowing them to not only watch their favourite sport but play or participate in it by partnering with service providers in the field.
It could also mean introducing new means of interacting with audiences, such as endemic advertising – in a world where advertising needs to be targeted and measurable to reach the audience actually consuming the product or service.
We are already looking into implementing endemic advertising with HGTV, for example, with partners able to connect with audiences as part of their watching experience, adding value by enhancing their experience rather than interrupting their viewing time. The possibilities are immense, especially in a market like South Africa where total daily viewing time of HGTV sits at 71 minutes. This allows the opportunity to form true partnerships with brands and companies to connect with audiences in moments that matter and improve their overall experience.
In fact, partnerships have emerged as the most critical ingredient in succeeding in a digital, OTT environment – whether pursuing aggregation or investing in diving deep into passion points, or using a combination of both.
Collaboration is critical and increasing as the TV and media landscape becomes more diverse and complex, and the key to success is building partnerships and exploring new ways of working and packaging content outside of the traditional paid-TV space.
We are enjoying the benefits and value of collaboration with our existing partners, and are also proactively searching for new partners to work with to meet audience and market needs in South Africa and across the continent. Ultimately, we believe in unlocking the power of partnerships to deliver the right content for the right audience in the right place – all while responding to changing market conditions and needs brought about by the pandemic and continuing digital disruption.
Henry Windridge is head of brand for the Middle East & Africa at Discovery. He is an experienced marketing and content director, working across the Middle East and Africa for Discovery, the world’s biggest real-life entertainment company. Previously based in London, heading up B2C and B2B marketing for media brands at Global, Hearst and ITV.
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