The broadcasting business is in constant evolution. It is no longer about filling linear channels with content, no longer about offering as many titles as possible on VOD services. It is about generating added value throughout the content’s lifecycle. Michel Beke, SVP Product Strategy at MEDIAGENIX, explores.
Not more than a decade ago, pressure was on the single-channel broadcasters to offer more content to smaller segments of the population. In response they swiftly converted to multi-channel broadcasting. Later on, they introduced on-demand services for the viewer who had missed the original broadcast. With a PVR viewers could pause during a linear broadcast, or record content for later viewing. Important evolutions like these, change viewer behaviour. They also change—or even threaten—the broadcaster’s commercial model.
Now, viewers increasingly turn to the internet where social media and new VOD services are prolific in offering a wide range of content, spanning from user-generated clips about cats falling into a fish tank, to quality content from broadcasters, such as the news. Following renowned examples like House of Cards, content is even specially produced to be released on the internet. Technological changes bring about new distribution techniques, as well as new devices that are capable of showing video. Consumer behaviour is changing drastically, prompting broadcasters to keep reinventing themselves and their business model.
Understanding the viewer
Understanding the viewer is key to cope or even thrive in this new world. The viewer loves content, that much is clear, but how do they want to watch it? That is another question, to which there is no single answer.
Live broadcasts, news, sports and premieres of popular series still draw viewers in droves to the (a) screen. The volume of such ‘live’ rendezvous points is limited, however. To fill the rest of their viewing time, consumers watch series or other content they know and like. But as they want to watch that whenever and wherever they want, they don’t solely rely on their favourite linear channels any more. Watching shows on an on-demand service or recorded on their own PVR is the new normal.
The Paradox of Choice
But how to find your way in the almost unlimited offer of the on-demand world? There are several options. You can browse the suggestions and highlights assembled by the VOD service provider. Or you can search the catalogue of titles on offer. But that is not always the greatest help especially when you are searching for something to watch with the family or in a group of people. Finding content that suits everybody is difficult. Before you know it, a lengthy, complex, supposedly democratic process precedes hitting the play button.
It is so hard to choose from so many possibilities. Scientists call it the Paradox of Choice: more choice can make the total experience less pleasing and even unpleasant. Is choosing too difficult a task for humans? Should we rely on a computer to make the choices for us? After all, recommendation engines are sophisticated algorithms that analyze our past habits, on the basis of which they recommend the best possible content. Although recommendation engines are still in full development, we can say now that they will never offer the perfect suggestion. That is because their main problems are unsolvable. No matter how well the recommendation engine knows all of the content, and no matter how well it knows our past viewing habits, it does not know exactly what we feel like. Has it been a hard day at work? Are we in a romantic mood? Are we watching with a group of people? The recommendation engine hasn’t got a clue. And yet, such factors will influence our choices, our emotional needs for content.
Sometimes you also just want to be surprised and you do not feel like binge watching the same series. Remember linear channels? Switching channels, you are dropped in the middle of something, not immediately knowing what it actually is, but before you know it you are hooked to a new favourite programme you would never have found by making an active choice.
Sometimes viewers like to binge watch, often they want to enjoy a live event, and once in a while they want to re-watch an old black-and-white movie. Let’s face it: viewers (i.e. humans) are impossible to predict. The above techniques all have something to offer the viewer, but no technique will always be the best possible way of offering content.
So how should broadcasters offer their content to the viewers? The answer is: in as many ways as possible. The decisions of the broadcasters will have to be made from the content’s point of view, no longer by only analyzing which loyal viewers are watching their channels at what time of day. The audience has grown too diverse, too mobile, with so many video sources at their disposal.
Broadcasters will need to have a closer look at the content they can offer. What rights do they have on the content? What distribution platforms are available and through which technique can they generate the most revenue with a particular title? Maybe it is on a premium pay service, or on Facebook or YouTube, maybe on a linear channel or by selling the content to another company? The answer will largely depend on the rights, the available distribution techniques and the kind of content. Big live sports events, blockbuster movies, vintage series and movies, gameshows and soaps, old content or new … all will require a different approach.
No, this is no longer about filling linear channels with content, this is no longer about offering as many titles as possible on VOD services. The future of broadcasting is about choosing the best possible distribution technique that offers the broadcaster and their viewers the best possible added value throughout the entire lifecycle of the content. This change will require broadcasters to reinvent their business and get new software and broadcast systems that will enable them to meet this new world head on.
SVP Product Strategy @ MEDIAGENIX