The revolution will be streamed. Whenever or wherever you want it.
In an unseasonably warm late September at the lower tip of Manhattan with a hazy southwest view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Digital Media Wire brought the two day 2017 NY Media Festival to New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. In addition to tracks on gaming, digital music, and rights management technologies, the conference featured a comprehensive “future of television” track, with panelists from many industry fields.
The topics and scope of the sessions were wide ranging with many common threads running through each of the sessions.
Linear TV vs OTT.
TV Needs to innovate and go with the times or decline and die, both in creativity and business models, notes Floris Bauer, President and Co-Founder of Gunpowder & Sky, a New York digital production studio. From his perspective as a digital creator, he believes that the time where programs are just scheduled, bringing automatic large audience tune-in is over. Programming is stuck in a 22 or 44 minute chunks, and only recently are traditional media companies willing to experiment. Smaller, niche brands will have an easier time transitioning from a linear world to an OTT world, where there is an opportunity for genre-based bundles like gaming, sci-fi, and pure entertainment.
The OTT ecosystem is haphazard, confusing, and not a great consumer experience. Peter Phillips, Former EVP/GM Interactive & Distribution, Marvel Entertainment: “TV is not great for the consumer right now. We’re a long way from making this easy.” Users have to go to different services to find the programs they like, and then are faced with the burden of having to pay for premium access. In a separate session, Christy Tanner, SVP & General Manager, CBS News Digital, acknowledged this as well, but still mentioned that “consumers are smarter than we give them credit for.”
Rebecca Glashow, Head of Worldwide Distribution, AwesomenessTV, an experienced programmer with a long cable history, pointed out how we got to a multi channel world in the first place, and how that world now collides with OTT. Channels were born to fill cable capacity, so subsidiary brands were launched. 7 to 10 year production deals limit linear TV companies’ ability to be nimble. We’ll soon see smaller networks, which do not receive large amounts of funding, creativity, or attention from their corporate parents, slowly die.
The cable industry for many years had a great model – why would they want to screw it up and accelerate the demise of your business? They’re all in it together. With a shift and tension driven by OTT featuring thinner bundles and better content, linear brands are now forced to adapt to stay in the marketplace. AwesomenessTV reaches a demographic (female teens) that is not reached at all by linear TV.
Seeing this, there is a new recognition by larger distribution partners that they have lost audience, and are now scrambing on how to capture youth audiences.
“Only in the last few months have cable companies rolled out bundles which cannibalize themselves,” pointed out Philips.
The technology to deliver a seamless, high quality experience is only maturing. Peter Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Verizon Digital Media Services, points out that Verizon’s technology can deal with “flash audiences,” with technology that can deliver quality streams that can scale from hundreds to millions of viewers at scale.
Data, data, data.
Linear TV has Nielsen (and that’s about it) to measure audiences, and OTT, with its 2-way communication, offers many, many more to ways to measure audiences Comprensive, granular analytics on audiences, their affinities and their viewing habits continue to be the “gold” that advertisers and programmers seek and utilize.
While at “Ellen,” Jill Braff, former General Manager, Ellen Digital Ventures, used data for a sole purpose – to make them smarter about their audiences, which was then used to deliver additional experiences such as “Ellen Tube.” David Beck, Chief Strategy and Ventures Officer, TBS & TNT: “Data is a currency that’s just as valuable as aggreating an audience itself.” Andrew Cleland, Managing Director, Comcast Ventures, in a role as investor, sees data analytics companies as essential. He points out that media is moving from general audiences to clusters of individual users. Because of this, data is more focused around these individual users, we can deliver more customized data to both production teams and potential advertisers. “Everyone wants data,” said Gallagher.
Advertising and monetization.
Audiences have (and will still) tune out, click away, or close the window if they have a less than stellar experience, with a fair balance of advertising and content. Michael Weaver, SVP of Business Development & Growth, Al Jazeera Digital, believes that the consumer is going to expect an ad experience that complements the content they are consuming.
When addressing OTT services that offer premium subscriptions to remove in-show advertising, Paul Potenzone, SVP/Content Director at Digitas Studios, DigitasLBi: “Advertising is going to feel like a tax for people who can’t afford to pay.”
“Advertising needs to be managed,” according to Verizon’s Gallagher. He believes that to create an effective viewer experience that includes advertising, consumers should understand that advertising does plays significant role in subsidizing content, and wonders how the industry can educate consumers so that they understand the relationship with the advertiser. There needs to be flexibility in the ad model; ads should not be intrusive. Audiences are used to a typical TV experience, and Verizon, through “server side ad insertion,” embeds ads in a single viewer-facing stream, offering the advantage of high video quality and seamless transitions. This is different from “client side ad insertion,” which uses the app itself to fetch an ad, creating a jolting viewer experience with sometimes lower quality. Gallagher believes that the “best of both worlds” can be achieved for the viewer by combining the benefits of “server side” with the single addressability of “client side” by managing every individual stream and delivering the right ad for the right viewer in the right aspect ratio.
Tanner points out that CBSN still features ad pods in OTT, because agencies are used to traditional commercial lengths.
For live streamers, Ali Moiz, CEO and Co-Founder, Streamlabs, a major player in monetization through in-show tips and donations for live streamers, believes that the overwhelming majority of revenue for live streamers will come not from branding and advertising in the long term, but from the audience themselves. $3-5 billion dollars in microtransactions have been already executed. Citing China and Asia as early examples and through micropayments from his own Stream Labs (which themselves have paid out $200 million directly to creators in their 4 years of operation) and through crowdfunding, by organizations such as Patreon (receiver of a recent $30 million Series B funding round), viewers are saying streamers “Here’s 5 bucks. I want to see my name on TV in front of 50,000 viewers.”
Superfans WILL pay to have live content that resonates with them. Bob Gruters, Group Director, Global Marketing Solutions – US, Facebook shared survey results that showed millennials preferred short ads, with 10 second ads seeming to have the best appeal.
On paying for linear services, the cable megabundle is a thing of the past, believes M. Scott Havens, Global Head of Digital, Bloomberg Media. People want the choice of a customized bundle.
From an investing perspective, Todd Klein, Partner, Revolution, believes that if someone can create and become a superfan, their ability to monetize is much broader and can extend beyond the livestream and the production through merchandising and other outside opportunities.
Producing for specific audiences and formats.
“We need to earn attention,” remarked Gruters, and pointed out a result from a Facebook study that Gen Z’s have a 2.8 second attention span. (That’s it!) 40% of users will abandon a website if is takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Content producers and program delivery technology providers need to not only be aware of their audiences, including affinities and demographics. but also tailor the content to ultimate destination channels for which they are producing programming. This not only includes production style, but technical details like aspect ratio (square? widescreen? vertical?). Programming formats that work well on YouTube (for which audiences are used to longer form programming) may not work well on Snapchat with short length video and imagery.
Verizon’s Gallagher: “Do you really need to stream 4K to an iPhone”?
Sharmi Gandhi, EVP, Strategy and Development, Mic, points out that it is extremely important that creators need to be cognizant of people’s consuming habits, both on screen size, and at different times.
Braff warns creators that there are a lot of others creating content, and it’s of the utmost importance to be clear about where that content is going and who (and how they) will ultimately be watching.
For Glashow’s Fullscreen audience demographic, their YouTube content can more personal and feature interaction. There was previously no place for this form of content; the traditional ecosystem has failed them. Her audiences know how to get content and can move around and care about the narrative. She points out Snapchat’s new investments in video after Snapchat Discover, starting first with unscripted programming and then by commissioning scripted offerings.
Susanne Mei, General Manager, PeopleTV, produces “Red Carpet” shows for her channel gaining an audience of cordcutters who were unable to see E!’s coverage.
Courtney McKlveen, Head of US Field Sales, Oath, mentioned their broadcast of the annual meeting of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway corporation. While the broadcast was for a very specific audience, it still received 1.5 million views.
Matthew Henick, Head of Development, Buzzfeed Motion Pictures: If you are making content, make it from your point of view and unique.
Eric Korsh, President, Mashable Studios, Mashable and Aron Levitz, Head of Wattpad Studios, Wattpad, are collaborating on video projects based on Wattpad user-generated stories.
VR and AR.
The delivery on the promise of VR as a seamless user experience has not yet arrived. New devices incorporating Windows MR (Mixed Reality) technologies, manufatured by familiar OEM’s like Dell, are expected to improve the user experience. Tom Vance, Co-Head of Studio, Content, Jaunt Studios, points out that these new devices incorporate “inside out tracking,” which do not require external cameras or sensors to work, making setup and experience much easier.
From an agency perspective, Michelle Carney, VP, Branded Entertainment & Film, Ketchum, proposed a value added scenario for VR, which could being audiences to an arena or stadium. With AR, fans can have the experience of holding up their phone and seeing the game from angles from which they do not have a view. This then incentivizes fans to be part of the actual in-game experience with an exclusive addition.