For broadcasters, producers all about staying atop tech challenge

CANNES: Of all the sessions devoted to the challenges posed by the oncoming technology (seems to have arrived in many parts of the globe actually), one of the most lucid presentations of how broadcasters and producers could meet the challenges was presented by FremantleMedia Licensing Worldwide UK CEO Simon Spalding.

Said Spalding, "For producers and broadcasters to reap the rewards of these innovations, they must learn to master the new technologies and crucially the data that emerges."

Spalding offered three visions of the future Napsterisation, always on demand and prime time rules.

Napsterisation referred to how consumers would decide what, where and when they wanted to watch TV for which linear programme scheduling as it exists today would be inadequate. The biggest fallout of this, of course, is that the pace of fragmentation of audiences will increase exponentially.

There are opportunities that flow out of this though. Because of multiple platforms emerging that require content, the ability to re-use, repurpose as well as extend existing content/ brand propositions would increase. And more platforms will mean more customers.

There are two types of business models that will co-exist in this environment. On the one hand, the traditional broadcasters will have to address increasingly fragmented and ever more complex viewing patterns. The high complexity would naturally mean low control of the provider over what is being watched. For big broadcasters trying to reach a widely spread out audience the values of scale and global reach will only become more emphasised.

However, there is a flip side to this as well. There will be a lowering of entry barriers into the broadcast space as "narrowcasting" gains increasing relevance due to the changing viewing patterns and scarcity of mass audiences. New and increasingly nimble players will have more opportunities to offer specialised content to increasingly more refined TGs. IPTV and mobile TV will have clear advantages here because communication to consumers is direct and has the advantage that the community experience that this naturally facilitates will allow for viral marketing opportunities.

Always on demand is all about consuming TV to the maximum efficiency (time shift viewing). What this, of course, means is that the 30-second ad spots relevance is in doubt at some point in the future. According to Spalding, when Tivo/PVR penetration reaches 30 per cent in any market, TV ad budgets will be cut. While there will be a decline in spot advertising, specialised content will get more opportunities as this allows for targeted advertising.

Content producers also benefit as there can be a premium attached to specialised content as the broadcaster has much connect to the end-user mindspace (read control) that advertisers crave for and which will become ever more critical.

So where is the prime time proposition in all this? Will it just fade away? Not likely. Potential strategies include game shows offering real-time competitions, awarding loyalty points for live viewing and cumulating data on viewer's programming preferences to better target the most appropriate advertising. Participatory TV will be what it's all about.

In summation, what does all this mean for broadcasters? Traditional models will go out of the window, that's certain. Life will be a lot more complex no doubt but a lot more creatively challenging and one dare say more fun for those who have it in them to rise to the challenge.

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