The future of broadcasting starts in 2018

By Mike Whittaker

If you read industry news, you will be aware that the TV landscape is more fragmented than ever before.

However, I always take these predictions of the speed of such fragmentation with a word of caution. It is the words of Bill Gates that come to mind when I think on such predictions of the immediate demise of television: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.”

With that in mind, I believe that TV is booming, but the change in consumption patterns is here. In one single household, on one single night, we might expect to see mom tuning in to her favourite live-broadcast soap in the living room; dad watching last night’s football match via IPTV in the bedroom; their youngest son binging on cartoons via a subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service on his mobile phone; and his sister sitting in front of her laptop streaming short-form video content from a free online platform.

For individual consumers, all of these channels are blending into one. Consumers do not care how they get their favourite content — so long as they can enjoy high-quality productions, compelling narratives, and their favourite user-generated content in a way that is convenient and cost-effective to access.

We see this clearly in consumer behaviour in Asia-Pacific, where viewers are taking an “and-and” approach to how they view linear and over-the-top (OTT) content. Even though the region’s OTT TV revenues are predicted to triple in less than five years, linear TV is alive and well, with 77% of APAC consumers watching an average two hours of broadcast TV per day on top of online video. Now, whether they’re doing this as a family unit or individually is another question.

What does this blurring of lines mean for the future of broadcasting? Mr Gates goes on to caution: “Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” Even though the change does not always seem as fast as the hype would predict, we are clearly seeing a shift in consumer behaviours and needs. At the same time, we are offered huge opportunities to better understand what our consumers want and how they interact with our content.

Competition for consumers is growing and every player in the TV industry must put a renewed focus on making content king — because only the best stories have any chance of differentiation and pull for today’s media-overwhelmed consumers. And, when I say stories I do not just mean films and drama series; I also mean how we tell the story of a great explorer or of nature, and how we tell the story (and drama) of live basketball, football or other similar events.

To ensure that storytelling is the foundation of what we do and never just an afterthought, media businesses will need to consider three key actions — leveraging emerging technology in creative ways; seeking out new, mutually beneficial partnerships; and making strategic choices for today with one eye on tomorrow.

Telling the best tales, via technology

Do not be fooled into believing that technology and storytelling are at odds with one another. In fact, technology is unlocking a new world of ways to under­stand how we can create compelling narratives. It is an interesting thought that data and machine learning tools are helping us to better understand what consumers most want to see, and to deliver on their preferences — whether it is more romance, more short-form content, or more features that star localised talent.

How do we marry the science of data with the purely creative process of creative compelling content? To some, this is a step too far, akin to letting the geeks take over the asylum. But is it so? For many years, formal and informal audience measurement systems have influenced what is acquired and commissioned, and when it is scheduled. This is merely an extension of this — data will help us to focus better on content.

The exciting part of having access to better data is that in the digital world we can trap this in real time; no longer do we have to wait for the overnight ratings for it to influence how we position and promote content. However, once we have this data — and it is truly big data — the key is being able to mine it for insight and then act on this across multiple platforms. For me, the excitement from this data-driven future is as much the innovation it will enable as the insight it provides.

The insight that data unlocks can be leveraged to help producers, advertisers and content curators put quality narrative content at the heart of their business; whether in terms of developing new content, deciding which stories to share in which markets, or sharing the data with production partners to drive mutually beneficial collaborations and support the growth of the industry.

The power of partnerships

Indeed, orchestrating mutually beneficial partnerships should be a key broadcaster focus in 2018, in order to deliver the best quality, most engaging content to consumers and keep them from feeling that the TV landscape is so fragmented that it might be easier to simply switch off the set.

Traditional broadcasters now have unique opportunities to work in colla­boration with partners and introduce new services to viewers, such as OTT content. In this way, a broadcaster can transform into a multi-platform video business that is positioned to capture more opportunities in the future, and provide a major value-added service to viewers who want more access to the most fantastic narratives from around the region and the globe.

Key ­to enabling a wider collaboration between producer, scheduler/curator and affiliate — and delivering on strategy — is the technology team. We have always had a role in providing the facilities for production and distribution, but our roles are now changing to move from those traditional areas — where cloud and content delivery networks (CDNs) make it possible to simplify our architectures and operating models — and to new technology-enabled areas of data, artificial intelligence (AI) and insight.

Strategic choices for the future

Like many players in Asia’s media, broadcast and entertainment industry, Fox Networks Group is focused on laying a solid foundation today that will enable us to be ready for tomorrow. With technology and consumer demands now evolving at lightning speed, 2018 is a key year to consider how we can innovate for the future.

For Fox Networks Group, working towards the future means not only finding new sources of data, but also investing in the next generation of analytics capabilities that enable our business to understand the broader story behind why some content shines above the rest — in effect, using technology to get back to the roots of great storytelling. And, the information we uncover is not stowed away in a spreadsheet. We make data part of the living, breathing process that informs which content we create, buy and distribute, to ensure we are consistently providing APAC viewers with the stories they love.

The future of our industry is bright. Change is coming, but we should ensure we balance this and not abandon the old in the rush for the new. In 2018, the opportunities are wide open for every player in the industry to leverage technology, collaborative partnerships and forward-thinking strategy in order to deliver the best stories to APAC viewers and push for innovation at every turn.

Mike Whittaker is executive vice-president and CTO, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, Fox Networks Group Asia. He is also an APB panellist.

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