By Shirish Nadkarni
At the time of writing, less than two months before the onset of the Tokyo Summer Olympics on July 23, it is still a toss-up whether the Games will go ahead or not.
A lockdown has been imposed on the host city, as well as on several other parts of Japan, including Osaka, as the second wave of the dreaded Covid-19 sweeps all before it. With a whopping 80% of the population voting for postponement or cancellation of the Games, uncertainty looms large on the horizon.
Even if the Olympics Games do go ahead, most stadiums will have very few spectators, as foreign inward Games-related tourism has been banned, and a vast number of restrictions are being placed even on would-be local spectators.
In such a scenario, broadcasting assumes the all-important role of carrying the Games to the eyes of the world. Millions will be clustered around multiple television screens and listening to radio commentaries of the on-field action. After decades, when TV channels would broadcast specific shows at specific times, the OTT disruption has enabled consumers to choose when and how to watch, and on which device.
Too much choice has become way too much! With an almost limitless amount of content to choose from, the issue is no longer “There’s nothing to watch now”; instead it is more like “There’s too much to watch — how do I decide?”
Therein lies both a challenge and a heaven-sent (or should that be Covid-sent?) opportunity for TV service providers on how to attract eyeballs and retain them. Of the various approaches to do this, offering a personalised TV experience has been shown to be the most enticing way.
Consumers are already used to a high degree of personalisation in many aspects of their lives. Streaming music apps like Spotify and Pandora offer a personalised experience that recognises the user, makes custom suggestions and enables users to continue where they left off ― in the middle of a podcast, song or playlist. These apps also offer custom playlists based on what the user has listened to or downloaded.
Navigation apps such as Waze have allowed users to build their own profile, enter their home and work addresses, and even collect points for posting notifications of heavy traffic and accidents. Online shopping sites cater to individual tastes, and each shopper is presented with their own personalised page that displays previous purchases and makes recommendations, in addition to many other tailored elements.
However, many TV packages are still geared to all users in their household, and not to the individual. Most consumers find this approach dated. They expect a custom experience, with their own profile and standard features such as their name and profile picture at the start. They presume that the service will remember what they watched and enable ‘continue watching’, so that they can pick up where they left off.
Offering a unified experience on all devices and in all locations is a given. Far more than just providing top-quality video on TVs, phones and other connected devices, viewers now expect the TV service to recognise them in various situations and provide the same smooth experience.
No matter if they are halfway around the globe or signing in on a different device in their home, the TV service should recognise their profile, remember where they left off viewing a show, and provide the same interactions that the viewer is accustomed to performing.
The Covid-hit Tokyo Olympics, thus, provide the ideal opportunity for broadcasters to employ the equation P+P = Profit (Personalisation + Participation = Profit). As the Chinese saying goes: “Crisis = Danger + Opportunity”.
The Olympics is in crisis; and broadcasters who can offer P+P leveraging on the latest software-defined solutions, like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and virtual reality (VR) will be a step ahead of the competition.
There is also Edge Compute, which delivers information almost instantaneously, providing new advantages for streaming video and other content delivery services. There is a growing ecosystem of services embracing the network edge, and delivering significant benefits spanning reduced latency, expanded scale and global reach.
Gartner defines edge computing as “a part of a distributed computing topology in which information processing is located close to the edge – where things and people produce or consume that information”.
Viewers can be offered background information of runners, footballers and other athletes, and even information such as which sports companies are sponsoring their apparel or playing gear, at the click of a button on the remote. This can translate into extra revenues from branded goods for broadcasters.
For TV service providers, personalisation also enables monetisation opportunities such as targeted advertising. Using data-centric approaches, these service providers can integrate ads that ‘speak’ to the viewer’s interests.
Targeted advertising is part of a holistic approach that knows the viewer well and is able to personalise the experience from the moment the viewer signs in, throughout the viewing experience, including the ads shown to them.
The second part of the monetisation equation is Participation. In the present day, the audience wants to be able to partake in the broadcasting world – they like to be able to feel as though they are contributing something to society. Social media has transformed our society in this way because more and more people are expecting to become involved in the conversation – even if that conversation is with a company.
This is the reason why generating audience participation is crucial in surviving as a broadcasting station or successful company. You have to enable your audience to “become part of the conversation” in order to successfully generate publicity.
Some user-generated content campaigns have been a resounding success. For example, Doritos enabled users to submit their own content that could potentially be featured on the Super Bowl commercial.
What was excellent about this particular strategy, was that they had users create their own commercial, and they would then fund the winner to create the Super Bowl commercial. Not only did this provide excellent publicity for Doritos, but it also gave them a lot more user-generated content that could then go towards promoting their company.
The concept of Participation goes beyond betting and gambling. Broadcasters can work with major Games sponsors and offer prizes such as jerseys, boots, etc worn by Olympic medallists. There could be interactive contests such as competing with the TV channel’s own headline writers in penning a better headline; and whoever garners the most Likes on social media would win a prize and have their photograph or a short interview broadcast on the channel or app.
The possibilities are limitless; and broadcasters need to think without the box and channelise their ingenuity into creating participation scenarios to engage their audience that has already been subjected to targeted advertising. The result would be substantially enhanced profits at the end of the day.