What’s on TV?

The answer to this question today, in comparison to 20 or 30 years ago, reflects the profound changes that have affected TV viewing and content consumption

By Shawn Liew

For someone growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, my conditioned response to the often asked question of “What’s on TV?” was this: Sifting through a print programme guide, or more often, channel surfing with a remote control on the cathode ray tube (CRT) TV set.

Remember: This was a time when the pager was still a status symbol for awkward teenagers and, latterly, when we were all playing the iconic snake game on our Nokia analogue phones.

It was also a time when terrestrial broadcasters ruled the roost; scheduled TV programming was a strategy that worked because, quite simply, what other choices did we have back then?

How times have changed. The answer to “What’s on TV?” today for many, especially Generation Z (those born after year 2000), probably means what is available for instantaneous streaming over the Internet onto mobile devices.

Unscheduled TV programming is the name of the game — viewers today want to watch content at any time of the day, within or without the comfort of home, and on connected mobile devices. Forget the cord-cutters, because there is a new generation of viewers who not only will not sign up for pay-TV services, but who are growing up on a diet of both short-form (think user-generated content on Facebook and YouTube) and long-form videos (think episodic original content on Netflix and Amazon) streamed over the Internet onto their “TV sets” — the smartphones and tablets.

What, then, can broadcasters do to wrestle back control, and, more importantly, eyeballs? In an increasingly digital age, embracing technologies represents a good start. Technologies such as IP and artificial intelligence (AI) potentially allow broadcasters to streamline their work processes in more cost-effective ways, and to gain an in-depth understanding of what their audiences really want.

And that, in all likelihood, is the key that will determine any broadcaster’s future success: the ability to engage with viewers, find out what piques their interest, and increasingly, offer personalised content to disparate sub-groups. Or perhaps, it is time to start thinking like a Netflix. How has a company merely 20 years old, and which started out with a DVD sales and rental business model, grown into one of the biggest content providers and producers in the world?

As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” As the established incumbent, there is no reason why broadcasters should lose the battle for eyeballs, if they can successfully modify strategies that used to work in the past.

Shawn Liew is managing editor of Asia-Pacific Broadcasting (APB), who has been monitoring the technologies and trends impacting the broadcast and media industry for the past 34 years.



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