Tech savvy and “ahead of the curve” are dated lingo, as a new media age dawns all around us. The credit (or blame) for seismic shifts happening right now in TV land, boils down to some very powerful, run-away phenomena that didn’t even exist five years ago. But now, the internet boom has finally happened, alongside other technological advances giving us a whole new vocabulary and realities to contend with: social media, Twitter, Facebook, smart phones, tablets (iPads). There’s an infestation of “second screens” and OTHER PLATFORMS too! No wonder that TV network executives are scrambling to learn as much as they can, as fast as possible, their survival is threatened, extinction a possibility.
And so springs to life solution providers who were neatly organized into speaker panels, presented at a brand new Reed Midem initiative called MIPCube, which conveniently ran just prior to the start of MIPTV in Cannes. Over 39 overlapping MIPCube sessions, packed into just two short days!
MIPCube offered its Architects of the Future sessions to a small coterie of participants (about 600 in all, vs. the 11,000+ MIP attendees). Questions were answered, by new media executives and new digital companies. Start ups competed at MIPCube by presenting ingenious ways for networks who desperately want to keep those eyeballs glued to their content, to at least make money from other platforms if your viewer switches to another screen and keeps watching YOUR content. Live streaming on the internet is no longer the best answer. Audience engagement and total immersion are the game-changing solution. “Second screens” like smart phones and iPads will serve up what everybody seems to want: added value, and a feeling of being important. The audience is no longer satisfied with being passive!
So the hippest TV channels are hyper-focused on having producers and tech solution providers make 2nd screen experiences that “push you back” to the 1st screen. Viewer participation and satisfaction is achieved through competitions, social activities and other multi-screen experiences. All ideally in sync with the main screen, the flat one at home.
If you were a TV network executive, wouldn’t you also pursue business options that will line your coffers with revenue from web streaming AND bring higher ratings back to your shows? Of course you would, once you’ve accepted the brutal reality of research facts like “51% of the primetime audience are multi-screen users between 8 and 10 p.m.” Translation: half the TV audience isn’t exclusively watching prime time anymore! To give us rapt MIPCubers some additional perspective, VIEWRZ Guillaume Rivals explained that in 2011 in France “2,000,000,000 views of TV extracts were seen.” Thus, all the new tech companies who create user-friendly internet interfaces for network TV content enable networks to monetize their content in ways never even imagined a few short years ago.
And TV network library content? Entire platforms like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon are generating amazing revenues, and boosting ratings for new seasons according to Josh Sapan, President and CEO of AMC Networks. He’s convinced that Mad Men’s recent Season five premiere was 40% higher than the averaged ratings across the first four seasons. Meaning that a whole lot more viewers were “collected” and became Mad Men fans, because of Netflix. For the pay TV business at least, we were told that it’s all about “total audience multi-screen engagement and immersion.”
Even with kids’ channels, the little viewers are just as happy as their parents are to screen hop away to iPads and phones; in the blink of an eye, they’re gone! To preempt such prospective losses, most channels are streaming their on-air transmissions simultaneously to other platforms. Proactive entrepreneurs who provide this service, who know how to monetize these streams and screens, were touted via MIPCube2012 as the way to “See the future of TV through the eyes of the game-changers.”
Drilling down to just a couple of these MIPCube game-changers below, you’ll see the breadth and depth of how TV channels have options to quickly and smartly join forces with the web and other platforms, thanks to a myriad of entrepreneurial companies who are leading the way in cross-platform apps and technologies.
1. Applicaster. This Israeli company is less than three years old, with its core mission as a service provider to help TV channels invent ways for content not envisioned to have 'new media qualities' - think User Generated Content… make an audience competition, instead of VOD live stream (which is how most channels utilize VOD today, many simply stream). Applicaster’s services focus on multi-screen content delivery, whether to mobile, or by designing on-line “sync experiences” which ultimately aim to push consumers back to the first screen (timing is everything), or by developing via social integration (Facebook) with data-based, team game playing, or via show storage for viewing later when off-line.
Spain’s Canal Panda Pay TV channel proudly reports they hired Applicaster (a pioneer in these types of applications). Canal Panda offers 15 minutes free per day for 6 months, and a subscription service (only 1,59 euros per month) for their audience of 4-9 year olds. Canal Panda can also be seen as a live stream, or consumers can access their video library on-line, or can create their own “My Favorites” for screening off-line, anytime.
Another Applicaster client, Liat Sternthal, Director of New Media, The Voice Israel confirms measurable benefits from multi-screen apps. “Actual TV viewing increased with broadcast ratings exceeding 40%, almost 10 points higher than comparable broadcasts at the same time slot prior to using cross-media.”
2. Viewrz. When Susan Boyle got up to 50,000,000 views on YouTube, the UK network ITV pulled it from YouTube. But, with a company like VIEWRZ, the broadcaster could have processed the YouTube stream, and monetized that massive on-line audience!
For the bigger broadcasters, VIEWRZ offers a live processing tool, for a flat annual fee - putting all 2nd screens under the control of the broadcaster's content. Smaller channels pay per usage/per clip (on demand, when clips are streamed). Best tidbit: all videos can start with a short advertisement.
VIEWRZ must pursue only the B-to-B route, since the television content is not theirs.
Here’s how a VIEWRZ audience can instantly share short video clips:
- “Wow, what I’ve just seen is interesting! I want to share it!”
- “I visit the broadcaster website or mobile app (Viewrz powered).”
- “I select the show that interested me which aired in the last 5 minutes.”
- “I get a video clip of which I can share the link on social networks.”
By utilizing technologies like VIEWRZ, TV channels now have the ability to monetize the online audience thanks to the viral nature of videos posted on social networks. Side benefits? VIEWRZ is also a powerful community management and buzz-marketing tool.
And so the beat went on, at MIPCube, with each new company and/or established digital players like YouTube presenting their latest developments, a jam-packed new technology information orgy! The Reed Midem organizers created a very dense two-day experience. Peppered appropriately on small cinema-sized screens were columns filling up with live tweets.
“Transmedia is not technology, it is people with who you want to interact.”
“Transmedia is not about technology but more about connecting people on screen, on stage, w/…”
“Add value & give value to tv viewers. I agree with you Ed. Value is always a driver”
Whether the audience is on-the-go, or sitting in their living rooms, or at MIPCube, the next wave of content creation will undoubtedly be designed for deep consumer engagement. MIPCubers who also attended MIPTV surely noticed that the MIP sessions covered the same current industry themes.
So the MIPCube and MIPTV industry updating was clear and consistent - content should satisfy the audience’s ever-growing appetite for strong stories, [and producers should] take into account the massive impact that multiple screens and social media like Facebook and Twitter are having. Around the globe, there’s plenty of evidence that some things will never change: the basic human need to feel important, and be connected!
Catherine B. Morrissey is an AWN writer who has over 20 years of entertainment industry experience in distribution, production and coproduction.