Keeping pace with digital-first counterparts is only half the battle for broadcasters in a bid to transform their distribution models, according to Brian Morris, VP and GM (media and entertainment services), Tata Communications
The road has not been easy for broadcasters over the last 30 years. They have seen disruption change their industry almost beyond recognition. Their viewers have moved out of the living room into bedrooms, onto trains and planes, and beyond. Non-traditional competitors such as Netflix and Amazon Prime and players like Hulu have changed the game globally in more ways than one.
Content, however, is still where the killer value lies. You can get as many people as you like to see your content but if it doesn’t match their expectations, they will find something better.
Many television critics have claimed we are living in the golden age of programming with blockbuster shows such as Game of Thrones, True Detective, and Breaking Bad. A number of factors have contributed to this golden age of content, which, in part, has grown from a better understanding of emerging viewing habits and needs. For content to land with today’s diverse audiences, there is ultimately one commodity that broadcasters should value above all else – data.
Data and Death of the ‘pilot’
In the years gone by, traditional television networks used ratings to decide which shows to renew and which ones to axe–an approximation at best. Similarly, new shows were green-lit based on this tradition and the intuition of industry executives. The old method was based on incredibly imprecise science.
What we have today is an industry reborn and fuelled by data analytics.
As of February 2017, Netflix had over 98.7 million users. The data Netflix harvests and utilises from those users plays a huge part in how it selects and commissions future content for its users. The streaming giant uses big data analytics to understand which shows land well with its global audience and how and when people access its service.
This huge bank of data translates into actionable insights and has been crucial in deciding which content producers Netflix should partner. It has been a key part of some of its biggest success stories, including shows such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and The Crown.
The outcome is a complete revolution in the way content is commissioned in today’s content-rich industry. Amazon Prime took this one step further in 2016, when it released four Amazon Original Series pilots and invited its users to view and vote for the pilot they most wanted to be commissioned for a full series.
This leads us to an exciting new age for television. While content can be the jewel in a broadcaster’s crown, how it is distributed is now a huge part of the value chain as well.
Screening to a global audience
The local nature of the media industry, due to rights issues, has not always kept up with peoples’ desire to access whatever content they want, wherever they want. This presents an opportunity for broadcasters to compete with their digital counterparts on exciting new partnerships and content projects of their own.
The world of sport is a good example of how the industry is evolving to address viewers’ changing content-viewing habits. Dorna, the company behind MotoGP, announced a partnership with Tata Communications in February that brings the motorcycle racing action from 18 MotoGP locations to fans globally and across platforms. All races are now distributed to over 80 media partners, reaching over 200 million households worldwide.
Yet, Dorna also has big ambitions to transform the sport through the latest digital innovations. Recognising the need to quench MotoGP fans’ thirst for more immersive and truly real-time racing experiences, whether they’re watching online, on a TV or on a mobile device, we look to work together with Dorna on projects involving technologies such as low-latency ultra-high-definition, 360º and live over-the-top (OTT) video as well as high-dynamic-range imaging. The aim? To keep audiences engaged by making each race more thrilling than the last.
Looking beyond sport, broadcasters can use the turning tides of viewing habits in their favour. Broadcasters should see this as an opportunity to work more closely with content producers, agreeing from the very outset the most mutually beneficial method of distribution to reach the biggest and most relevant audience.
Empowering regional production companies
Evolving viewing habits and distribution models aren’t just exciting news for the big broadcasters. OTT broadcasting gives smaller broadcasters a more direct line to smaller, niche audiences. For example, in a country like India, with lots of regional sub-communities, cultures, and even languages, a small regional production company could stream a regional cricket match to local viewers. While they might not have the global appeal of the Indian Premier League, those locally relevant live events, which have a captive audience, are ripe for smaller broadcasters experimenting with new content-delivery techniques.
If the content is made available online or via mobile devices, local companies may even support the event through advertising, which is beneficial for both the broadcaster and the event they are raising awareness for. Similarly, it is now possible for content creators to launch new OTT channels in a matter of days, targeting audiences globally who share the same interests–be it combat sports or knitting.
This phenomenon will likely start small but we might see, as a result, ‘new Hollywoods’ popping up–regions with the right mix of cultural, social, and environmental factors mirroring the Silicon Valley. These regional content production and distribution hubs could become synonymous with certain types of entertainment, which appeal to a regional audience or a particular subculture.
This way, producers outside of the traditional home of big-budget TV are given the opportunity to reach a wider audience than ever before with killer content of their own, starting a new revolution for content generation. It will take us beyond the golden age of television into something else entirely.