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This article was originally published in the Association of International Broadcaster's The Channel Magazine. The PDF article can be downloaded here, or the full magazine viewed in Flash format online here.
Richard Kastelein, CEO of Agora Media Innovation and Publisher of www.appmarket.tv, and serial entrepreneur Dick Rempt, CEO of Talents Media, look at Connected TV and emerging multiplatform viewing behaviour in terms of threat or opportunity for broadcasters. In the process they come up with futuristic scenarios – but it's perhaps not as far away as you think.
Multiplatform Apps - Threat Or Opportunity?
Goodbye old remote. Hello new engagement and interactive TV on the second screen... multiplatform style — with Social TV, tCommerce, game mechanics, chat, communities et al. Throw in some DLNA and cloud-based VOD and Catchup via IP pipes and I can finally watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it, with whom I want to watch it (virtually), on any device that I feel like watching it on.
And it's not as far away as you might think. Television took 50 years to reach the 100m user mark, cellular telephony 13 years and the internet only five. And there will be well over 100 million Smart TVs and Tablets on the market by 2013.
Connected Devices will radically change the living room over the next few years as not only connected TVs enter homes, but, also, consumer pickup of both smartphones and tablets will allow for dual screen interaction — providing a much more ergonomic and practical tool for engagement over the traditional TV remote. Having said that, most TV remotes shipped by 2015 will likely be touch screen — similar to a smartphone. Samsung is already shipping such devices with their high end TVs in 2011. TV apps on connected TV and companion devices are going to rattle the TV broadcast industry as much as the music and print sectors have been disrupted by the advent of the internet, and the traditional value chain of Brand>> Agency>> Broadcaster>> Consumer is going to drastically change.
Some call it democratisation, others scream disruption. But for Indy producers (via VOD) and a slew of third party app developers (gaming, social, community), there are going to be new paths to the consumer that fall outside of the norm. If we look at the new disruptive technology from an economic point of view, consumer electronic (CE) manufacturers have been seeing thinner margins on televisions over the past decade — think about it... TVs have not really gone up in price over the past ten years.
Connected TV provides them with a new shared revenue model as they will become a new gatekeeper of content in the living room via applications, which are open enough to allow third party developers to create all kind of experiences for viewers in the living room from casual gaming to education to interaction and community. For instance, Lovefilm has to share revenue with Samsung and Sony on the Smart TV, Bravia and Sony Playstation where their apps sit on connected devices. As does Netflix in the USA who recently surpassed all cable companies in the USA for subscription numbers (Source).
Let's look at some data from appmarket.tv. According to Nielsen's recent survey of nearly 12,000 connected device owners, 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone owners said they use their devices while watching television, compared to only 35% of eReader owners. And 61% percent of eReader owners use their device in bed, compared to 57% of tablet owners and 51% of smartphone owners.
Couple that with the fact information technology research company Gartner predicts that well over 200 million tablets will be sold by 2014, and by 2015 more than one-third of American consumers (and likely Europeans) will use a tablet PC, says firm Forrester Research. Triple that even with Coda Research Consultancy predicting that worldwide sales of smartphones will total 2.5 billion units throughout 2010 to 2015.
Generations Y and Zed are ripe for early adoption. But companion apps, synchronised with TV programming is the future – where viewers not only interact with TV but also take it one step further and really learn by engaging in trivia quizzes, predictions, voting, and other game mechanics. And they won't have to do it alone — the virtual communities around the shows will allow for cooperative experiences as well. The main stumbling block with broadcasters is their lack of agility in terms of decision making and propensity in keeping everything close to hip and internal. Rather than opening up to 3rd party innovation and creating open standards.
While broadcasters seem to sit on their hands and mull over the second screen interaction with TV, carriers like Vodaphone and Orange are trying to own that spot with companion apps on the second screen with Social TV Apps, content producers are writing new formats that integrate tightly with the second screen so they can try and own that spot (as well as creating connected TV apps on the single screen for VOD), CE manufacturers like Samsung and Toshiba who make tablets are trying to marry it tightly and offer API's and SDK's to third party developers to co-own that sweet spot, third party developers in the USA like Miso, Philo, Tunerfish, Getglue and Intonow are trying to own that space by building Social TV on Apple and Android tablets and smartphones — Google TV wants a piece of the action with Android and Chrome plays on TVs, smartphones and tablets, Apple is in the fray and likely to tie in the iPad and iPhone with a consumer TV play soon as rumours have it...
Cable companies are slower than broadcasters in terms of interactive TV on the primary screen never mind multiplatform for the better part (Cable Labs is crawling along in the USA) and European Pay TV operators are not doing anything much quicker... except perhaps Sky.
Agile and Open
Advantages for broadcasters include access to the scripts prior to broadcast, strong relationships with the brands and agencies to monetise the second screen, and they can offer a one app does all solution rather than a slew of format level apps at the show level. Here we'll see a fierce competition between content owners building content brands (e.g. Fremantle with its strong talent format brands like X — Factor, American Idol) and the broadcasters who want to be a brand themselves (often based on a chosen theme: women/beauty & fashion, men/sports). Disadvantages for broadcasters are not only the threats coming from everywhere by more agile players. They also have a lack of willingness to create any open standards and let third parties develop in the space, and — well — moving things forward in the broadcast world is like moving a mountain.
Between the internal politics of R&D teams who don't want to open up to third party solutions — because it's their bread and butter to build themselves... and the upper echelon who just 'don't get it' — it's not an easy land grab and there's a clear problem to break down the silos between different content groups (TV, events, online, mobile) as well as inherent problems around innovation... the incredibly expensive, and therefore very risky, process of creating innovative formats.
Concerning open standards versus closed — remember Firefox has thrashed Internet Explorer due to open standards in the browser wars. And Facebook as well as Apple have both proven that having tens of thousands of developers essentially working on spec and rev sharing drives innovation a hell of a lot faster than air hangars full of 9-5 coders on the payroll. They just can't compete.
There are plenty of others who see the ripe opportunity for engaging children in a two screen experience for advertising, IP metrics, selling via affiliation models or direct deals with brands, interactive experiences and much more. That 200 billion dollars of TV ad spend globally is rather enticing.
And plenty of it is going to move to connected devices in the future, rather than the old value chain where brands give money to agencies that create 30 second spots and pay the broadcasters to interrupt viewing with ads that don't even mean anything to viewers half the time... and are more of an excuse to get up, leave the room and brew a tea. Or engage on the second screen.