Video Killed the TV Star

Those of us of a certain age will remember the song “Video killed the radio star” by Buggles which was released in 1979. Perhaps, it should have been TV that was the target - as in its traditional linear form, video is certainly posing a potential fatal threat to its future.

I believe we have associated TV with something old - even if TV and the device to deliver content clearly remains central to the pay-TV offering. It does not mean that everything will remain as it was but rather that the industry will continue to thrive and adapt to new and transformed players in all parts of the value chain.

I remember first talking about Mobile TV as a killer application. It was 2006 – and people thought I was crazy. Who would watch TV on the phones we had back then? We were both right. Mobile TV is a killer app and yes, the user experience at the time was substandard.

But it does prove a point. Just because the technical pre-requisites did not exist, the need and interest were still there. Equally you could argue that 3D television was a first step towards Augmented Reality even if the user experience again was poor. It also proves people tend to quickly bad mouth things and then move on to the next technological innovation without really analysing why things failed.

Sometimes other things determine success rather than the core idea. Another example from the music industry - the hit song “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia was only a success the third time it was issued. It proves that the nature of success can be fickle and sometimes the “stars need to be aligned” for things to succeed.

If we agree that video is key, mobile is a fundamental enabler and that people generally are both impatient and difficult to predict, what does the future hold?

Many analysts are writing obituaries for the pay-TV industry. Granted, it is definitely undergoing seismic change. As with the photographic industry where Eastman Kodak was such a prominent casualty, many established players in the market will not make it. In other industries, digitalization - a very overused term I know - has mostly contracted value chains and middle men into fewer but often more powerful players. Essentially, it comes down to value creation. In the 90s there were many resellers of computer and server hardware. Today, we buy our computing from the cloud.

Equally, the TV industry is going through the same transformation with fewer players in the chain striving to get a slice of the pie. Looking forward, I predict more changes:

  1. Less content aggregating middle men meaning less broadcasters: Many are broadcasting content which is better consumed on a non-linear basis rather than “live”. The consequence? Less viewers and lower advertising revenue. In turn, this mean fewer “traditional” channels.
  2. More horizontal advertising solutions: Companies who can provide media agnostic advertising solutions that combine local, physical and digital advertising assets and matching this to the advertising buyer will be the winners.
  3. More “virtual’’ TV channels: Event based channels like concerts, streamed industry events, more niche and local sports events - either advertising supported or as Pay Per View. Bigger events will get “bigger” and through new flexible technology solutions will be played out as individual “channels” to cover the event.
  4. The introduction of the “Personal Channel”: Your content will be served to you in the same way as Spotify or YouTube. Self-learning from your personal preferences will create a playlist for you combining catch-up/NPVR and live broadcasts. So you could start watching your recorded show from last night, then pause for the news and then switch over to live coverage of your favourite sports team.
  5. Seamless “beaming” and synchronised of streams from different IoT devices to even bigger screens: In the future, you won’t need Chromecast, Apple TV or other bespoke devices to enable casting to your big screen. I was interested to see Turner launching the app-based Vizbee technology www.vizbee.tv. It will be intriguing to see user take up for this specific service.
  6. Voice, sense and emotion controlled content discovery: New types of content discovery where voice will be the first step in controlling your devices and searching for content. Android TV, Comcast Xfinity and other services are early adopters here and we will surely see most providers offering this soon. In the future, we will see more contextually aware recommendations as well as using facial recognition technology to predict mood and desire.
  7. Lower latency and synchronisation of OTT devices and broadcast streams: More and more users now complain about the delay in OTT streaming versus the actual event in comparison to the live broadcast. There are market-ready solutions such as Netinsight’s Sye solution which already does this, providing a lower latency synchronised live experience across devices including your Set Top Box.

So, there are a few predictions for the year ahead – and beyond. A cynic may read this and say: “So what? I know this.” Maybe you do, but often people rarely take time to reflect and provide the context in which innovation happens our relentlessly fast-moving media landscape. It is likely that change will happen in phases and actual technology implementations may not be the same as I predict. However, what is obvious is that the fundamental shift in consumer behaviour to an on-demand personalised experience and the availability of technology and infrastructure already exists to make it all happen.