An interesting MIP TV – one full of subtle tensions. Whilst the business of global TV distribution continued in the Palais, there was a sense that the digital revolution in consumer behaviour and personal technologies was finally beginning to change the game, especially highlighted in the excellent Connecting Creativity conference. But there was a matching counter to that, as the large emerging economies reminded the neophytes that the aim was to connect to audience - and in some places they don’t all have an iPad...
For many years at MIP the digital chorus has loudly proclaimed the death of TV (full disclosure: I launched a .com at MIP 10 years ago…) whilst misunderstanding the fundamental dynamics of audience consumption. In 2011 however the mantra identified by Nick Thomas from Forrester of “Social / Participative / Accessible / Connected” seemed to tune in to changing audience habits and consumer demand and set a framework into which much of the innovation of the week could fit.
Social is clearly a massive driver for discovery and peer recommendation – with most new product lines featuring some kind of “like” or “share” function. Groundbreaking projects such as TheLXD.com gained initial traction as YouTube clips driven by a twitter following, and the Justin Bieber film by the same director Jon Chu used an extensive social media campaign to involve fans at all stages of the production (and even into the cinemas – glowstick app anyone?). Social platforms are also becoming content outlets, Facebook is now one of the top 5 video streaming sites in the UK and its US experiment with Warner Bros, streaming films such as the Dark Knight, matched to an existing fanbase (DK has 5M facebook friends), is being watched closely.
Participation, and the concept of “second screen” engagement (i.e. interacting online whilst watching TV), is now moving beyond recycling existing content into a separate channel which adds to the audience experience. This ranges from the YouTube extensions of format programming such as X Factor or Got Talent to interactive games. Kevin Slavin ex-Area/Code now Starling.tv (after destroying the term “gamification”) highlighted an example. Parking Wars was a programme on A&E in the US, it rated 1M viewers on broadcast. A game to promote the show attracted 900k users, served 5.7M hours of video and attracted 1.3Bn page views (compared to 96M for the whole of A&E output for the same period). Parking Wars the game extended the life of the programme well beyond broadcast and in fact spawned copycats games in India and China.
Accessibility and piracy were presented as two sides of the same coin, for Patrick Walker from Google “piracy is driven by lack of availability”, i.e. if you don’t give the viewer the content they’ll find another way of getting it. Comparisons to the music industry position were challenged but it was a music industry example which provided an interesting model. Vevo is a JV between Sony Music and Universal Music, with content licensed from others, set up to counter a position of music video being seen as low value content. Vevo is a music video distribution platform which aggregates content and audience across multiple outlets – Last fm, facebook, YouTube etc. By tightly controlling its presentation Vevo has reconditioned the marketplace to the value of music video content. With 55M views per month it attracts 350 high quality brand advertisers and has begun to generate its own exclusive programming, e.g. a Jay Z & Kanye West gig at SxSW. Another accessibility exemplar is BBC iPlayer, with 200M+ monthly views and an upcoming EU launch.
Connected TV was best exemplified by a new Vivendi product, Zaoza, currently only launched in France and Germany. Zaoza offers unlimited access to games, TV, music and films on multiple platforms simultaneously – mobile, iPad, connected TV and online – for a €9.99 monthly subscription. The user account is instantly synchronized and accessible across all devices and social layer allows recommendations to friends. All content is “download to keep”, although the available inventory is at present curated and limited for ease. Shazam also showed a new connectedness as it seeks to move from music into a video content market. With 100M installed users already it can use its audio recognition technology to unlock exclusive additional content triggered within programming or even adverts.
But what of the pushback?
In an impassioned presentation Tomi Ahonen pointed out that although the mobile is ubiquitous (“there are 5.2Bn mobile subscriptions in the world but only 4.2Bn people brush their teeth” / “the average person looks at their phone 150 times a day, once every 6.5 minutes”), only 17% of those are currently smartphones, and only 2% an iPhone. So in his opinion concentrating on Apps removes 83% of your addressable market and the only global communication mode to effectively reach everyone is SMS.
A similar idea arose in a Content 360 workshop, that of using the “appropriate” technology to connect to your audience. In this case participants from India and Canada reiterated that if the primary goal is to connect, start with the consumer and work backwards - and if radio is the best and most interactive way to do that, then so be it.
The buzz-word throughout MIP was “experience” – where the combination of content plus social and connected elements provides a richer engagement for audiences, and therefore a more profitable connection for the rights holder. The interesting qualification is that this experience is not always entirely technology driven – “speak to me, not my device”.
YouTube and other digital platforms have not eaten the TV audience as predicted, but managed properly have actually contributed to a rise in TV viewing. As consumer behaviours rapidly change (whatever, wherever, whenever) content owners seem to have moved beyond a position of protect the status quo to embracing and adapting to a new reality. In fact Cedric Ponsot from Vivendi recommended that the sensible position was to “cannibalise your own market” rather than wait for someone to do it for you – essentially constantly innovate.