Written by Paul Whybrow
Here we go again: heading to Amsterdam, along with the world’s broadcast and media professionals, for five days of immersion into the excitement of trekking around the IBC halls to see the latest and greatest for broadcasters, movie makers and digital video makers.
For the people holding the budgets, it is a hectic few days of weighing up options, comparing costs and, if you are lucky, negotiating fantastic deals that the CFO will be very pleased with.
I have been very fortunate to have been at the last three shows in a row and so I have had the opportunity to see first-hand as our industry copes with the huge challenges of consumer transformation. First of all, in addition to the TV that consumers love watching at home, they were able to get shows on their laptops and were very impressed that they could see live sports, news and drama on their smartphones.
Forward to now, where expectations are very different. The audiences we serve are pretty clear what they want. High quality, beautifully crafted content, available to whatever device they have to hand in a very seamless and personalised experience. Generally, they want fewer ads than we currently offer on commercial TV and, if they are subscribing for a service, they expect no ads and a monthly subscription that costs far less than buying a couple of beers at the pub and a fraction of the cost of the ride home in an Uber or taxi after a night out.
It is no wonder that our industry is under strain, facing the dual challenge of reducing base line production and delivery costs whilst simultaneously expanding the viewer experience – and doing so on less advertising or subscription revenue.
To me this is why our adapting industry is facing their Indiana Jones moment.
If you were not going to the movies in the 90s there is a risk, you have no idea what I mean. Let me explain. Indiana Jones was a highly successful movie franchise which starred Harrison Ford as a whip-cracking archaeology professor. His mission was to heroically protect historic relics from the baddies, with a lot of fun high adventure along the way.
What has this got to do with IBC 2019?I hear you think. Well, one of his most famous movie moments was where he was on one of those very high, very wobbly suspension bridges and dangling across the ravine with crocodile infested rapids. He was cornered on both sides of the bridge – and surprised everyone by cutting the ropes and then amazingly he could swing across and be safe.
To me this is exactly where the core of the media and broadcast industry is.
On one side of the cliff are the traditional broadcasters – the free-to-air players and subscription TV providers. In the gap are the rapids full of the corporate crocodiles of business failure; and across the wobbly suspension bridge there are already the digital newbies of Netflix, Disney Plus and Apple.
There are, I think, four themes that could dramatically change the game, to help our TV heroes make the leap across to the safe cliff.
The OTT arm has often been bolted onto the traditional broadcast chain of operation. The question is whether we are at the point where OTT is now the core service and the linear TV services are highly significant spokes from the mobile and on demand core. A common viewpoint is that there is acceptance this is going to be the future . . . just not yet!
If, however, the whole value chain was built with OTT first and linear feeding from that, we could see the emergence of base line cost savings or efficiency practices.
The world of cloud is becoming ingrained in the way many industries are dealing with tech. Have we reached the time where the confidence in security, the belief in inbuilt redundancy and access to private cloud mean that we can remove the physical equipment and shift to a more flexible environment.
With the rise of the new global creators and distributers, like Netflix, Disney Plus and more, there has been an increase in the need for high quality, well written and beautifully crafted content. In turn, I suspect at IBC there will be many camera sellers, lighting suppliers and audio equipment professionals who are delighted with the new and unexpected demand growth.
For free-to-air and subscription TV, there is a great opportunity to dig deep and really find what their own audience love about them and focus on delivering that, so it outshines all competition. It could be local sport or news; the local dramas tuned to specific audiences; or lifestyle shows that connect with a strong niche audience. Whatever it is, it can be the standout success that helps the broadcaster jump the cliff.
I must admit that I am not good with voice activated services. Frankly for me, they misinterpret what I say and lead to a frustrating exchange with no real benefit. I do believe however that my experience isn’t the norm, and that voice activated services are becoming a totally accepted way to search, question and deliver. The BBC, amongst others, is focussing research and development to get this activity smart and seamless. Building far more voice activation in entertainment delivery could help the adapters become rapidly more accessible, especially for accessing their depth of fantastic library content.
By the way if you want to see Indian Jones in actions take a look at this, probably his most famous suspension bridge trick. Just like him, I believe there are many adapting broadcasters who are dangling on the bridge between the TV world and the new digital world on the other side. To survive though they will need to make a pretty dramatic jump, avoid the crocs and join the new generation of media providers already there.
All in all, I think this sets up a very dramatic backdrop to enjoy IBC 2019.
Paul Whybrow is the Entertainment and Media Transformation lead for Tech Mahindra in Australia and New Zealand. He is the Managing Director and Creative Collaborator for Bodyboard Immersive Experiences. A boutique business with access to award winning creative, broadcast and immersive experience skills and consulting. Our purpose is to be the creative connector for imagining the possibilities and crafting the practical, so you can share passionate storytelling.