Monday, May 14, 2012

The content of the future

Sooner or later, all conversations about the broadcast industry comes back to the universal truth that content is king. The final session of the first day of the emerging media technology addressed the issue of content.
Sheau Ng of NBC Universal felt that convergence was now an old word. Now we have proliferations of new methods of communicating and proliferations of devices. That paints a new picture of the future for content. We are beginning to connect some of the dots, to build the new paradigms for the creative community, he said.
What we have to do is push ourselves into new ways of telling stories, to find routes to re-engage with audiences. We can now present data in multiple ways synchronously, to the main screen and the extra screens. It is up to the producers to find new ways of using those tools.
Chair of the session Anthony Rose of Zeebox talked about a programme on UK Channel 4 called Style the Nation. This was aimed at teen girls, and paid for by a clothing company. The accompanying app allows the audience to both vote on the clothes discussed on the programme and by it online. It turns the conventional broadcasting model upside down.
Jean Philip de Tender is a channel controller at VRT, but described himself as a story evangelist. New technologies allows you to tell stories in a better way, he agreed. With second screens to have the ability to organise a dialogue with your audience, to understand how they are responding to what you tell them.
He recalled that he had once made a programme about terminal cancer, which naturally triggered strong emotions. This was an opportunity to start a conversation, an ideal use for connected communications.
In response to a question, he was clear that, while the broadcaster need not own the second screen, it was vital that the content was linked to provide real integration and convergence.
Ken Kerschbaumer of SVG brought the sports broadcasters’ viewpoint. If you have the rights to a sport you have a way of keeping the audience locked in and a naturally dramatic story line. It is a story best told live. So sports fans do not cut the cord. They want to watch their favourite sport as it happens.
The discussion moved onto discovering content. What will the next iteration of EPGs look like? Ng felt that there was much to be said for the old up and down buttons. This worked when there was just a handful of channels. Now it needs to take that idea and put under the up and down buttons suggestions for the sorts of programmes that individual or family might want to watch at that sort of time. Some clever algorithm somewhere will predict tailored programming for you.
Tender remained a firm believer in the strong brand: the broadcaster setting out what audiences will want to watch. He also expressed the idea of a show having “talk value”, making audiences watch a programme as it is transmitted because everyone will be talking about it afterwards.
Programme scheduling exists today, and will exist tomorrow, asserted Ng. But within the next decade there will be functionality to develop the sort of functionality which will provide a personalised schedule. But it has to not only understand the user, it has to understand the content, including new content which the audience has yet to see. How can that new content be advertised?
Audiences are increasingly expected to find content for nothing, and broadcasters work with YouTube as a way of building brands. Kerschbaumer pointed to the sports bodies, like Formula 1 and MLB, who control their content very tightly and do not have YouTube or Facebook presences. Does this mean that audiences will reject them because they cannot see them for nothing?
In conclusion, Rose asked how content owners generate blockbusters if there is no schedule. Ng said you will always have surprises, like The Hunger Game, but for most it is the release date.
Kerschbaumer said the beauty of sport is that you always know when and where it is happening. And Tender said it always begins and ends with a good story.

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