Feb 162016
 
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Long time no post. I know, bad blogger but prompted to write a little post on today’s announcement from the BBC that it is abolishing it’s ‘Divisions – TV and Radio’. Division is the operative word here as I have written about in some of my last posts (eg Mediocre Broadcaster MultiPlatform) the silo walls that traditional broadcasters have built up are the main reason ‘they’ have become more and more irrelevant to evolved multi-platform, personalized audiences.

“In what is being billed as the most far-reaching organisational overhaul in the BBC’s 93-year history, Lord Hall will give a speech before Easter in which he will unveil proposals to axe the corporation’s existing channel-based structures, fundamentally reshaping the organisation into content and audience-led divisions.” Telegraph article

I worked at the BBC for over 8 years when it was going through another major transformation, the introduction of digital, interactive tv and the internet. I recall many meetings as senior development producer with senior management looking at new ways to create cross-platform content, and perhaps do away with these silly political divisions based on distribution vs audience centricity. So here we are almost 20 years later and finally the game is afoot.

The major transformation that has happened with the ubiquitous new medium called broadband has meant audiences can now get what they want on their own terms, not slaves to schedules or broadcasters second guessing what audiences want. The advent of Netflix (and similar) recently means we are finally living into the age of Personalization (which has been the foundation of this blog since 2006 – spend some time in the archives and you will see many prescient articles) – so organisations that split their content based on receiving boxes (TV screen and Radio receiver) are way behind the curve.

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Audiences, or users, do not differentiate now between these antiquated, dated devices, they press a button and get, video stream to any device, audio (video without the moving stuff) to any device AND lots of pictures, interactive games/education, personally relevant content and great textual stories.

“New divisions may include BBC Entertain, which will absorb Radio 2 and televised entertainment program, and BBC Inform, in which news services and other radio stations like Five Live will be found. Each new division will have smaller ones underneath it such as BBC Youth (a subdivision of BBC Entertain), which will include the online channel BBC Three and popular music station Radio 1.”  Digital Trends

What Next?

It is the non-passive content where ‘traditional’ broadcasters still need to up their game. Forget the endless tomes written about ‘new gaseous distribution’, that is patently obvious, we need to move beyond billions of people passively watching streams, binging on five of the same show back to back in an evening, a public service broadcasters role is to inform through interaction, not just slick, expensive natural history passive programmes. But I digress. I loved the BBC when I was there. It was trying to pioneer new forms of content, new ways to engage an audience. I am sure that breaking the organisation into Entertain, Inform and Youth (which were silos bandied around back in the late 1990s too!) is a step in the right direction. The next challenge is to really encourage innovative proposals which go beyond video stream, audio stream and a web page and connect with their future mobile, personalized users. I have a mental library of ways they and other broadcasters, who are likely to follow suit, can do that.

Next post – The Emperors Clothes in Virtual Reality….

Aug 232013
 

Why are TV companies often the worst offenders when it comes to producing original and creative multiplatform offerings? Why are most just serving up brochure websites, the occassional ‘send in your video via YouTube’ or ‘tweet in what you think, we really want to know’? Where are all the great integrated-with-show online, game and mobile offerings, all the innovative 2nd/3rd screen stuff and really resonant social audience contribution? TV Broadcasters are fighting dwindling audiences overall (apart from great golden age US drama & singing talent shows of course) and struggling to come up with great multiplatform strategies to help reach and re-connect audiences to TV shows? Why is this?

Note: this refers generically to the TV industry not any one particular broadcaster…

Credit: Scott Adams

Credit: Scott Adams

1. Succeeding Backwards

Did that once, didn’t work, won’t do it again. Rather than failing forward or more importantly trying something and organically improving it over time, many broadcasters fall into the trap of nervously dipping their toes into new formats, only carry on doing it if it succeeds immediately, if not, do nothing to improve it and then wonder why nothing bites. There is a spiral of diminishing returns if iterative success is what you live and die on. Risk averse – Jobs on the line. Make a mistake and the kids are mortgage are in jeopardy. Best to just keep things stable, solid, not rock the boat, deliver the barest minimum. Surround everything we do in layers of ‘process’ so it looks like we are busy. Sadly many broadcasters are busy making nothing, of real value for their audience.

2. The Silo Wars

TV broadcasters and TV studio organisations are highly political and have set up division and departments that make joined up, original multiplatform projects particularly, nigh on impossible. This is often a symptom of the people structures combined with being judged on your last project not future potential. Also it is important to have a strong group of allies (or reports) who justify and keep you in your position/role, but these roles are part of a tight pre-defined structure. They are like bricks in the wall of the internal divisions set up by senior management to make it easy to, er manage the company. But this sets up many nasty habits. Competition and protection of the mini empires, fighting for budgets, duplication (we can do that too and better) and most importantly from a creative multiplatform perspective – really hard to do projects that cross these ‘locked down’ silos. If it looks good everyone fights for it, if it looks bad no one wants to touch it. Companies who have vertical products (radio,tv,film,books etc) need to build lots of internal bridges or watch all of their products fail.

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Jun 202013
 

Alongside my day job for the past couple of years and various labs and seminars I have been involved in, one thing that keeps coming up is ‘why is the process for making multiplatform so complicated / varied / mysterious / technical’. For many from traditional production processes such as film or TV it can seem like a black art. Not only are there the technical and story hurdles for each platform, whether smartphone, tablet, web or games devices but there are the complexities of delivering to all of them at the same time or in a staggered release schedule. Then comes the further black art area of the back-end server and content management issues.

So in the presentation embedded below the main image, I tried to at least raise some of the key issues about process and considerations. This was part of a public talk in a 3 day lab I ran last week with SAFC for its Digital 360 lab initiative, where I had 15 minutes to set the stage for other speakers talking about various production issues. I didn’t go into some of the key problems that I come across daily in a media organisation, where legacy commissioning structures, budget release and content silo’s cause even more process problems – the ever so present issue of ‘multiplatform’ as an after-thought or very worse case ‘a marketing campaign’ to draw users back to the tent pole tv or film property. That I will leave for another day/post.

One thing I and other enlightened multiplatform producers oft talk about is the parallel production process. By that I mean that for truly integrated cross-channel or merged media story driven products, the best process is where they all run in parallel. They still keep to their own rigid production sequence but wherever possible, they run together. So concepts and stories across Film, Multiplatform and Games are mapped out at the same time. The overall planning and pre-production are hand-in-hand and so on. I tried to find a map/chart of how this could work on the web but drew a blank, so I tried to fill that blank in for my talk. But even this only went so far. So the 1st diagram below is an initial stab at what an ideal production process might look like. Each of the components within the 6 stages across the 3 key media types, synchronised.

Parallel Production

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