Jan 032006

A great New Year article in B&C, entitled “The New Deal” sets the foundations for the year as TV networks understand the new business models and line up for the broadband TV revolution.

Programmers thrive when new distribution pipes open, but some TV executives cutting the deals say they are making it up as they go along. While it is still unclear whether consumers will pay to watch TV on a small screen, execs are already struggling to construct the proper template to make big profits if they do. With each new announcement, many say privately they fear being left behind. When Apple and ABC set the market by announcing their $1.99-per-download deal last October, it set off a flurry of number crunching, as broadcast networks and studios tried to come up with the right set of rules to make money.

The article covers potential new business models for emerging media TV by looking at 4 key areas:

One of the knock-on effects of effective cross-media entertainment distribution will be traditional channels gaining new audiences who are already living in a non-scheduled TV environment, everything on-demand via iPod or PDR (personal digital recorder – which covers PVRs, PSP types and MP3 players etc).

For instance, an executive from a rival network said that ABC’s deal to put Lost on iTunes turned him into a fan. He hadn’t watched from the beginning, and when the show got hot, he felt it was too late to start watching first-run episodes due to its serialized nature.
“I downloaded all the old episodes, caught up, and am now hooked and I’ll watch it on ABC when the next first-run comes out so I can be part of the social experience,” he says. “So that platform has created a viewer that would never have been.”
And those iPod-wrangled viewers may be part of the reason that, for new episodes since the ABC-Apple deal, viewership for Lost and Desperate Housewives is up 17% and 8%, respectively, from the year-ago episodes.

Suggesting we are still in the era of small screens cross-promoting bigger screen offerings will at least wake up many broadcasters and advertisers to the approach that to not get involved in emerging distribution will affect ratings – this will mean an expontential increase in players in cross-media distribution over the next few months.

Alongside these business models we still have the reverse model prediction of a likely tsunami of UGC and Viral Videos being re-broadcast (so web stuff onto TV vs TV stuff onto the web) – this is starting slowly but we have a new player entering the fray highlighted by an article from Hollywood Reporter on VH1, iFilms “Web Junk” program.

Set to premiere Jan. 13, “Web Junk 20” is a countdown of the strange and humorous videos being spread virally around the Internet. Hosted by comedian Patrice O’Neal, the show is executive produced by Rick Hankey, Shelly Tatro and Michael Hirschorn.

The best viral videos after all attract the largest web audiences, why wouldn’t TV channels start to capitalise on this?

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

Dec 132005

According to a Reuters report Cingular’s COO thinks things are about to get very interesting in the mobile phone video/TV department. Today they unveiled a deal that will make available a range of content from the US’s leading cable content company HBO.

“Now you can turn a boring everyday moment into an opportunity to escape,” Cingular’s Chief Operating Officer Ralph de la Vega said at a press event announcing the deal.(snip)
The pair plan to kick off a subscription service in a few weeks with clips of hit shows for both adults and children from HBO, the most widely watched U.S. premium cable TV networks. HBO is also developing cellphone only content with performers such as Sarah Jessica Parker, the star of HBO’s Sex in the City TV show, and comedian Dane Cook, as well as hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons.

The interesting bit here is cellphone only content. Has the penny started to drop that people will buy content onto their phone if it doesn’t exist elsewhere? How about adding that the video is optimised (close-ups and locked off shots?) or how about adding the clips are part of a continuing narrative that exists on TV or broadband or…but that would be too much to ask at the moment I am sure.

The first HBO offerings for Cingular will be limited to a subscription service for short clips of up to about 4 minutes. But the companies could expand to full length shows or pay-per-view purchases, Cingular executives said.
“I think the real coming of age will be over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Cingular’s head of data services Jim Ryan.

So the next 2 years will be the make or break for mobile content I believe too. The telcos and content providers have to box very clever to make sure that they do not disenfranchise audiences by providing the same content on broadband, TV and mobile – I keep saying this but constantly see companies offering this package? Please, the rest of you, follow Cingular and HBO’s example and make the mobile offering unique, part of a cross-media user journey and shot/edited especially for those tiny, tiny screens.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005