Aug 052006

After presenting at various ‘future of the industry’ type events I regularly get told that we have heard it all before, and nothing ever changes. My answer is that ‘this’ change is permanent and like all natural and permanent changes it is often undetected on a day to day basis. Look back to the media world less than three years ago without YouTube, MSN Video, Google Video and a thousand other video distribution portals, and people publishing, do you really think nothing is changing? The biggest question for traditional video media companies such as rental, TV and cinema, should not be ‘nothings really changing’ but how best to attract the advertisers to embed or be inserted around your broadband content – that will in the next few years be the only way pay for it. Two items that sprung up today demonstrate both sides of the fence.

As the YouTube video “The Day of the Long Tail” suggests (and thanks to David Gurney a LAMP mentor, for giving me the heads up on this) the audience are a-changing.

“No one would have believed in the closing years of the 20th century that our most popular media were being watched in a new way by a force that was quietly gathering strength. With blind confidence we considered them our own. Out audience. Our subscribers. Our cuddly couch potatoes…(snip). And then early in the 21st century came the great unravelling. We offered free choice but all they heard was free. We devised more powerful, more complete, more feature rich software, but they preferred to grow their own.”

and so on. Slightly tongue in cheek it reminds me forcibly of, and borrows heavily on Robin Sloans aged old EPIC which I blogged about back in September. The video trys to makes some important points but gets lost a bit at the end in the importance of blogs in this landscape and of course the fact that the big media organisations are complascent, sitting on their bottoms, when of course they are not – well the enlightened ones are not. They are ready to buy up the broadband foothills and take their slice of the long tail pie. Reuters reported today in the item “ABC prime-time Webcasts here to stay: Disney” that their prime-time download trial has been a success and will be around for a very long time.

“The Walt Disney Company is making ad-supported Webcasts of its ABC prime-time TV shows permanently available this fall, following a successful two-month test that drew a younger, more educated audience, a Disney official said on Friday. Disney offered the prime-time ABC television series “Desperate Housewives,” “Commander in Chief,” “Lost” and “Alias” on its Web site in May and June to test whether consumers would watch ads online if the shows were free. Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group, said a retooled version of the free broadband player will be launched in the Fall.”

So TV delivered over the web can work and the reason it works is simply that the agreement between aggregator and audience holds up. You watch the ads scattered around the content and you can have it for free. Now that is an example of nothing changing all that really has is the way audiences get to the content. As the article points out advertisers will be even more interested in moving their budgets because ad rentention was found to be far higher than traditional TV.

“The shows were viewed 16 million times during the trial by consumers and 87 percent of viewers remembered the advertiser who sponsored the episode they had watched. That compares with typical ad recall of about 40 percent for commercials viewed on television, industry sources said. Disney said a survey showed that more than 50 percent gave positive ratings to the advertising experience, which required them to click through interactive ads to watch the shows. The average age of the online audience for the ABC shows was 29, almost evenly split between men and women and more than half were college educated, the survey showed.”

This is significant and will raise quite a few eyebrows not only with the advertisers but those traditional ad buyers who will have to carry on selling spots on a media that is now becoming second division – the eyeballs, or rather the younger ones that are paying most attention to their ad message are now on broadband and using interactive services. One can see a thousand TV companies around the world getting out their checkbooks to buy the latest server farms when the main reason people watched online is because they missed the TV outing – the new audiences are becoming less and less willing to be slaves to any forced schedule.

Posted by Gary Hayes © 2006

Apr 082006

Not quite open doors, more a slightly ajar gate, the BBC was acting out of character in openly having ideas pitched from indies, in this very public forum. I was reminiscing with Ferhan Cook who organises Milia how interactivity across TV and the internet (this pre-dates mobiles), was relegated to a small stand less than 6 years ago when myself and Scott Gronmark manned the BBC presence on a tiny Ferhan organised stand called the interactive pavilion. Now the TV anywhere, rich interactivity bell is being rung in all Palais De Festival corridors – and the BBC folk are happily ringing it louder than most with its 360 Content initiative. 360 content, or commissioning has been used in the BBC since 1998 or so, yet it seemed a pretty new term for many at the event. Still, it is a term that will stick now.

Ashley Highfield -Gary HayesWhat struck me as surprising from the pitches at several of the 360 content sessions I attended at Milia 2006 was the number of World Firsts that people trip out during their intros. Very little is truly ‘first’. This habit is almost as bad as those who say oh we did that years ago, often to an audience of 20 at some new media arts show in the dark corner of an art gallery. Anyway there was something refreshing about the BBC’s (and Canadian Arts Board and Korean Broadcasting) initiative to solicit pitches from all and sundry across some key progressive media areas.

The content 360 digital pitching competition was really given context by Ashley Highfield’s keynote on Wednesday evening. He talked about the changes ahead and some of the learning from the Integrated Media Player trial that will mean a very likely on-demand future, at least in the UK. My old BBC cohort William Cooper who I sat next to a few times, had a good take on this in his informitv report. It wasn’t clear in Ashley’s presentation what has radically changed in what the BBC delivers in the 2 plus years since I left – beyond more BBC TV delivered over the web, the same iTV engines and a few internet games. Even so he has firmed up some ideas that were deemed as out of scope when I was leading TV-Anytime for the BBC, namely personalization of BBC TV for the great British audience. I asked him in the q&a session at the end of the keynote whether he really thought the BBC would go down this road and adopt personalization engines, collaborative filtering, recommendation agents in an on-demand TV world (a bit leading of course ;-). (from my audio notes…)

“Personally I think it is going to be huge. You can’t watch a programme in the on-demand space by having watched the previous programme, there’s no such thing. You cant be there at 8 o’clock to watch eastenders then be hammered into a worthy programme like panorama afterwards. How do you find a programme? An EPG starts to become an impossible thing to navigate across the thousands of hours of content, and a search engine is a really blunt instrument. The recommendation agent we have built into the IMP trial is very primitive and as we start to expand on that we will really start to understand, this is why I think the relationship with the audience is very important we have got to understand what you are looking for and what your consumption is. If I can build in the overnights, if I knew your type of demographic and what you were looking for and start recommending you content that rated really well in the schedule for people like you well, that’s much more powerful than any other kind of way of presenting programming. It might even become the primary way. I mean build me my channel tonight based on the things I like, schedule me the perfect evenings viewing. I want the live football match at 9 o’clock, build something around it, that you’ll know I will enjoy – and make it easy to reject ones that I don’t like, no not that, not that, and build me a channel. Now wouldn’t that be great”

Mint Digital �Gary HayesThankyou Ashley, now hopefully the BBC will read the DTI report I did with SG Associates a couple of months ago and really begin to adopt the TV-Anytime, MPEG7 standard in this area (oh and the rest of this blog!). The search and personalisation BBC theme was continued in the 360 content session on Long Tail content. Four teams pitched in with ideas for navigating the BBC archive – or as it was ill defined a couple of times, the long tail. The projects were basically random play ambient, a book marking tool, a search engine which looked for text in the closed captions and the eventual deserved winner called “Buried Alive” which was in fact the best project from all the pitch sessions as it really combined user generated, community, rich media and potentially mobile.

Buried Alive was a ‘wisdom-of-the-crowds’ recommendation of the best stuff hidden through the years – viewers review, cross recommend, greenlight content from the massive BBC archive – no brainer really. Mint Digital (a nice company) actually had a simulated website which showed the power of viewers voting for parts of the archive that surface. I suggested at the session that these same viewers could be the ones adding rich metadata to the content, obvious to me, instead of relying on a hundred staffers who will no doubt be yawning through most of the process. Also I suddenly saw the connection here in viewers identifying short clips that could be pulled out and shared on mobile platforms to cross-promote the site. But this would have put the project in ALL categories.

David Gurney �Gary HayesSo that brings us to the strange ‘Zapping Show’ hosted by a irreverent Ray Cokes, the development prizes of 5000-15 000 euro were awarded to the various categories in a comedy awards show (nearly worked). I have queued up a few more blogs that cover these, that will be released while I am in the air over Asia somewhere on the long trip back to Australia. Which leads me nicely onto the fact that the only two teams from Australia, in fact Tasmania, both won in their category! One of the teams was Blue Rocket’s David Gurney, no less, one of our LAMP mentors. He seemed confident about winning at various stages I talked with him and it is a great, pushing the envelope project to boot – unlike quite a few of the other pitches. More later. Well done to David and well done also to Fiora Cutler of Big Structure Creative. Overall the quality and organization of the 360 pitching session needs quite a few tweaks. There needs to be something to push the envelope and have relevance – as many were not public service or particularly inventive. The other winners on this Milia PDF.

Still well done BBC for ‘coming out’, well done to Ashley for sticking in their and flying the flag, now BBC just get on with leading the world – it is catching up VERY FAST!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

Blogs queued include Emmys, Media Tidal Wave, Great TV Virus, Emperors Mobile Clothes, Rights, tell me what it is, Entertainment Everywhere