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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May 132012



Presenting Media140 - Photo: The Cut Creative, Perth

I keynoted at the Media140 conference three weeks ago (26 Apr 2012) wearing my ABC Exec Producer TV Multi Platform hat. Now responsible for non-kids ABC TV online & mobile offerings & TV mobile and social strategy my 20 minute talk was rather focused on the high level challenges for broadcasters trying to truly integrate fiction, factual and entertainment with social, mobile and 2nd screen (or synch services). The transcript, slideshare and more ore detail follow but first…

Absent note

…apologies to regular readers for my long absence from post on this blog. I started an ABC role back in October which overlapped with me running the Screen Australia StoryLabs weeks and as well as tidying up and finishing a range of commercial projects meant actually talking/blogging about all the stuff I have been doing in long form, has been tricky – plus there are confidentialities to take into account. The adage certainly holds true those who can, do, those who can’t, write long blog posts or podcasts on the topic 🙂 Might get flamed on that one, but I think having an hour or two to sit and post is a luxury. In other full time roles I still manage to provide a commentary into the cloud but the ABC is particularly under resourced in multi platform areas with many folk working beyond the call of duty. I am also taking advantage of my partner Laurel Papworthaway, spending a few weeks on a pilgrimage across the Camino in Spain, and doing very well with it.

Talk intro – the challenge, the hybrid and the prototyping

Also like most big media organisations the ABC is a mirror of the external larger world itself. There are silo’s, politics, technical differences across the divisions, resource scarcity, diluted budgets and linear controllers / commissioners who all need to be sold on the importance of Multi Platform and the potential of different types of services. But that means a good part of my role inside the ABC is very similar to my BBC Senior Dev Producer role, to evangelise but also implement new services. That means I am exposed to the key challenges in terms of merging or hybridising broadcast and on-demand TV with some of the key driving forces outside a broadcasters world. Without drilling down into the detail (or breaking any confidentiality!) the top level challenges for all traditionally one-way media organisations is:

  • Sorry too busy to talk – We don’t have enough people resources, social media staff, to engage in widespread, authentic, editorial conversation with our audience/users
  • Bolt on effect – Our massive internal technical infrastructure/s can’t be glued to always new, transient, multiple external services/APIs
  • That’s they way it is done – We have decades old editorial & commissioning processes in place and until any big multi-platform ‘story-telling’ breakthroughs we will need convincing of a reason for changing that
  • Multi platform and social media is really about marketing isn’t it and therefore warrants those types of relatively small budgets
  • Sure everyone is shifting attention to mobile & social but until there is zero people watching our main channels we have a job to do!
  • Rights are not set up for multi platform, period. Expensively produced linear video leads, the rest follows, still.
  • and the list goes on and on

Ok I am being a little provocative and at the ABC, I and many others are very aware of the challenges and getting on with the changes required. Alongside managing producers and resources I am able to run group workshops internally with the key show creatives and together (vs telling what we should be doing!) to slowly move forward. I also have a great role in developing working prototypes (and final services) of synchronous 2nd screen and social mobile services. Being several months into these,  I also refer to at the end of my talk of the key differences between vanilla social TV, content owner social TV, content owner driven 2nd screen storytelling and the hybrid of all of them. When someone is engaged with a great synch story experience of say tablet against TV it makes absolute sense to include social elements, for them to invite and share that experience.

I also mentioned in the talk and interviews around it about the need for content owners and broadcasters to be driving the 2nd screen experience – these have to be truly integrated story experience and although there is value in trying to layer or bolt on these synchronous services. Although voting, polling, surveying type services can work, ideally with presenter driven call to actions, many well written pieces of video do not have much ‘space’ for the interaction (or parallel narratives to ideally slot in). There are two arguments to that. Firstly formulaic storytelling combined with the distractions our already existing 2nd screen habit means we are constantly snacking on our 2nd screen anyway and ‘missing’ the important bits of the show. Secondly, in a world where on-demand, when you want it, watching is so ubiquitous, I am devising several formats where the linear video is simple paused and the interactive component has its own space to breathe in this time frozen moments. I am suggesting in all my meetings with show creatives that if possible, the best approach is to design from the ground up. But that then moves into eons old ‘commissioning’ processes and for now I won’t go there, perhaps later…OK onto the talk

Hello, Good Morning and Welcome

It was great to be in Perth again with a very enthusiastic crowd, which speaking to the folks there, encompassed most of the digital fraternity it seemed. There were many folk live blogging the event and my talk (e.g.: Sarah Tierney and Matthew Allen), I did a few small interviews (e.g.: Western Australian / Yahoo)  and at least 60% of the audience tweeting. Media140 is the brainchild of Andrew Gregson and the event was very well organised, technically and management wise. The slides below were presented on my new iPad (3) so hopefully the formatting came across OK. Transcription follows the slides

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