Tag Archives: Television

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

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A New Form Of Superstar Athlete? A Little Bit Of Content Will Do…

eSports

It wasn’t so long ago that people would provide a quizzical stare when presented the concept of eSports as an industry and an even shorter time since people would laugh at the thought of eSports becoming big business with a huge following. Now, adding to the list of new generational tastes and trends that bucked the naysayers of older generations, eSporting continues to crystallize itself as a huge opportunity for both entertainment and commerce. Turner Broadcasting and major entertainment/sports agency, WME/IMG have announced their ELeague and 30 weekly hours of coverage that will be coming with it on a grand scale.

For those who don’t know about eSports, it has been brewing for a few years – where video game players (both single and team) compete against each other in leagues and championships with the action streaming much in the same way we’re used to seeing other professional sports around the world. Here’s the huge opportunity — as FIFA benefits from the accessibility of Football/Soccer to make it’s sport the largest in the world, the same could be said for video games and the leagues that have formed to support them. The players you see in these leagues are the cream of the crop, but the opportunity is attainable with hard work – and these teams work hard.

Just looking at Riot Games’ LEAGUE OF LEGENDS, their competitive teams are able to focus on practice and competing 24/7 with strong sponsorship packages. Their championships sell out around the world and the demand continues to grow.

Now that the first regular linear presentation of these sports is arriving on Turner in 2016, the opportunity for growth is even stronger. What is key though – for the strength of the leagues and their competitors – is that the production is treated as strongly as those of the recognized major sports. There is no excuse not to. And, with the opportunity to highlight players that are more like the every-man through solid content development and storytelling, there is every possibility that strong competitors/personalities will be able to reach fans and consumers in ways that not even our present top athletes can.

Hopefully, the sneers and jeers will be muted early enough to allow for enough talented people to get in on something special before the opportunity passes them by.

Netflix Brings A New HOUSE OF CARDS To Viewing And Measurement

With the Netflix release of their entire 13 episode first season of HOUSE OF CARDS today, it opens up solid discussion on many levels.  The biggest buzz is related to the mere fact that they are making all of the episodes available from day one. There’s grumblings about spoilers and the effect on social media. In the end, Netflix is being quite smart about releasing all in one day, but it’s not all that groundbreaking. Hopefully, its how they treat it after the release that’ll be groundbreaking.

HOC

We’ve seen all episodes of a season released before in a show’s Home Entertainment window, but those episodes had already aired.  We’ve even seen marathons on cable networks to entice new viewership – I’ve even picked up some current faves through that sampling – but, again, its all old content. What is different is that the larger release is all new original content. So, what can Netflix glean from having everything go out at once?

Absolute metrics.

None of the examples above can fully track all of the variables…

Netflix should be tracking all of the outgoing and incoming information. Whereas other shows with breaks between airings can not attribute exactly what caused drop-off in viewers (and takes 2-3 weeks to start getting the data to figure it out.) Netflix will be able to see how people like t by how quickly they get into the next episode. They’ll even know what times of the day their marathon-style viewing occurs.

If they’re smart, they’ll be able to draw conclusions about viewers and what types of shows to suggest based not only on genre preferences, but on the “marathon” ability. Some people just like to binge view.  Some like to spread it out and have something to look forward to. And some people can only view in holes in their schedule. Netflix will be able to garner deep insights that they might not have been able to before because they never had a case-study based on exclusive original content viewing.

Soon enough, they’ll have a strong enough sampling to determine quickly whether the show warrants another season order.  How many creatives in Hollywood would love to have the opportunity to know the viability of future seasons as quickly? Where it used to take 4-8 weeks of a season to truly know if you’ve got a hit, you could know in a week if the sampling is there.

While Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman shares his concern about how social media might unleash inopportune spoilers, we’re already at risk due to DVRs and the time shifting of our favorite shows.  If people haven’t figured out how to shield themselves, it probably doesn’t matter to them anyway.

Looking more deeply at social media, Netflix should look to glean as much information as possible from when people are tweeting or posting. This “controlled” release environment provides further opportunities that just don’t usually exist when releasing shows, movies, whatever. To be able to review social to see when the most chatter happens by episode or time of day or completion – when you know the exact release for everyone is invaluable.

As Netflix is doing something new in this controlled environment, it allows them to delineate best practices in a way that traditional television cannot.  Whether traditional TV viewing is disrupted by news, sporting or natural events, there are always variables that are hard to pin down when pondering why viewership may have vacillated. Kudos to Netflix not for trying something new, but providing the opportunity to truly garner insights that can help not only HOUSE OF CARDS, but all of their programming (and ours) in the future.

Tread Upon Our Content? We Won’t Take It! Or, Will We?

Last night, I caught the premiere of NBC’s new game show, TAKE IT ALL, hosted by Howie Mandell and had a little fun with it. While I absolutely enjoy narrative shows – sitcoms and dramas – more than game shows, it seemed that the bells and whistles were more reserved and made more sense with the context of the game show than they do on the other content I watch on broadcast and cable. Those bells and whistles I’m referring to are the incessant promotional graphics that come up in the lower-third, upper-third, corner or even full screen.  They are sadly more invasive than ever – partially due to DVRs, but seemingly more due to the lack of consideration for the content. How much will viewers stand to suffer as content is tread upon by messaging?

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

David Goetzl wrote about the intrusiveness of networks over programming as a response to DVRs in his MediaPost entry this morning.  While focusing on the encroachment of promotional messaging within a network’s shows, he posits that actually selling overlay advertising inventory may be right around the corner. I shutter to think how much that will diminish the actual content that provides the platform advertising relies on.

Back at the turn of the century – remember 2000? – product placement for television was not effectively seen in Primetime. At that point, it consisted of a bottle of Mountain Dew given to the winner of a SURVIVOR challenge. There was a debate between networks and producers while trying to figure out who would make the money from those “promotional considerations.”  Since that point, the integration of products with shows has reached – and perhaps exceeded – the high science of product placement in motion pictures. Back then, it was still reasonable to assume that the network could make their bucks through commercial inventory sales.  But, is that opportunity window closing to the networks with the growing penetration of DVRs?

The line marking who profited (network/producer) from what type of integration has certainly blurred, but profit participation becomes secondary when when weighed against diminished content by distracting overlays.  An argument could be made that promotions are a different beast with the belief that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and all shows benefit from the promotion of other shows on a network. But as Goetzl writes, our time-shifting sort of makes that argument moot. Either way, if overlay inventory is actually sold and an item is distractingly pitched over important narrative content, the network might have the short gain of a sale, but the long-term risk to the actual content (and its viewership) being greatly diminished.

Going back to TAKE IT ALL, the ability to DVR proof promotional items within a game show is certainly a solution – but not something everyone can do. We saw how devastating game-show-full schedules can be to viewership in general (check that same turn of the century period) so a solution for narrative programming is required.  Is that solution a widespread jump to running advertisements on top of narrative content?  Absolutely not. That would lead even more viewers to stop watching or switch to the pay-TV programming that has gained ground on Showtime, HBO and Starz or shift to streaming options – definitely not good for broadcast and basic cable networks.

Whatever the winning decision is, my hope is that they don’t tread on the content and destroy the television programs that have been the height of storytelling in the past few years.  Enjoy the show, TAKE IT ALL, but don’t encroach on the content and Take It All away.

 

ESPN Can Second-Screen My Life!

As part of an article about the possibility for networks co-opting event rights – like NBC’s Olympic coverage this Summer – without paying a penny, ESPN’s EVP of multimedia sales told Adweek, “We want to see ESPN as a second screen for all sports. We know we have a lot of companion [mobile] usage even when it’s not our event. We want to take co-viewing to the next level.” ESPN may be one of the brands that are best positioned to move beyond just the games they air when it comes to second-screen apps. I would even go one step further… They should expand their definition of second-screen to include all live sporting events – whether you are watching the show on their networks, other networks and, most importantly, if you are physically at the games. This would align with my feeling that the best branded solution for second-screen apps is to focus on affinity groups rather than broad networks or shows.  By doing this, second-screen apps can best complement life and not just viewing habits.

I know this is a little “ideal” or “out there”, but imagine if ESPN was to focus on building that environment that extends the experience of “being there” to all viewers and building bonds in the real world between people who are all at the same event. What if there were special check-ins for people who are physically at the games – or if it automatically tracked whether users were at a venue or not and framed their comments in such a way that they could be found more easily. They can post bits about what they’re seeing in the venue and allow those at home to feel even more connected to the game. This can be done in association with ESPN’s already popular GameCast feature – building out a whole new feel for the game.

Courtesy of Adweek

Though the Adweek article was focused on television and rights, it did get me thinking about the possibilities for second-screen apps that deep dive into themes that matter to affinity groups. There are those brands that could work best to serve those affinity groups in all parts of life – as a second-screen. ESPN is obvious for sports, but could Bravo be the second-screen app for all things Arts – with check-ins and instant reviews from cultural facilities?  Could Food Network be the same for both restaurants and grocery stores? How about E! or Style for nightlife.  In all of these instances, there could be a great opportunity to enable connections in real-life that also feed into our digital lives.

To a certain degree, Facebook is a second-screen App to our lives.  But I think it is too broad. Narrowing down our second-screen-life Apps to the affinity groups (Sports, Culture, Food, Partying, Outdoors, Crafts, etc.) and anchoring them to the large niche cable networks could be just the ticket. If a brand is already developing a companion app, and the cost of including some location-based functionality is incremental, doesn’t it make sense to reach for greater inclusion, interaction and engagement?

Maybe I’m thinking too much in the clouds, but I really don’t think this is too far off.  Even from a sports perspective, there was a time when the new sports venues were installing systems to provide real-time stats at your seat.  Obviously, that went by the wayside when mobile Apps came on the market that could do the same thing.  There is obviously a demand for it in that engagement model.

If the right branding partners are leveraged, it could mean quicker and simpler access by people no matter where they are and what they are watching. Rather than a whole bunch of Apps that are specific to certain locations, requiring people to download a bunch of occasionally used Apps, those brands with the penetration should look to really run the gamut and make their Apps whole for the affinity groups that would most use them.

At that point, we’ll be talking about Second-Screens for our lives – whatever that life may be…

Fear Forces Social Television To Grow Up

TV Guide just released a survey about Social TV and the Mass Market and while I don’t know how many people were included in the survey, one thing that stood out was the top reason for people to share what they are watching.  When asked “Why do you share what you’re watching,” the leading response was not “To tell my friends which shows I watch.” Leading the way with 76% was the reasoning that they do it to help keep their favorite shows on the air.  That’s a huge component – and not a new topic on the list (it was second last year) – that points to the growing maturity (and perhaps cynicism) of the audience. When fans are using social media to try to manipulate the business behind their favorite shows, it’s a sign of growing up that evokes the sense of nostalgia or loss a parent might have when their child starts realizing that Santa, the tooth fairy and leprechauns don’t exist. If the numbers are true, it’s too bad that social media surrounding television has grown up with a bit more fear than innocent discovery.

There has been social outreach that has led to shows being saved in the past (Friday Night Lights and Roswell come quickly to mind.)  A few months ago, Daisy Whitney wrote about the correlation between social buzz and ratings – with the report from Nielsen that, for the 18-34 age group, a 9% increase in social relates to a 1% increase in ratings. But, neither of these directly relates to the fan’s somewhat bizarre use of social to trigger business decisions.  much like parents would not want their children to engage in the family finances, should the providers of television content want the viewers to feel that they have to do anything but love (and interact with) the show to keep it on the air?

With the viewer’s time investment in shows that have no assuredness they will actually remain on the air, perhaps the social action is something they can do to feel that they are affecting the eventual outcomes. And sadly, it seems they feel  that they have to do such a thing as somewhat of a defensive tactic.

There are so many opportunities for social buzz as it relates to celebrating – and even extending the narrative – for beloved shows. With the growing periods of time between seasons for a number of series, there is a need for more social programming to keep the audiences engaged.  Three Showtime series (SHAMELESS, HOUSE OF LIES and CALIFORNICATION) had season finales this past weekend and will not return with new episodes until winter of 2013 – that’s a long time to keep interest up.  Maintaining a flow of social content could help keep interest there. With an even shorter hiatus of nine months, the season 2 premiere the series, THE KILLING on AMC only brought in 1.8 million total viewers. While those numbers are still decent in this fragmented world, its a half million less than the amount who watched the season finale on June 19, 2011. Again, leveraging social to keep viewers engaged rather than letting them fend for themselves could have helped to generate more awareness.

I’ve always felt that social could be a better tool for exploration rather than maintenance. The thing is, there’s often a responsibility tied to the narrative of the show and the question of who “owns” that progression.  In most cases, the show runners or owners would not want to give that control to the users.  Without opening up the opportunities for conversation beyond the latest episode or a show’s “Who Shot J.R.?” question, there’s not really a lot users can dig into during the hiatus.

It then comes down to economics.  Networks have the model of promoting a show when it is actually on the air. The owners of the shows are in the best position to activate campaigns that bridge the gap because they control the show narratives, but they usually don’t have the budgets set up to handle any such campaign. There are many reasons this should change – beyond just retaining fans through long breaks – that we’ll dig into in a later post. I guess it comes down to who needs those viewers more, the show or the network. The answer is probably shared right down the middle to some extent.

So, at some point, the kids caught on to how the adults were doing things and innocence was lost. Some would argue that its hardest to foster true creativity and connection from fear. It would be better for all involved if the fear of a show being cancelled was not the top reason, by a large margin, for people to be involved in a show’s social activity. Time and again, it has been proven that people relate and connect to things that have a narrative or emotional hook more than those with just mechanical activities. The “saving the world” narrative might work for some shows’ fans – probably for limited periods of time – but to truly maintain and build a fan base, there needs to be a shift from fear to celebration/engagement in terms of social media and television.

Consumers Connections as the Metric To Rule Them All – But What Is It?

Yet another iMedia Summit has come and gone and I think they did a really nice job.  This one was the Video Summit and there was more than enough in the way of presentation and provocation to push the conversations along about media and digital video content. Shelley Palmer was the chief instigator as he pushed for people to think and make choices one way or the other about how this is all going to work – sometimes he pushed too hard, but his insights were welcome throughout.  It seemed clear that the biggest hurdle for all players – traditional media planners, digital media planners, publishers, brands, technologists and developers – is the navigation from where we are in the way of monetizing digital video content to where we think it can be.  What exacerbates the challenge is the never-ending search for the metric that clearly works for both television and digital distribution. With that search, the problem remains that powerful storytelling and true connections with consumers is oft skipped over by technologies and program mechanics – leaving everyone questioning what metric will rule them all.

Jen Dawson (TubeMogul), Felix Gomez (Pointroll), Jonathan Tavss (Scarlet Strategic)

iMedia tried something new this time by offering a track specifically for creatives and production companies to explore the tricks of the trade and, countered against the media-heavy elements of the rest of the summit, the creative samples were refreshing.  Though there could have stood to be more creative attendees, it was a strong first-go. I do wish that there was more interplay between creatives and planners as way to extend the conversation about what the possibilities may be. It ended up feeling like the creatives were excluded at a certain point and that was a shame – especially as one of the presentations in the In-Focus track showcased a strong partnership between Moxie’s media and creative teams worked closely to produce a very compelling campaign for Verizon.  Showcasing that stuff to everyone could have gotten the juices flowing about solutions other than what planners already know and the tendency to stick with that known commodity.

Both Palmer and Intel’s Futurist, Brian David Johnson beseeched everyone to envision a great future and make it happen. I agree whole-heartedly with what they said, but opportunities to get the imagination going could have been done through programming that led to more sharing and problem solving.  Whether it was by way of presenting some of the In-Focus track sections to the entire community or programming round-table sessions –like what iMedia has done at their Breakthrough summits in the past — people could have been prodded more completely to be creative and then see where that lead us.

But, in the end, the fact that there is an environment where people can share thoughts and ideas without too much preening or jockeying within a social context, these iMedia Summits are invaluable.  Hopefully, they will continue to grow and evolve.  As this was the first Video-specific summit, I look forward to seeing the evolution of both the medium and its programming in the future.  It can’t do anything but further itself into the conversation as the powers that be are pushing digital content further into the stratosphere that is usually reserved for television.

I’ve already conveyed my concerns about not staking digital as strong and specific, yet different beast and present it as such to the media community – and I brought it up at the conference as well. But, we can all hope that the similarities and differences are carefully and clearly communicated and understood by the influencers and the decision makers. Again, the type of interaction and communication that is offered at these summits can go a long way toward that becoming a reality.