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INTX is dead – Is this the beginning of the end of trade shows as we know it?


 

The International Broadcast Conference 2016 ended a few weeks ago. IBC is but one of many trade shows of 2016 very full TV trade show calendar. It is, I am afraid, an anti-climax to be back in the office, having toiled for the best part of a year to have a presence that was worthy of a large multi-national in the TV technology space. Don’t get me wrong it is a buzz being there, with great products and great people, meeting comrades in arms from all facets of the industry – But at what cost to the business, our health, and the environment? Naturally, on the first day, there is the anticipation of getting the show on the road; the doors open and in they all swarm – from the serious businesspeople to the tire kickers who are merely sent to look at the competition’s wares or the many amongst them who are looking for a job. We live the noise, the hustle and bustle and aching feet: Then suddenly it is all over – WHAT! All that work and suddenly back to the office … Yes, an anticlimactic end to the high of a trade show.  Let’s get ready for the next.

ATTENTION: Then out of the blue INTX (The NCTA Cable Show) was culled, and we were all stunned by the news! Is it the start of the demise of the traditional Trade show?  What next? How will this work out?

That led to some reflection.  Perhaps we are just kidding ourselves with this form of ‘peacock tail presentation’ of our wares because if we were to condense the actual ‘real-opportunity-for-sales’, we would see that the ROI is at best a little light from most if not all trade shows when they have gone on for far too long. Those of us who have done multiple TV trade shows will understand what I mean. It goes like this – A whole bunch of companies spend thousands of hours (and millions of dollars) organizing pop-up buildings to house technology presentations to have customer meetings and prospect for new clients. We ship the demos from around the world to that pop-up location (a place very unlike where they would be used) – They are expected to faultlessly work as if installed at a consumer’s home or an operator’s plant (for the back-office stuff). Booth ‘staff’ stand there in their corporate colors hoping that the sales team bring them prospects to see the TV offering. Yes! TV programs accessed with a remote control or tablet, which is the same as or similar to all their competitors in the same and adjacent halls. Oh! But wait, this is different it is from the ‘Cloud,’ you can get rid of your cable/satellite costs now, isn’t that wonderful? – Are you looking for such a solution? Oh! There is an RFI out. Great! Here’s my business card. INTX have called out the trade show in the quote below.

From the INTX website – “We believe large trade show floors, dotted with exhibit booths and stilted schedules have become an anachronism. Contemporary venues emphasize conversation, dialog, and more intimate opportunities to explore and interact with technology. Ending INTX gives us a clean slate, and we are excited to explore presenting our industry in new and different ways.”

Coming back from a trade show is quite an anti-climax because having crammed in hours of meetings throughout the year it all seems over too quickly. So much time to organize – so quick to end.  Remember those hundreds of international calls to decide on people, product, and placement. The ideas garnered for storytelling; the designing of phrases to capture the attention of prospectors who may want to buy some TV technology, and all of the stress of deadlines. There are so many heated debates and petty arguments that take place on the way, all over many minor things before the show even begins, such as shelving or no shelving, screen sizes, story sentences and then BAM! It is all over in a flash, torn down with mountains of carpets, cable and crap dumped in the trash. Am I the only one that finds that disappointing? What happens to all the people that fill the IBC halls full of intellectual phrases such as; ‘World Leaders in …, Best in Class Providers of …’ Well they all go home and prepare for the next event that is right around the corner.

The question is – In 2017 and onwards do we need to spend millions of dollars on steel girder structures, carpeted concrete floors and millions of megawatts of expensive electricity for TV, 4K UltraHD, VR, HDR demos that only live for a week? It is not ecological, sensible or healthy for humans, let alone the planet. The NCTA thinks not.

N.B. In the USA alone Tradeshows generate an incredible 600,000 tons of trash every year, just to show-off ‘product and services’ to the 60 million people who attend them. Ironically we even have trade shows around Waste & Recycling!

All of this wasted money and mountains of trash that we pour into landfills and incinerators is especially troubling when the poor are still starving, and the world around us is a bubbling hotbed of xenophobia and warmongering.

Meanwhile, back at base, there is the post trade show autopsy that discusses how it went, were the goals achieved, what can we do better? Of course, there are good points to be had at all of these events. Some people/companies will have maximized their presence with press, analysts, customers and prospects. We have the positives and the negatives from all corners of the enterprise, we do write it all down, share it and get on with business. Then in a very short space of time we brush off our dusty last show personas and look towards the next show, which is the BIGGY – CES2017 … Where it all starts over again in a more gigantic and irrealistic manner.

p.s. Who has a better idea of how to get all these worldwide industry executives to your people, to your stuff? That is not an easy question. Because if a show does not close down like INTX has, we will always be present the following year.  The reasoning is that if we are not then the Company must be in trouble.’

Millennials are killing TV – LOL!


While researching this topic I noticed a slight difference in the definition of the group Millennials.  WJSchroer defines them as born between 1977-1994. Pew Research says this of Millennials in the chart below = Generation Y (1981 -1998).

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  • McCrindle Research Center defines Millennials as being 1980-1994 and “Gen Z” (i.e. post-millennials) as being 1995-2009
  • Strauss and Howe use 1982 as the Millennials’ starting birth year and 2004 as the last birth year.

We use the term Millennial very liberally in 2016. They are seen as the group that will decide the future of many things, including Television.  We constantly hear that Millennials do not consume TV like the other groups before them.  They have a dislike of pay-TV services and do not have Televisions in their homes (Errrm! What if they live with people of a previous generation?).  Is all of this noise around Millennials a true gauge of the future of the world of business?  I have a feeling that if you were to look at those born in 1981 and those born in 1998 you would see an enormous difference in their perception of the world and how they function in it.   Millennials are not all born equal.

‘Millennials’, like the Gen X group, is just too broad a group for it to mean anything.  It has become a psychobabble term for writers and speakers to put some credibility on a particular target market, to justify their reasoning for their theories on how to win them over…It gives them kudos, and we do not question. I am however, questioning the use of this term as an accurate or relevant marketing justification.

We use this pigeon-holing method because we need factual evidence i.e. numbers to support our ideas and conclusions on modern consumption.  e.g. Millennials don’t do this; Millennials don’t do that, and by the way here is a pie chart to prove it. These Millennial statistics worry me because they can easily deliver misinformation, they do not go deep enough to find the real cause of a generation behavioural shift.  I just read a fantastic article on this subject by  Laura Marsh @lmlauramarsh – The Myth of the Millennial as Cultural Rebel | New Republic.  In it, she talks about reasons why Millennials car share, flatshare, dont buy houses, marry late etc.  She states that ‘Millennials in the USA are feeling the pain of lower living standards,’ which therefore naturally impacts their spending and attitude towards the world around them.  Laura hits the nail on the head many times in this wonderfully written piece. She writes, … when headlines of “Millennials are killing the X industry” could just as easily read, “Millennials are locked out of the X industry.” There’s nothing like being told precarity is actually your cool lifestyle choice.”

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Just to wrap this up – My argument is that Millennials are not any different than previous generations, other than they live in an era where technology has enormously changed the world they live in.  In fact it has changed the world for all generations still living.  I recently read that we have now reached the tipping point in society where technology is actually causing more unemployment than the creation of new jobs. This could be a life-event factor as Millennials have less disposable income. Millennials also choose to stay single longer.  However they do have many ‘life-events’ just like everyone before them … So while they are young, adventurous, virile and sporty, why would they plonk themselves in front of a TV.  I see a lot of them down the pub having fun, socialising or out playing sport.  What I believe is that as they grow older Millennials settle down, get married, have babies, buy houses and eventually flop in front of the TV when tired after a hard day in the office.  Marketing to them in that mode changes, but they are still considered somehow a different audience.

When you dig deeper, it is indeed revealing that there is a flaw in the narrative regarding the group we call the Millennials.  The people who are killing industries with their non-conformist lifestyle.

 

 

The Reality of the Lazy TV Audience


So let me start with a few extracts from a blog piece that was written by Mr. Will McKinley a New York writer and author. Why? Well, I want this subject matter (Streaming versus Linear TV) to not be seen as my opinion (because I don’t have the clout when it comes to people taking note of what I say … But I do say things that other more famous people say, often way before them – Sometimes that is frustrating. Sometimes it reassuringly delights.)

I love the convenience of streaming. It’s thrilling to have easy access to every episode of shows (and movies) I love, and have loved for my entire life. But, in a landscape where there’s so much choice, having everything can almost feel like having nothing. There’s no call-to-action, no immediacy, no reason why I should watch one thing over another right now. But perhaps more importantly, there’s no shared experience…

But perhaps most importantly, a linear network means that someone else is doing the work for you. Because sometimes you just want to plop down on the couch and watch, not assemble your own custom lineup from across multiple streaming platforms (and I speak from experience, because I subscribe to pretty much all of them)…

Will on-demand streaming be a dominant force in TV? No doubt. In a sense, it already is. But creatively curated linear programming will always be an important option. They call TV viewers couch potatoes, not couch amateur TV executives for a very good reason. Never underestimate the laziness of the American public.

While this ‘Linear versus Streaming TV’ narrative plays out across the world, it was interesting to see at IBC 2016 show in Amsterdam that TV technologists can now introduce SVOD content into EPGs as if it were a Linear channel. There are also companies that will, for a small fee per annum, curate Free on-line programmes for you (e.g. Rabbit TV’s Freecast) so that you do not have to do the hard work of being your own amateur TV executive – Thank you, Will McKinley, for that expression, which I too have used in many previous articles to express the burden TV viewing is becoming.

Let’s not forget that TV, despite its modernisation, is a product that has to appeal to the masses. i.e. The old, not so old and the very young. I don’t like to use the term Millennials because they too will have life-events that will make them lazy couch potatoes. So as far as the majority of TV viewers is concerned, being entertained must not be hard work. So if TV streaming becomes the norm, we will be expected to be our own TV show curator, which means that we will end up stuck in a viewing rut, as our limited knowledge of what is available from the global pool of entertainment is limited by our ability to memorise the planet’s content. Yes, we are we now expected to take the cognitive burden of knowing what content is available from what provider and whether we have already seen it or not by having to dig through all the buried content.

Live broadcasts are also an opportunity to encourage sampling by channel-surfing new viewers, in a way that streaming will never offer.

I agree with Mr. McKinley when he says that we still need the lazy person’s option for a long time to come.

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TV Viewing HAS NOT Changed – The Gap Filling Has!


We have yet another set of statistics that declare the living room TV Viewing habits are changing.  Let us look at this from another perspective:  I would put it to you that it is not TV Viewing that has changed it is human habits that arhave changed due to the advent of ‘New Technologies’.  If you were to take away the smart-phones and tablets from a TV centric family (as I have done at home recently) you will see that the TV viewing on the BIG Screen once again takes principle place.  Not book-reading, or board-game-playing but TV, and it quickly becomes a fight for the remote control with unhappy, sulky members of the family who are not interested in what the others are viewing….however we noticed that slowly but surely a migration back to sitting as a group with sharing-as-a-group takes place and an agreement to share what is on the TV, as it did in the time before these other access devices entrered the fray.  As a family we searched for common-content that all the family could get a little something from, be it a documentary, a film or even a cartoon that pleased everyone .  We became part of our children’s TV world and they ours, once again.  We also adhered to the ratings and respected the different viewing options based on quality of content – NO MORE VIOLENT, SEX RIDDLED,  TRASHY OR STOOPID content.  It was a pleasant and fulfilling exercise.  During the ads we went to the loo, talked and did what we always used to do during the Ad breaks – Watched some Ads and not others… (BTW Ads do not require ‘viewing only’ for them to have effect – the audio part subcontiously enters the brain even if you are not watching!).

Allowing the phones back instantly became the new distraction thus proving that easy access to communication (messaging), access to fun & stupid videos (via the internet) and access to ‘work and private’ emails urghhh, highlighted a penchant for instant gratification and removed the need to ‘work to find common-TV Centric ground’ and once again enabled what we call ‘gap-filling’ .  Each to their own simplistic and shallow needs.  The IAB piece on chaging TV Viewing Habits IAB Article states the following:

extract: For example, the incidence of checking emails is consistent during TV programmes and ad breaks (both 34 per cent) whilst texting or Instant Messaging is only 1 per cent higher during the ad break than the programme. The device tracking showed, overall, there was actually more online activity per minute during a programme than an ad break.

The information in the article is not startling and supports the findings of the experiment we carried out at home . It shows that if the viewer is not fully engaged with the programme they will still feel the need to do something else.  We saw distraction in the form of speaking and fidgeting or leaving the couch when the TV show did not fully delight a particular family member.  So what does that tell us?  It only tells us that TV is all about engaging the viewer as much as possible.  It has never been that we all sat avidly from start to finish without some form of mental distraction, UNLESS it was a TOTALLY compelling content from beginning to end.

In the old days we had a lot less content to choose from and it was a lot less ‘same-same’, as it is now in the world of 24 Hour channel stuffing. It is not TV Viewing that has changed it is the enablement of filling the ‘distraction time’ without having to get up and do something else and it is the masses of same-same stuff on TV that drives people to look for fresh and exciting, different content elsewhere, which makes the stats skewed.  The people surveyed must have been sat in front of the BIG Screen for those statistics to have been gathered…The only difference is from yesteryear to today we have technology that has made it simple to ‘visit another place’ for instant gratification. The dwindling ‘attention span’ is bad content and boredom, no matter how minor, leads to ‘gap filling’.

And to finish: The Kettle Surge moment, written in the article, is also a just sign of the developing times – We have much more efficient coffe machines and probably hear the sound of corks popping much more, as NESPRESSO and WINE has replaced the TEA drinking of yesteryear. LOL.

 

 

If I Can Talk To My TV Aren’t TV Apps Dead?


The subject of this piece is navigation, search and recommendation on modern day television platforms. The standard way of navigating through the hundreds of channels via the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is heavily criticised. The EPG is called antiquated; Linear TV channel and programme line-ups are very old-fashioned is all we hear.  Surely we have a better system?  We know we do and it is called Apps!  The future of Television is Apps is it not?  After all we do Apps on the telephone, tablet, so why not on the TV? Let’s have an Apps dashboard approach for the navigation of content.

Simple! Errrm! Nope!

An Apps driven navigation platform expects everyone to have a mental programme/film database for the plethora of coloured tiles (Apps) that hide content within them.  As we split the content into a myriad of ‘coloured tiles’ on an interface, we all start only watching the top ten that we can remember.  There are thousands of programmes that do not get watched, not because the content is bad,  but because it just never appears anywhere.  Then the Apps all need to fight it out for prime position on the 42″ screen. Everyone wants to be the only entertainment theatre in town, so it is a real-estate war (As it is on the EPG).  Just as in Google search if you are not on the 1st page between 1 and 10 you are purportedly toast.  Android TV just added 600 Apps.  This is just the start.  So is there an answer to rid us of all of this fragmented, App, coloured tile, buried content complexity?  Can we offer a better system that makes it easier for the consumer? Well, it seems we can. It is already deployed. It is called voice!

“Hello! Is it ME your looking for?” Yes, we can just talk to the device and ask it for something to watch. Yes, we can just ask the device for a particular film, programme or TV personality and the system will present all the options available to us across the TV eco-system. It is called Universal Search and it is a new way of navigating the millions of programmes available on the system. Simple! As we travel around all the TV business to business seminars, people are raving about this new system and how this system is the saving grace for accessing all TV content.

Wait a minute! Does this not mean the end of the App? Because in the case of Universal Search it quite honestly does not matter behind which brand a particular content features anymore, does it? It’s just stored somewhere, and we ask for it with voice and then it is presented in a selectable list. No need to bother yourself with what sits behind what App; woohoo! Who cares whether it is is Hulu or Netflix, or NowTV or Roku or ESPN or Disney it is the content that we want to watch … So we just ask for the content and it will appear!

Simple.

Wait a minute! As we will never see anything presented in any format in this new buried content paradigm how will we get to know what content is available across all of our services connected to our TV? Perhaps we can go back to the old paper TV Guide and can look up content that is available (Like a Karaoke Catalogue) and then holler to the device so it can do all the work. The TV industry can then stop wasting money on all this Apps malarkey and the need for continual software upgrading, supporting of all their complex individual back-ends et al. The TV world can just fill a big repository with wonderful content and go about promoting it…We as consumers will get what we want when we want where we want, by asking for it…and in any language.

Wait a Minute! How will the content be monetized? Well, as it will be true ‘a la carte’, so you only pay for what you watch, or not, if it is Ad supported.

Simple.

I believe that Amazon has already hatched this plan …

HDR – I Have Seen The Light


cartoongoHDR was a finalist in the DTG Innovation Awards, and had a presence on the DTG stand at IBC 2015.  This is the first time that I have seen the light as far as HDR is concerned.  Up until now I have not seen any good reason as to why HDR should be advertised as a ‘product’, rather than a technology ‘feature’ or ‘option’ for the TV industry.  Desperate times needs desperate measures I suppose, especially in a market where 3D flopped and 4K is being chased by 8K.    At the IBC 2015 show all the furor was around HDR offering brighter, better pictures, however I finally saw a real and very good practical use for the technology being demonstrated by goHDR a spin-off from the University of Warwick, England.

goHDR was able to show how HDR technology can be used to enhance ‘segments’ of the screen or ‘items’ in the shot. i.e. in difficult lighting conditions (e.g. outside broadcasting) at, let’s say, St Andrews, you could highlight a golf ball and track it in a cloudy sky enhancing its visibility as a unique enhanced HDR object … and there were many other examples of other use-cases.  In simple terms goHDR could be described as the video version of Dolby Atmos, with its manageable ‘sound-objects’…For those who are not familiar with Atmos, you are now able to manipulate sound objects to create an immersive multi-dimensional environment in a theatre.  Imagine hearing a helicopter that is flying from behind you, over your head and then enters the screen, or an arrow shot towards you flashes past your left ear and you hear it fly past … OK, OK it’s got to be heard to be believed.  It is truly amazing.  However in this story HDR was invented for video and designed to enhance the picture quality of a TV in both HD and UltraHD.  Without the technobabble, HDR is simply all about high contrast at the pixel level that creates depth and dimension and makes colors seem punchier…however it is applied to the whole picture on the TV, not objects in the scene as shown by goHDR.

The technology that goHDR demonstrated has to be fully analysed for its relevance to TV and whether or not it really does what it says on the tin,  however, the basic understanding is that it really has taken HDR to a new place and, by the way, it works very well on handheld devices.  Suffice to say I saw its relevance in Surveillance i.e. HD & UltraHD CCTV, also for Military, Scientific, Broadcasting, Medical and many other areas where you might want to manipulate a segment or item in a video using HDR for optimum effect.  I feel that I have seen the light and can now be more positive about this technology.  But hey! Don’t let me tell you the story, let the wonderfully ebullient Professor Alan Chalmers explain it to you at goHDR explained his enthusiasm is uplifting.