This Was TV Yesterday-2

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.

 

 

Millenials and the Demise of Good TV Content


About 6 years ago I wrote, “Don’t be fooled by the technology gurus and those who would build a better mousetrap each week, thus disrupting the status quo of Television”. I knew that the TV industry was about to embark on a rough ride into the 2000s. We still see that we don’t always need a fully packed line-up of new TV gadgets, as shown by the recent survey in Poland where they found that users only press approximately seven buttons on the remote control. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we believe that #Millennials are different and that they are the future and what exists is not good enough for them. So we have to continually deliver very sophisticated products year-in-year-out with funky new remotes, with hundreds of Apps right down to Twitter, Google and all that other Social Media access for TV. Whilst all this happens deployments of this new TV tech paradigm struggles to make sense of the new business model requirements.   It is easier for to go with the flow of technology leapfrogging of existing TV products before chosen implementations can find their place as a revenue generating business.  Next please!

   With these aforementioned issues it appears that fragmentation and disruptive technology is the future of television. We are all guilty as we march forward, driven by the desire to keep businesses rolling along ‘positively’, regardless of whether the customer needs new products or not. Fragmentation in the early 2000’s was mainly about the plethora of different transmission systems, especially when IPTV and WebTV appeared. There was, and still is, too much TV middleware diversification, too many content security options, multiple application types and a whole swathe of other technologies that CTO’s are faced with in the market. It is now 2015 and we see fragmentation about the only phrase we hear at conferences, seminars or during interviews with TV tech personalities in the trade press. I remember hearing for years (and still do) that the end of the set-top-box is nigh! No it is NOT. Predictions, predictions – Now it is the death of payTV is nigh because our well educated and well-fed #Millenials are abandoning it for OTT services a go-go. ‘A-La-Carte’ is now happening, and there is apparently a massive cord cutting exercise going on. Blame it all on the #Millenials!

Ummm…Well, it is not quite as simple as that I don’t think. Yes, we have an enormous fragmentation problem but it is now much more multi-faceted. What we have now is both a technology, as well as a business model fragmentation. This industry of ours (Digital TV) runs at a fairly slow pace so most of this fragmentation started before Millenials had paychecks. The fragmentation is mainly due to the technology surge as greater broadcasting bandwidth capabilities emerged i.e. DVB-S2, DVB-T 2, DOCSIS 3, and consumer premise larger Internet bandwidth offerings. Add to this cheaper memory, more powerful chipsets, subsidised Internet TV boxes and content available just about anywhere you can think of; even at Starbucks when getting [1]coffee and you see the issues. Now add an even further complex business model into the mix –  The fragmentation at content level via Broadcaster Apps etc. It is getting quite messy out there.

The Answer to Everything – ‘Roku’ #LOL!

The term ‘A La Carte’ for television programming has been bandied around for many years. Finally in 2015 we see it start to unfold with Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Google, ESPN, YouTube and others trying to be the unique supplier of TV content directly to consumers. Reminds me of a recent Sam Smith song, “Stay with me, your all I need”. OK to date it is not entirely a clear cut ‘A La Carte’ offer but certainly it is not the linear bouquets and payTV bundles as per the payTV providers traditional business model either. It is disruptive to all of us in the TV business and the viewers’ also unless of course you are a pure OTT provider – the picture is clear for them – divide and conquer!

I was at a Connections Europe conference last year where I heard a TV executive espousing that consumers have been asking for, ‘What They Want – When They Want – Where They Want’. And that this desire has seen the abandoning of traditional payTV services because people cannot achieve this with the present systems on offer. I found that old mantra to be very naïve. The reality of delivering ‘What You Want When You Want, Where You Want’ is quite a technical and not in the least a huge business challenge on an operator by operator, market by market basis. This is especially true outside of the USA where ‘local language, broadcast rights and release windows’ are a sport in themselves. The TV executive was from Roku, and he went on to tell the Connections audience that they, Roku, had the answer to our terrible TV fragmentation problem and customer’s needs. It went a little like this: ‘We have addressed the issue of fragmentation with Roku TV, an OTT device, which allows ‘all content’ to run on a ‘single platform’. Dah! Dah! All Sorted! All I could think at the time was that he had clearly never worked in the TV industry for very long or had apparently over swallowed his corporate marketing pitch. Most of the audience, as per all conference audiences this day and age, were rather passive – Nobody challenges his naivety. I was too shocked at this announcement that I just sat there wondering if the young gentleman actually understood the complexities of the TV industry or had just chosen to ignore it for an opportunistic product pitch.   I hope it was the latter!

Apple TV got there first with this concept and quite some years ago dear Mr. Roku. However, they failed to solve the ‘common-platform-for-all-content-in-the-world’ issue. Not even with their worldwide iTunes based deployment platform were they able to conquer the planet; but Roku thinks they will. Apple has to default to local language content, no cross border dipping into other iTunes locations and furthermore they are faced with an inability to provide access to a broad range of international TV content because of the very convoluted licensing issues that abound in the very complex European marketplace. Unfortunately iTunes for video is like iTunes for music; most people clamour for the ‘Top Ten’ i.e. most popular films and naturally the most popular or trending TV Shows. Nothing has changed in 2015 on this front therefore I do feel this a sign of things to come for all the new entrants into this OTT market.

Waiting Is Not An Option – Piracy Is!

An interesting, and up until now unexplored issue surrounds the difference between music and video consumption. We know that we can listen to music over and over and even over again, but video content, TV shows, movies this is a different proposition. It is in the main a single viewing experience, rarely repeated. We want NEW, NEW, NEW, and it seems that WE CANNOT WAIT anymore. The masses acting like sheep as they follow the trends around Walking Dead, Game of Thrones to Breaking Bad with their spin-off Let’s Call Saul as if there is nothing else interesting to watch on TV. Well, that is what we are led to believe by the protagonists of this new world of television. I have noticed that business people only mention these recent ‘most popular’ shows during all discussions concerning the future of TV viewing. I have never heard Gardeners World, Living Planet, The Simpsons, The 10 o’clock news ever get a mention, and some of those shows do have very significant audience sizes!  It seems that humanity has arrived to the point where we even BINGE voraciously on DVD box-sets (well some tiny percentage do) and then we sit pensively awaiting the next show to come to the market. E.g. Today the announcement of Series 3 of the House of Cards has the populous all of a fluster on Social Media – They cannot wait, and this adds to one of the TV industry’s business issues – that of piracy. The Oscars saw a 317% rise in the piracy of the nominated films this year, which highlights the problems surrounding the management of the new content hype with sophisticated consumer held Full HD cameras, large Internet bandwidth for sharing and easy access to anything you want on-line.

‘Recency’, yes ‘Recency’- Once Called Most Popular

In the world of Broadcast TV the linear channels are not helping themselves too much either – programming is becoming unusually dull in some sectors. On certain nights in France, I can watch 4 to 5 same-genre shows transmitted one after the other on the same channel. The average viewing time in France is around 3.5Hrs/day/person.   Four NCIS shows in a row you are already close to that … as is four episodes of Bones or perhaps one news, one quiz-show, one movie and possibly another programme added to that line-up makes 4 hours easily reached.   In this calculation a film could come off a VOD catalogue or a PVR not from a live broadcast. So little time for all that content but hey such a choice! I am trying to make the point that we cannot consume the over-abundance of channels that carry thousands of hours of shows, films etc. Personal tastes are so diverse that any ‘personal’ line-up will be very different. We also seem to believe that everyone actually KNOWS what they want to watch at all times. What if they have not seen a show or film that has been released? How will they know what it is all about? Marketing still works to drive consumer take-up. Television still advertises forthcoming shows on TV, Magazines also carry promotion and billboards/posters on bus shelters too have their place in awareness campaigns.

I would like to explore what happens if it gets to the point that you ONLY pay for what you watch? I have a feeling thet we will arrive at a situation whereupon content quantity and quality will ultimately suffer. It will be impossible to please 100 million people each evening with their 100 million individual viewing packages and maintain a sufficient panorama of content to be able to satisfy all the tastes of all the people all the time.  TV programming is a little like running a restaurant. We need to stock up the kitchen ready to serve a public who choose meals randomly from a LIMITED a la carte menu. Done so that you have some control of the purchasing of ingredients and delivery process. Splitting everything up into individual components is pre-menu and will if left to the consumer to choose quite frankly only lead to a dog’s dinner of a situation for all. How does the restaurant manage the complexity? They choose the ingredients, contol the choice and limited to avoid waste? I think a consumer would soon get fed up if they had to ‘construct their meals’ from a set of individual ingredients day in, day out. We also know that ‘a la carte’ in a Restaurant is much more expensive than a ‘Set Menu’.   Imagine that you can only get a full meal by having to go to different restaurants in order gather all the ingredients in order to have a satisfying array of meals. An entrance fee per restaurant – fish from one, meat from the other, dessert elsewhere, cheese in another, wine from elsewhere! You would soon look for someone who could supply you a ‘one-stop-shop’ location offering up a choice from a set menu I would imagine. I know I would!  Look at what Rabbit TV is doing with Free-to-View content for 10 dollars per annum.  People are lazy…Millenials will also become lazy as they age.

The debate about ‘A La Carte’ [2] and different content suppliers turns around a made up word I heard at Connections Europe for the first time – called ‘recency’ i.e the most recent TV Shows and Movies (Back to my Top Ten argument). Again in all debates on the future of TV is there discussion, mention or consideration regarding other content that is also very heavily consumed such as News, Documentaries, Light Entertainment and many other genres. I believe that we are heading towards disaster as we all clamber for only the ‘Top Ten’. We will see the masses consuming only the ‘Top Ten’ which means all other content will lose funding with – long-tail or back-catalogue dying away.

Conclusion – Let’s Watch it all ‘Unfold’

Of course nobody can tell where this is heading, and I see years of debate ahead. It may be the younger generation who don’t watch TV like their parents, but they eventually become parents and have less time for TV. There is constant scaremongering regarding the new churn-rate which has been christened cord-cutting. The Millennials are the cause of the issue with their refusal to pay for content that they don’t watch; add to this the fact that they don’t want advertising either begs the question – Who will ultimately fund content?   The Millenials will of course! But what content? The content that they want, when they want it and where they want it! What is that and how will it be defined? By the Millenials? Who knows?

Quote: http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/pay-tv-prices-are-at-the-breaking-point-and-theyre-only-going-to-get-worse-1200886691/#

… A quick aside about a la carte. If the government forced networks and distributors to offer individually priced channels at retail — yes, that could lower the total cost of someone’s bill. But the cost per channel would skyrocket (ESPN could go up to $30 per month, according to one analyst estimate), and consumers would end up paying much more for far less. A broad shift to a la carte would spell doom for many networks.

[1] http://www.starbucks.com/coffeehouse/wireless-internet/starbucks-digital-network

[2] http://www.rapidtvnews.com/2014112336161/ott-bundles-will-cost-as-much-or-more-than-regular-cable-subscriptions.html#axzz3Jy26uWhB

Why Me? The Art of Social Media – Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick


the art of socialI was priviledged, and a little bit bewildered at the same time, when invited to review the book ‘The Art of Social Media’ by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick. I had volunteered by the way, signing up to a website, but had never anticipated the fact that I may be among the frontrunners for this task.  I wasn’t sure what to think because the mighty man that is supposedly ‘Mr Social Media’ had indicated to his publishing house that I, a mere midget of a blogger, might be able to participate in its success: Why Me?  Perhaps a few thousand others are in the same position scratching thier heads wondering as to why they may have been picked.  It is probably all about geographic spread – there not many people in Switzerland writing in English or have the faintest idea who Guy Kawasaki or Peg Fitzpatick are.  It’s certainly not my writing skills that had me selected, that’s for sure (know thy weaknesses)!

As such, I have read the book and am going through it again for a second time.  I can tell you that it is an interesting read, especially if you are very much starting off and you would like to have the Social Media aspect completely aligned across all the options now available on the market.   The book is packed with ‘how-to’ information, albeit some rather common sense items, and many that reference Guy’s other business interests 😉 naughty, naughty – Nnnnno, just promotion and Social Media machinations.  Isn’t that the point of marketing?  If you are an old-timer in Social Media the book may just seem like teaching Grandma to suck eggs.  As it stands I got quite a bit out of it but it was much more helpful to my spouse, who is just starting off in this domain.  Like I said if you are starting out is is a great guide.

My journey in ‘networking’, the old term for Social Media,  & ‘marketing’ was back in the late 90s .  I spotted LinkedIn early whereupon I was around number 550 to sign-up.  When I received a thank you letter from the CEO some many years later it only made me realise what a plonker I had been not having entered into this business intrinsicly.  I have merely followed Social Media as things have come and gone.  I have Blogged and Social Media’d my way in and around a number of different topics.  In my real life I am do B2B Marketing and it is not a place that Social Media has any real benefit…No, that is not defeatist, it is the voice of a realist who has understood the merit and the place that this medium is made for.  In the industry that I cater for sales cycles are 18 months to 2 years or even longer, with extremely comlex systems-selling-scenarios.  There are no commoditised items and a small circle of companies fighting it out for the market.   Marketing and Social Media feature but the SM part is very small as we do not have enough valuable sories.  We need to be discreet and not tell the competition what we are up to.  Many of the things we do are done in order to aid customer get to the consumer.  So we facilitate Social Media in a sense just not our own directly.  What is your point?  Well Social Media seems to be about combining a plethora of systems, writing and tools that have ultimately fragmented marketing.  The Art of Social Media guides you through that admirably, developing a cohesive strategy from A to Z.

Going back to an earlier blog-piece on Social Media that I feel is relevant to the book (something that is missing in its pages) – If you have clearly and concisely used ALL of the techniques : What do you do if it does NOT work – then what?

BlackFWhat I wrote a short time ago was the following:  There are a huge amount of failures in Social Media but you do not hear much about them unless they are huge Company cock-ups.  Social Media is in the main only about success and good news stories.  Those aforementioned failures are hidden and never discussed.  There are many overly optimistic types that can turn around a failed campaign into a good enough positive to drive a success story, such is the overly exuberance of Social Media experts.  We see hundreds of thousands of people, all using the tool of self proclamation and the title of expert or guru.  In the book Guy and Peg tell us to stay away from them which is clearly contradictory, as that is what he/she is often described as – a Social Media Expert/Guru.

I have a handful of personal experiences in failed Social Media…Not because I am bad at it but because I have found that if you are in early and hit the sweet-spot you can potentially flourish; the Big Fish in a Small Sea situation – if you are only the Small Fish in a Big Sea then you know where that potentially leads – often to failure no matter how hard you try.

Let’s look at Picasso as an example (a great marketeer) … who was originally a traditional painter yet only one amongst many in his era … In order to stand out from the crowd he invented a different style (cubism) that went against the grain and the establishment.  Look where it led!  However, today there are millions upon millions more people on the planet equally talented, equally imaginative, equally trying to be different, yet the opportunity for ‘differentiation’ and inventing something new is rapidly diminishing.  Most things, styles, products have been invented and many things, which are being offered up as if they are new, are not.   It is just that people do not look deep enough or far enough back to see if their stuff is original.  For all the successes, just as for all the inventions, there is a minuscule percentage that make it.

Social Media is no exception to the ebb and flow of success and failure.  However, if at first you dont succeed then you must, if you are a true Social Media believer, try and try and yes, try again.  Get the book as and when you feel the time is right or the price is right – I personally find the price tag a little high considering this book is swimming in a sea of equally clever Social Media self-help books.  Nonetheless if you do dip in to the waters you must follow the tips, do the exercises and report back as to whether or not it helped.  That will be the measure of this book.  Not how many copies it sells, ever filling the pockets of the money-making authors (their words not mine), but just how many people actually benefit from its guidance.

An Industry in Denial – The Reality of STB Middleware


IMG_5257As RDK claims success and global dominance I would like to offer up this little piece of insight from the world of middleware having spent my career in this particular sector. Middleware is considered troublesome and not well liked. It is certainly misunderstood as a technology. When there is none in a device – there are no advanced services in TV.

In the present market-place what we do know is that that Mediaset Italy (despite the talk of change towards HbbTV in 2017) is still MHP as is Telenet in Belgium. Telenet have just added a Horizon style UI on their existing stack (so the underlying engine is not swapped out) – MediaHighway is still in the market as are huge deployments of OpenTV 2 and the others get TiVo. UM is looking to move to Horizon but we are not completely sure what the technology really is…some of you insiders at the heart of this will certainly not divulge.

There is no RDK compliance and conformance scheme so nobody can really claim that they have a fully compliant RDK product; especially considering that RDK is declared as part of a partial solution to advanced services.

HbbTV is still moving forward and there is no one-size fits all its just the same old mixed bag of systems all trying to do the same thing; just a little bit differently in each case…or we just pop backwards and then claim success when we catch-up with already advanced services as is the case in HbbTV with the recent 2nd screen announcement of ARD.  We are alway in prior-art denial in this part of the industry and talk about things as if they have just been invented.

There are some Android deployments also in the mix.

As in the past this new RDK acronym is looking to homogenise a variety of technology for the same old problem of interactive TV/VAS (Value added services) and there is a lot of hype for this set of partial building blocks that is absolutely ‘not deployed on a wide basis across the industry’-  despite the claims.  I feel we are in a snake-oil, cure-all sales pitch when it comes to this particular product and I wonder why this is necessary?

What we do need in the STB world is a FULL middleware stack with the flexibility, openness and versatility of today’s market that can also be supported by the stability of a partner that is well versed in the intricacies of the art of Broadcast as well as Internet interactive TV services, right across the board.

In fact if you were to actually look it appears that we already have this in the market place and it is making a big impact where it is deployed.  This technology is OpenTV 5, a ‘connectware’ not a middleware that is based on sound principles of device connectivity and interactivity with a plethora of advanced services that covers all the requirements of Old and New TV services. OpenTV 5 has a single entity responsible for its well being and I am sorry to say that this in this industry this is very, very important.

There is no such thing as being able to commoditise the software in a STB especially if you wish this device to function in a very complex, Multi-Service, Multi-Screen, TV Everywhere, Connected Smart-Home network environment.

Check out OpenTV 5 connectware at IBC this year at http://dtv.nagra.com/ibc/

Let us not forget that OpenTV has been in this area of technology since the 1990s which gives it huge credibility, expertise and a massive portfolio of intellectual Property in this particular sector of interactive advanced television services.

4K UltraHD: The Naysayers are Alive and Kicking


IMG_1707Another new Screen technology has arrived follwed by a huge wave of pessimistic, down-beat commentry on this that and the other.  UltraHD if you have never seen it is FANTASTIC and has as much WOW FACTOR as did HD when it came about in full HD resolution.  I never thought I would say this but it is definitely a step forward in viewing experience.

It does seems that we have a penchant for being pessimistic in our industry especially if a new product defies the beliefs of the tech soothsayers.  4K is moving faster than everyone has expected.  As prices tumble and content catches up the gap is filled by the early adopters, those that like new shiny toys and people who believe.  I am definitely going to buy a new 4K UltraHD TV as I did a 50″ Plasma when they came out.  In fact I picked up an old plasma (50″) the other day for 300CHF and attached it to an XBox 360 in my son’s bedroom.  He has a serious gaming station and he can still watch TV on it.  What is the relevance here? Screen size!

The fact is that the bigger the screen the better the TV/Gaming experience because the more immersive it becomes and ironically, I have observed, the less likely are you to be distracted by Facebook and other Social Media shenanigans with this type of environment.

As I predicted all those years ago 3D is dead but this time I want to say long live 4K UltraHD.