A Short Play Called ‘The Death of TV’


Setting the scene: The evening light is dimming.  It’s 8pm and the children are snuggled down in bed and the husband says,  “Dinner is almost ready honey, can you find us something to watch on TV?” …

 

Picking up the remote the wife switches on the TV …

“I don’t know darling!” “Why not honey?”  “Because there is only a bunch of icons on the TV and I cannot see any TV shows, that guide thingy we used to have, it’s gone darling!”  “Gone! Why would they do that honey, it was very convenient.”  “I heard that you are supposed to know what you want to watch darling, you just ask for it now.”  “Really honey, OK!”  “Are there more programmes like that documentary on South Africa we saw the other night?”  “Maybe darling, what was the programme called?” … “Ermm, what channel was it on?”  “I cannot remember darling.” “Neither can I honey.” “Oh!” “Now what shall we do?” … “Ask the TV honey its got that voice thingy activated.”  …

Wife fiddles with remote control – pushes button …

“TV,  Can you find me any travel programmes about South Africa, but not about South Africa as we have seen that, what about somewhere else please.”

Screen icon turns … searching … searching … searching … TV replies

“Can you be more specific, I have 24,000 programmes on South Africa and 30,000 programmes not on South Africa and I have several shows called Somewhere Else.”  “I have them in English, Greek, Spanish, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Polish, German and 25 other languages, what do you want me to do?”

8.45pm: “Have you found anything honey?” “No darling, I’m afraid not … its not that instant anymore.”  “Shall I put the radio on honey?”

The End.

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.

‘televisionis horribilis’ – The TV Industry Bringing About the Demise of it’s Own TV Content Business


IMG_1707‘televisionis horribilis’ – 2009 – “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. We don’t always need a lot of what is offered but unfortunately, in this day and age, we believe that in Digital TV, technologically speaking, we need to offer such complex products even down to Twitter, Google and all that other Social Media access; and even Widgets…Deployments however are struggling to make sense of the business models and technology is leapfrogging technology before chosen deployments can take place”.   I will highlight the issues, mock the troublemakers and generally comment on what the world of Digital TV is doing in the race to capture our money…because after all that is what it is all about – making money from the customers and increasing that well know acronym; ARPU.

That aforementioned piece was written in 2009 when it was clear that fragmentation and disruptive technology had been identified as the future mess that was to befall Digital TV. I did highlight issues, I did mock certain pretenders to the throne but like all modern businesses there is a desire to keep rolling along regardless of whether things are indeed required or not. In fact, during this period, fragmentation was mainly about the plethora of different transmission, middleware, security, applications and a whole swathe of other technologies for TV. It is now 5 years on with fragmentation about the only word we now hear at conferences, seminars and during interviews with TV Tech personalities. Finally! Has the penny dropped? – Well it is not quite as simple as that. Yes we have a huge fragmentation problem but it is now multi-faceted. What we have now are both technology and business model fragmentation, all mainly due to the surge in larger bandwidth offerings, cheaper memory, more powerful chips and content available just about anywhere at all; even when you buy a Starbucks [1]coffee. Fragmentation of technology is one thing and there is a lot of scrabbling about to have standards and common software principles in every sector both old and new (as there always has been)… but now the fragmentation at content level is wreaking havoc.

Yes technology fragmentation (there I said it again!) has handed the market an additional problem which is the unravelling of the TV business into individual content providers, on a provider by provider, App by App basis with some of them offering unique content. The term ‘A La Carte’ has been bandied around for many years but it has finally unfolded with Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Google, and others trying to be the unique supplier of TV content to consumers. Not entirely a la carte but not bouquets and bundles as per the payTV providers either. This week, someone was heard announcing on a UI-UEX panel at Connections Europe, that consumers have been asking for ‘What They Want -When They Want – Where They Want’, and as a result of this need has seen them abandoning traditional payTV services to achieve that. Not all of the TV industry believes in that 10 year-old made-up mantra.

The reality of ‘What I Want When I Want, Where I Want’ is quite different in different markets, especially outside of the USA where ‘Local Language, Broadcast Rights and Release Windows’ are a sport in themselves. At Connections Europe the Roku representative had the answer to our terrible TV fragmentation problem – ‘We have addressed the problem of fragmentation with Roku TV, an OTT device, which allows all content to run on a single platform’ – Dah! Dah! Well I was flabbergasted to say the least, sat there wondering if anyone at Roku has ever really been in the TV industry.   Apple TV got there first, some years ago, dear Mr. Roku and failed to be able to solve the common platform for all content issue even with their world-wide deployments. We saw them naturally defaulting to local language, an inability to provide access to a wide range of content because of the very convoluted licensing issues that abound in a complex European marketplace. iTunes default by offering up mostly the Top Ten (most popular content) … and that dear friends is perhaps a sign of things to come for all the others now entering this market.

We know that we can listen to music over and over and over again but Video Content, TV Shows, Movies etc. is a different proposition. It is in the main a single viewing experience. We want NEW and WE CANNOT WAIT and we even BINGE voraciously (well some tiny percentage do) and then we sit pensively awaiting the next show to be produced. In the meantime we have other Top Ten shows to consume and we are like sheep we all follow the masses from Walking Dead, Game of Thrones to House of Cards and Braking Bad as if there is nothing else interesting to watch. Well that is what we are led to believe by the protagonists of OTT TV who only mention these ‘hot’ shows during all discussions concerning the future of TV viewing. Gardeners World, Living Planet, The Simpsons, The 10 o’clock news never gets a mention!

In the world of TV the channels are not helping themselves much – programming is becoming unusually boring in some sectors. On certain nights in France you can see 4 to 5 same genre shows transmitted one after the other on the same channel. The average viewing time in France is a mere 3.5Hrs/day/person.   With 4 NCIS in a row you are already close to that … as is 4 episodes of Bones or 1 news, 1 quiz-show, 1 movie and perhaps another programme added to that line-up makes 4 hours easily reached.   The film could come off a VOD catalogue or a PVR not from live broadcast. So little time for all that content but such a choice! My point is that the over-abundance of channels with thousands of hours of shows, films et al cannot be consumed. Tastes are so diverse that any ‘personal’ line-up will be diverse. We also believe that everyone KNOWS what they want to watch. However if they have not seen it how will they know what it is all about? Marketing works. TV advertises forthcoming shows on TV, Magazines also, Billboards too.

So what will happen if it gets to the point that you pay ONLY for what you watch? Will we arrive at a situation whereupon we will have to re-hash the way the content is packaged – It will be impossible to please 100 million people each evening with their individual viewing packages and for a sufficient panorama of content to always satisfy all the tastes of all the people.  TV programming is a little like running a restaurant with the need to stock up the kitchen ready to serve a public who choose meals randomly from a menu ; done so that you have some control of the purchasing of ingredients and delivery process ‘n’est ce pas’? Splitting everything up into individual suppliers will quite frankly only lead to a dog’s dinner of a situation for the consumer. We also all know that ‘A La Carte’ in a Restaurant is more expensive than a ‘Set Menu’.   Imagine that you can only get a full meal by having to pay to go into each restaurant in order to have a satisfying array of limited choice. 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 whole bunch of variety I would imagine. I know I would!

The debate about ‘A La Carte’ [2]and individual content suppliers always turns around a made up work at Connections – ‘recency’ i.e the most recent TV Shows and Movies without anyone considering the other content that is very heavily consumed such as News, Documentaries, Light Entertainment and many other genres. So we all clamber for the ‘Top Ten’ and the masses pay for the ‘Top Ten’ and all that other content just gets ignored or is badly served – long-tail or back-catalogue and then eventually dies away due to lack of funding…

It may be the younger generation who don’t watch TV like their parents or so we are told. There is constant scaremongering regarding cord-cutting and the millennials and 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 fund content? Is the TV industry heading towards an era of ‘televisionis horribilis’.

I found this very informative piece at Variety.com (reference below for full article) … 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.

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

[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