The road to nowhere in particular


So CES was the year of voice activated devices according to many with human beings talking to inanimate objects in order to complete tasks like switching on the lights and turning on their music systems. One amazing use-case was:

“It’s great I can now switch on my wife’s electric blanket without getting up from couch”

Haha!  The film Wall-E comes to mind.  Lots of fat and useless human beings who have not moved any muscles for so long they have lost the ability to do anything for themselves.

We are now well on the road to nowhere in particular are we not?

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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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

The Problem With Internet TV (OTT) and Child Protection – Not all Parents Care!


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Interestingly we are finally seeing the truth about Internet based TV (OTT): It is just another form of PayTV on an unregulated transmission medium, dah! dah!  Sorry about that but it is nothing earth shattering; however it finally has people writing about this obvious fact.   The ‘do-it-yourself’ package is described in this recent Advanced Television article: Cord Cutting Unrealistic Option is seen as probably costing even more for a consumer than a packaged payTV Operator offer.  Not only that, the author Colin Mann quotes Alan Wolk of TDG who states that there is no ‘User Interface’ that makes for a cohesive and pleasant experience.  In a previous blog post Changing the transmission media not the business model I had already highlighted the issues of more or at least same cost and clearly noted the backwards move in terms of experience.  However there is another very important issue, which has not been addressed by the ‘oracles’ of the future of TV and that is ‘unregulated access to content’.  Most DIY bundles have Apps that require access to Internet content – There is no Age Verification required.  That is an oversight in a very mobile, smartphone driven society.  So I have also been wondering when the ‘Do-it-yourself’ payTV bundle and free for all access might come under the scrutiny of the Regulators for both Consumer and Child Protection issues?

I already see that my very young children are exposed to some terrible things via the increasingly pornographic Internet, via Twitter feeds, via search engines etc.  Now that TV is a watch what-you-want-when-you-want experience on the Internet it requires parents to be careful –  The so called ‘watershed’ does not exist on the Internet and there appears to be no regulation apart from personal parental control, which has to set on a myriad of channels, devices and websites – BUT ISN’T.   That is almost a full time job in this mobile-free-for-all-do-it-yourself-media-world.  I happen to care!  I try to protect my offspring as much as possible from the gratuitous violence, sex and ever increasing psychopathic, narcissistic media offerings… (e.g. Walter White toy figures for sale at Toys-R-US).  However, I am fighting against adversity, especially if my 12 year-old is exposed to shows like ‘Breaking Bad’ as well as a myriad of free ‘Porn’ on a classmates smartphone browser at school.  I cannot supervise every moment of my son’s viewing habits outside of the home…and we happily tout OTT (Internet TV) as an in and out of the home experience.  We are also told that youngsters don’t watch Big Screen TV anymore – So where is the protection for the young, the vulnerable and the stupid in this mobile-free-for-all-do-it-yourself-media-world?

Not all parents care what their children are exposed to that is why we have regulation.  The regulators should be ahead of the game and not late like they have been with Music Videos, finally realizing that they should be ‘rated’.  In 2015 that is very, very late … Listening to my very, very young daughter signing ‘I wanna Sex You Up’, now exposed to ‘twerking’ – This is just not right!  We have a constant battle to keep them well grounded and not let their malleable minds be damaged.  I am not a prude and we have a healthy open relationship with the kids, but I cannot be the good parent if all around me doesn’t care and exposes them to the ever failing controls of the world’s what-you-want-when-you-want media access.

Why TV shows that contain Drugs, Sex, Bigotry and Violence on the Internet be treated any different to that on Broadcast TV is beyond me!

 

UBER BE SCARED: Ordering a Taxi on Television


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UBER BE SCARED –  It appears that you have a new competitor – The wonderful world of HBBTV has delivered its latest ‘App’ and it may rock the Taxi App World of the Smart-Phone … I cannot imagine when you might be watching TV and suddenly think – I will order a Taxi ! … Well the Czech Republic thinks so.  Good luck with that!

Apple Talks Humans Not Algorithms – When Will The TV Techies Realize This?


tvoldApple said this about discovering music: The Guardian Story on Apple Music

“Algorithms are really great, of course, but they need a bit of a human touch in them, helping form the right sequence. Some algorithms wouldn’t know that Rock Steady could follow Start Me Up, y’know. That’s hard to do,” says Iovine.
Perhaps this is what I have been trying to say all along regarding ‘recommendation engines’ for Television and my fear that we will just turn TV viewing into a homogeneous clump of nothingness.

“You have to humanise it a bit, because it’s a real art to telling you what song comes next. Algorithms can’t do it alone. They’re very handy, and you can’t do something of this scale without ‘em, but you need a strong human element.” “Understanding that i have a lot of Latin music in my library doesn’t give me a great Cuban playlist,” adds Cue.

Quite honestly it is the same for TV and just because I like a ‘Chick Flic’ now and again does not mean that I want to watch all the ‘Chic Flics’ in the world now does it – Well the Algorithm thinks I do.  VARIETY in TV, as in MUSIC, has always been my mantra – Variety is the Spice of Life.

Thank you famous Apple people for stating what I have been stating for years…It’s the ‘HUMAN’ factor that counts.  ‘ALGORITHMS’ may have a place in our techie driven TV world but they should not be the only thing that determines anyone’s evening entertainment.

Bundles: TV is Merely Changing the Transmission Media Not The Business Model


TV Will Never Be Free
TV Will Never Be Free

Telco managed TV services (i.e. IPTV) had a great deal of issues obtaining content and it struggled terribly.  Some thought it would be built on UGC (User Generated Content).  However #YouTube stole that crown.  Many Telcos bundled it with the Broadband offer and then ticked you off as a TV Subscriber; whether you watched it or not.  Unfortunately it offered a lesser experience and needed linear TV to make it palatable to the average consumer.  In the main, people just want to be fed TV programmes and not have to be their own ‘channel-line-up’ producer each time they sit in front of the box.  We are inherently lazy and Millenials are no different – If anything their attention span kills the theory of sitting down and selecting a nights viewing by App scanning; especially after a hard days work on a screen.

This New Yorker (below) story about bundles growing on Internet or Web TV is fascinating as it looks at the TV Subscription angle.  However I felt that the story should have dug much deeper.  The author should have looked at the garnered revenue from subscriptions and investigated where that money relates to content:  i.e. Explore the way content is funded because this is also an important factor in the business model of TV and the bundle, be it over-the-air, over cable or over the Internet.  Here is an article that @TimWu could reference: http://abovethecrowd.com/2010/04/28/affiliate-fees-make-the-world-go-round/ 

Here is the full New Yorker Article:
http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-dreaded-bundle-comes-to-internet-tv

Extract:
“But those who predicted that the Internet would kill the bundle may have spoken too soon. Internet TV, in fact, is now growing its own bundle—the so-called “neo-bundle.” This year, Dish television and Sony have begun selling a version of Internet television that centers on a bundle, albeit one that is smaller and cheaper that the original offered by cable companies. Dish’s Sling is the most exciting and enticing: it offers ESPN and twenty other channels for twenty dollars a month. (You add an extra fifteen dollars if you want HBO). Sony’s Vue has fifty or so channels, for fifty dollars a month, but no ESPN or HBO. Apple, meanwhile, is likely to launch its own version in the fall.

In short, instead of the Internet killing the bundle, the bundle is coming to the Internet; it would not be surprising if, in the next year or two, half a dozen more neo-bundlers join the game. This may come as a surprise to those who expected the television of the future to resemble, say, a smartphone screen, where every channel would be roughly like an app that you subscribe to à la carte. But overestimating change in the television industry is a rookie mistake.”

P.S. By the way, RabbitTV already bundles ‘free-content’ for you for a small fee.  Which gives kudos to my theory that we are all lazy when it comes to TV viewing.  “I’ll pay 10 bucks to someone to do it for me instead so I can just watch it instead of wasting all that time searching & selecting.”