Digital TV – Extreme Fragmentation – 3 Years on From the Prediction

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 2009 – “Dont be fooled by the technology gurus and those who would build a better mousetrap each week. There is virtually nothing we cannot do in Digital TV even down to Twitter, Google and all that   other Social Media access; and Widgets…Deployments are struggling to make sense of 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 customer or that well know acronym ARPU.


That piece was written in 2009 when it was clear that fragmentation had been identified as the future mess that was to befall Digital TV.  At this period in the life of the TV business discussion on fragmentation was mainly situated around the transmission, middleware, security and a whole host of other technologies.  It is now 2012 and FRAGMENTATION is the only phrase we hear at conferences and interviews with TV Tech personlities.  Duh! Finally the penny has dropped or is it just that for most of them the business lagged a little and finally 3 years later it is a problem for many of them and their companies.   It is hard to believe that this was only me that knew this was coming back then!  But hang-on this is perhaps being discussed in a slightly different context…Fragmentation of Content due to the surge in OTT offers is perhaps where we are feeling the effects.  Fragmentation of technlogy is one thing and there is a lot of scrabbling about to have standards and common software principles (as there always has been)…but now the fragmentation is upon us at content level and it is wreaking havoc.

Yes FRAGMENTATION now that there is an  unravelling of the TV business into individual content providers, on an App by App basis and with some of them offering UNIQUE content.  The term ‘A La Carte’ has finally unfolded with Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Google, and others trying to be the unique supplier of TV content to consumers (but at Set Menu prices).  We had someone this week announcing on a UI-UEX panel – That the consumers have been asking for What I Want -When I Want – Where I Want and abandoning traditional payTV services to achieve that…Only to find that the reality is quite different especially outside of the USA where Local Language, Broadcast Rights and Release Windows are a sport in themselves.  I was at a recent conference where the Roku representative had the answer to our terrible fragmentation problem – ‘We have addressed the problem of fragmentation with Roku TV which allows all content to run on a single platform’ – Dah! Dah!  Well I was flabbergasted to say the least and wondered if anyone at Roku has ever really been in the TV industry or knows anything about it?   AppleTV got there 1st some years ago and failed to be able to solve the issue defaulting to local language and not providing access to a wide range of content because of the very issues that abound – they offer up mostly the Top Ten … 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.  We want NEW and WE CANNOT WAIT and we even voraciously BINGE (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 Game of Thrones to House of Cards and Braking Bad as if there is nothing else interesting to watch.

The channels are not helping themselves either – 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 is 3.5Hrs/day/person.   With 4 NCISs in a row you already close to that … as is 4 episodes of Bones – 1 news, 1 quiz-show, 1 movie and perhaps another programme and 4 hours is easily reached and the film could come off a VOD catalogue or a PVR.  My point is that the over-abundance of channels with thousands of hours available cannot be consumed.  If it gets to the point that you pay for what you watch we will arrive at a situation wherupon we will have to rehash the way the content is packaged – It will be impossible to please 100 million people each evening with individual viewing packages and for content to always satisfy all the tastes of all the people.

Splitting everything up into individual supplier will quite frankly only lead to a dog’s dinner of a situation for the consumer.  We 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 choice.  A restaurant entrance fee – 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 single entrance fee and a whole buch of variety I would imagine.  I know I would!

The debate about A La Carte and individual content suppliers always turns around 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.  Everyone is in effect discussion (as in the music charts terms) the Top Ten.   So we all clammer for the Top Ten and the masses pay for the Top Ten and all that other content just gets ignored or badly served and then dies away due to lack of funding…we kill the content business, there is little variety or light-hearted content and we drive the younger generation who do not pay for content at this time towards an era of ‘televisionus horribilis’.

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