Monday, 20 August 2007

Locate TV; its quite nice really

I’ve recently started a conversation (via this blog) with the nice people at Locate TV.

Locate TV is in very early stage Beta, but aims to be a kind of TV Show Google/ Radio Times/ Internet Movie Database kind of search engine. Essentially say if you want to see the next episode of Heroes it will give you the times of the next TV screening, connect to a DVD store and tell you where you can download it ,all with a little descriptive blurb. All legal stuff too, which is either good or bad I guess depending on where you stand – student sci-fi nut, or responsible media Rights Manager.

If you’d like a Beta invite and make your own mind up, send me a mail (link in my profile) and I’ll get the nice lady to mail you a password.

I like the concept of this site, especially as you may be aware of my previous comments about broadcasters pushing premiere showings, making it hard to catch up with water-cooler TV after the BARB (ratings body) aimed promo’d slot.

Locate need to sort out their Genre search for this thing to become truly useful, but that is on the cards. As I’ve talked about before, it would be so useful to (potential) audiences if producers start attaching tags of content and likely interest groups to their shows to aid discovery.

The site also has some nice other little widgets and upgrades planned, which I’m loathed to say too much about (Ok, Facebook is a clue for one thing) as new businesses need to keep things close to their chests.

So, take a look and see what you think.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Web 3.0, the new TV Networks

Today I'm picking up and exploring a topic I've touched on before; what will be the shape of TV Networks in years to come.

Now I'm not pretending to have the answers, I'm just looking around and seeing what might happen. I do believe that wherever we'll be in 10 years, it'll be a mixed bag of options with the definition of a TV Network stretched out - maybe we should really start talking about 'TV Networks' as brands rather than platforms.

So today we have the likes of ITV, BBC, NBC, Fox which are mainly on TV, but also have some life as 'web TV networks' too. I still expect these kind of players to be the big boys for the foreseeable future. But just as happened with Fox in the States, or Sky in the UK, there is a distinct likelihood that a new player will come along that is so significant it'll shift the entire industry landscape.

Moving forward, I'm writing today for 2 reasons. One was the official Viral Charts number 1 video which had Eric Schmidt of Google describing what is web 3.0. In (mediaguardian style) summary, he's saying that
"that Web 3.0 will be seen as applications.... will run on any device - PC or mobile, applications are fast and customisable, distributed virally through social networks and email..."

Now we've also just had the announcement Skype has added a new bit of functionality, video sharing via its phone software. Today you can share the kind of cute clips with your friends you'd expect to see on You Tube. Now when you factor in that the original 'Team Skype' (who still have an involvement with that business) are now the brains behind Joost, the idea of sharing a new episode of your favourite TV show with a friend, and that show getting 'ratings' by being virally spread through friends of friends via social networks doesn't seem like such a big step at all.

I've already talked about 'Is Bebo the new ITV...' on previous posts, following on from their première of the online interactive drama mystery 'Kate Modern. We have organisations like Vuguru backed by Disney man Michael Eisner specialising in web only video content. We have all the video entertainment platforms like Joost, iPlayer and Veoh garnering content and experience with longform TV shows on the web. We have the huge viral potential of social networks like Facebook and Bebo; I doubt there is one person on the open platform of facebook who hasn't had an attempt of a Vampire bite, or had a cream pie thrown at them.

All in all, my conclusion. Current TV networks will remain big, if not as big production companies like Endemol with big brands will be even bigger than they are today.

The likes of Joost and Babelgum will bubble and grow slowly for a few more years. As I've mentioned before, the biggest stumbling block I see with these web TV services is that most people won't want to download and 'run' potentially several of these kinds of programs from everyone like the BBC and Channel 4 through to several new players, each with a few shows that you fancy watching.

However, bearing other Microsoft developments in mind, I see the equivalent of your cable box or TV becoming your personalised iGoogle home page, or more likely your facebook, Bebo or even My Space profile, each having 'TV widgets' you've chosen, or the web company has chosen to allow on its network. These widgets will in effect be Joost, iPlayer or Babelgum - the complex viewing and library programs today run as stand alone applications.

They'll email you with suggestions of shows, your friends will tell you about shows they've loved - and you can either watch the whole show on the service (with adverts), or be shown a clip and be sent off to the 'broadcasters' station or application.

Five years from now we may have production company Vuguru premiering the first web only 'TV format' that has 50 Million 'views'. In 2017 the big hit show, the 'Heroes' of its year may well be premiered on Facebook, get 100 Million views globally in a week, with that audience returning as each weekly episodes are first 'aired'... and don't even get me started on non-linear formats and shows.

Happy summer weekend my readers.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Next generation of viewers? How not to lose them.

Over the last few years I've spent quality time with friends and relatives at the lower end of the 16-34 demographic that are the 'Holy Grail' for advertisers, therefore the Holy Grail for broadcasters -especially those like MTV or Extreme Sports that sell themselves on that basis.

The thing is, I wonder how many of those who are say 16-20 have the 'TV habit' and what that means for 'TV' Stations as years go by and the notion of what is an available audience changes and shrinks. My experience seems tells me that this younger demo will watch TV when its on, they'll be interested about certain shows they hear about, but crucially they aren't in the habit of going on and switching the TV on. If they're bored or have time they always seem to fire up the computer instead and log on.

Now this isn't new info. However I believe that all TV 'brands', and especially those aimed at a youth market need to up their game and stop thinking of this as TV with bits on, and re-assess how they look at serve their target audience.

Outside the terrestrials, I see only half-hearted attempts to engage with, and prepare for this new paradigm. I'm not sure if its lack of understanding and/or of vision by those who make the decisions. From my experience I think a big factor is the short-termism of the bottom line that ultimately is bad business as it halts companies from growing, or even being able to stand still. I know very few TV businesses that will invest in anything that doesn't have an immediate return on investment - hence the amount of revenue sharing deals going on with more of the risk falling on smaller suppliers who have to take risk to survive. I think the same is true of the bigger players, but they're just a bit more cushioned from those harsh realities.

Multi-channel is a harsh, place and stations can fall off a ratings cliff over a season, but rebuilding an audience is tough like building a pyramid single handedly.

So my few suggestions of the day:

- Money people; realise that you are no longer in a stable, mature business. You're more like a bubble that might burst. You need to be fast moving, entrepreneurial and closer to your grass routes. If you want to survive you need the equivalent of an R&D department, ideally with a bit of an incubator investment fund attached. Risk is part of the game.

- Stop using the word viewer and start thinking of them, for want of a better word, as customers. TV stations are entertainment brands nowadays - and stations aren't that big you can't be in a 'conversation' with your audience

- In fact, stop thinking of yourself as a 'Broadcaster' with its inference of a paternalistic scattering of 'we know better' grains of entertainment gold. You're a service industry, like restaurants, holidays and back massages and its always worth keeping that in mind.

- Stop nibbling at the edges of the 'new dynamic' by playing lip service for example by adding a 'spray painting' of interactivity to your current product. If your going to do something, do it properly if you want your audience to connect to, and respect your product.

- In traditional TV you make a product, then advertise it. But in this landscape, we don't need to be, or in fact should be such a 'distant' entity. Here, your media brand is better able to reach out and touch your customers through social networks, e-mail outs and web presence. Talking to your audience needs to be a dialogue not a speech, and more importantly the 'core' (production side) of the business needs to be talking to customers and potential customers- not a separate advertising and PR department. Lessons need to taken from areas like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) about knowing, understanding, communicating and retaining your customer.

-The current media landscape is moving towards areas where implicit TV specialities such as 'discovery' are more explicit, 'I'm doing this for you', 'check this out'. Music channels - who may (or may not) have your own websites, but you also need to 'let go' of strict notions of ownership and gain a presence on other websites like Facebook or My Space with useful widgets and info. Get your producers and talent to start blogging. Be seen to be fully engaged with the whole media landscape.

- People are still people, they still want to be entertained, to learn, to have something to talk to their friends about, to wind down or be excited. They WANT to interact with brands they trust and that speak to them and their lifestyles - this isn't that scary.

- Your channel brands are multi-platform. You need some more show formats that are too, that build a returning audience across platforms.

Ok, that's enough for today. want me, I'm available as a reasonably priced consultant.