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Broadcast TECH: TV must get its game on – or it’s game over

Traditional broadcast television is on its last legs, so it’s time to embrace digital platforms and give viewers the experiences they want, says Valerie Bozzetto.

TV viewers – and advertisers – have moved on, but TV execs are still stuck in the past, unable to see outside the box.

Consumers don’t passively watch TV anymore. They have 500 channels available at the push of a button on digital and satellite platforms, they download and binge watch entire series in days, and they are as likely to look for their next TV fix on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime – and now Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch – as they are to tune into channels.

That’s why I’m still baffled that one of the leading broadcasters in the UK, when prompted to develop Snapchat content to support and boost their latest shows, still believes that the platform would not deliver the right audience and demographic.

Are they serious? There are now more than 10 million daily active ‘Snapchatters' in the UK. On average they use the platform more than 18 times a day. And we’re not just talking about 13 to 17-year-olds anymore. They only make up 26% of its user base, with more than 40% now aged 25 and over!

What’s more, Snapchat offers broadcasters a unique audience, with 77% of its users unreachable on other digital platforms on any given day. That’s an engaged audience and one that Snap has been quick to capitalise on with its latest push into TV-style video.

Very soon production companies will wake up and understand that the battle for eyeballs is being won by all other platforms and they won’t even bother developing content for traditional broadcasters.

A+E Networks, Discovery, BBC, Warner and Viacom have already signed recent deals to produce content exclusively for Snapchat and Time Warner has inked a $100m two-year deal to develop original, made-for-Snapchat shows spanning a range of genres from scripted drama to news, documentaries and comedy. Not just that, but NBC Universal actually invested $500m in Snap when it went public earlier this year – a clear sign of its belief in the evolution of TV to social.

And it’s not just Snapchat that has got some broadcasters attention. BBC News has been exploring off-platform distribution through Facebook Live and Instagram Stories as part of its efforts to connect with younger audiences.

Traditional broadcast, cable or satellite TV has to up its game if it is to successfully compete against internet TV or Over The Top (OTT) services, delivered via the web.

To achieve this broadcasters need to partner with production companies and, together, they need to step up, get creative and evolve the content of their shows. Stations, channels and ‘programming’ are all outdated concepts. They must learn to engage using the latest digital technologies and apps and embrace millennial values of sharing, spontaneity, meaningful experiences and collaboration.

TV shows can’t exist in a vacuum any more. Today’s consumer wants to engage with the content they are watching, with the form of engagement varying depending on the content.

Some 87% of consumers use more than one device at a time, with 74% of 14 to 17-year-olds using a combination of TV and smartphone/mobile device while they’re viewing. They are checking Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Snapchat, searching for trivia about actors, finding where they can buy products they’ve seen in programmes or ads, shopping and sharing opinions on the latest plot twist in their favourite soap opera or talent show.

Some of the most successful video content today is delivered across a wide range of media and platforms – shorter bite-sized content, online spin-offs, digital and mobile games, fan forums and social media platforms, and real-world physical manifestations such as live shows, merchandise and the like.

ITV’s Love Island companion app, for example, innovatively links TV and m-commerce for a ‘reactive mobile shopping’ experience that enables fans of the show to purchase a range of clothing through a ‘Flash Sale’ mechanic giving viewers a limited time to buy T-shirts with slogan phrases said by the Islanders immediately after they are said during the show.

My point is that the digital experience has to be compelling; it has to be true to the original show, it has to offer real added value – and it has to deliver against Generation X, Y and Z’s love for ‘authenticity’.

The real winning solution will be the ability to deliver gamified digital elements that can be integrated into a TV show as people are watching it in real time. But the challenge is in finding the right elements that make sense or add value.

Broadcasters need to develop a whole suite of products targeting this new audience around their TV shows. Imagine if viewers could contribute their own comments to a show like Gogglebox, or Britain’s Got Talent, or The X Factor – and have those opinions integrated into the show as it’s broadcast.

It’s already possible: technical changes, like audio watermarking and fingerprinting, mean ‘playalong’ apps can be seamlessly integrated with a show, voice-recognition technology like Amazon’s Alexa and Snapchat filters allow for a real-time and synchronised experience.

What 21st century viewers also want is wrap-around TV that they can become immersed in and interact with. The only way to do this is to extend the experience as far outside the box as you can – into the digital space and the real world.

Published in Broadcast TECH, September 15th 2017

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