With a part two look at the DTG’s The Bigger Picture event, George Jarrett reports on two sessions that particularly caught the ear, one dubbed The FAST Track to Success, and a fascinating session on Extended Fan Experiences.
The FAST and crammed road to curation and eventual monetisation was fronted by Nathalie Lethbridge, Founder of Atonik Digital, and she turned first to Gary Woolf, EVP of Strategic Development with All3Media International, which runs 14 FAST channels in 10 markets currently.
“For All3Media FAST is very much part of a joined up eco system. We are not pinned to saying this is the mainstay,” Woolf said. “We understand the role of FAST in the US, because it is very much about cutting the cord, cutting your linear feeds.
“We have three sorts of FAST channels – single IP, single genre, and single talent channels, like the one with Monty Don. We are trying to look beyond it being a place to put libraries,” he added. “If we were financing all this content through FAST then there would be a problem because at the moment FAST is maybe that second window opportunity.”
If people are thinking FAST is going to pay ‘all’ the bills, they are wrong Woolf suggested. “It is going to become more complex. Currently and predominantly, this is a non-exclusive space, but all these things go in cycles,” he said.
FAST is a magnet
Paramount also has various types of channels. Its VP of Partnerships and Business Development, Akhila Khanna said: “We have seasonal and pop-up channels and those are the fun part of FAST. They can be flexible and respond to what is happening across the market.
“In our branded channels for example, we have the C5 branded 5 Cops channel which is made up of all the blue light programming. Putting it on FAST has brought a whole new audience for these shows,” she added.
Bea Hegedus, Executive MD of Distribution with Vice Media Group added: “FAST is a magnet, and what the platforms are doing is building their own brands. They will be more successful in the general genre channels than any distributor.
“Discoverability will do well in this space, and the loyal fans, but curation will be very important. Without it the FAST channels cannot live, and a lot of platforms are now bouncing off channels that are not curated,” she added.
Khanna commented: “Curation is what differentiates FAST, so I would say that FAST does not replicate broadcast. Programmers make up the second biggest pool of employees at PLUTO after engineers, and that shows how important programming and curation is.”
Richard Jakemen, Samsung’s European Head of Smart TV, Mobile and Gaming Business Development had seen a broadening in the acceptance of FAST.
He said: “We have seen an ever-increasing number of main broadcasters wanting to be a part of FAST. There is an evolution, and it is moving quite quickly.”
On the issue of discoverability, he added: “From a CTV expective we ran some research, and it highlighted that 75% using a CTV wanted to use the interface or the CTV to discover content. We developed a universal guide service line which is aggregating the content within apps. This is a partnership with the channels and the application partners as well, so really, we cannot do it alone.”
Woolf added: “We are increasingly seeing platforms putting soft caps in place, and so I think it is very much a flight to quality in this space.”
Regarding available audience data, he said: “By and large, the platforms have put pretty close to real-time data bases online that we can access.”
Monetisation opportunities were addressed by Hegedus, who thinks FAST can pay some bills.
“Our customers are all in the US and we have a wonderful commercial sales team. So, what I think we can do better is start selling our own advertising, and the other thing we are doing better is marketing our channels together with the platforms, directly to our fans. But I do need better data from the platforms,” she said.
Giving people what they cannot get
Jo Redfern, Strategy Consultant in the area of youth media brands, chaired a session on extended fan experiences, and she turned first to Matt Stagg, Leader in Immersive Sport with BT. His team has done a lot around volumetric capture and has experience with holographic boxing and augmented reality.
“Does it take the fan to the heart of a sport? Look around any innovation must make that cut,” he said. “When you have everything, you do nothing.
“If you are a sports fan you want to be at the stadium, and next best is a large screen with your mates at the pub, so how do we use new technology to narrow that gap,” he added. “We have done a lot around Volumetric Capture and playout, and we see live sports as such a social experience that we do not see a big area for VR. We are looking at AR.”
Stagg sees the mission as giving people what they cannot get. He said: “We have been looking at how we can use generative AI, so we can have Mike Tyson fighting Tyson Fury and Senna versus Hamilton; you can have people dead or alive doing these things.
“We are doing something with AI, so why can’t I get in the ring? And why is there no interactive piece, so I can punch. Technology will sort itself out because it always does. Then you talk about scalability and compute power,” he added.
A sense of affinity
Tom Bowers, Founder of Hypothesis Media, looked to a future with the creation of content that is bespoke in a very granular way.
“There is difference between a game and gamified content. Somebody said that attention spans are getting shorter, but they are not. With the generations coming their attention is multi-focal. There is more choice, and they want to create a multi-point where you are engaging with that content,” he said.
“That gives us a way to interact, and that interaction would build a sense of affinity and the advocacy you need to build in that sense of gamification,” he added.
Referring to the new sport of Air speeder Bowers said: “That convergence between E Sports and broadcast is a very exciting place to exploit and it will be interesting to see if other players enter this market.”
He had worked on a project involving the Daytona 500 race, and a strategy to tell stories around it that have not been able to be told before.
“Around the race track they brought back the top and most memorable drivers, to race round the track whether dead or alive, one more time in their cars. It was displayed in mixed reality in combination with the track experience, and it gave fans this unique emotive moment,” said Bowers.
Adipat Virdi, now a Global Media Strategist, was part of the initial conversation to re-brand Facebook as Meta.
He said: “What is not scalable currently are the head sets, the devices. But using Web XR to export 360 is scalable. What we do not have yet is the interactivity. Ocular is going to grow and that is going to give us a lot of traction in terms of how immersive is going to evolve.
“The main thing to come out of the work I have done in recent years is the big misconception that immersive = tech,” he added. “There is a destructive evolution whereby the new generations Z and Alpha are looking to consume content in significantly different ways. There are two key drivers to that. No longer is content the main business driver: empathy is the business driver. And in these generations, it is very much about belonging.”
“There will be a space for consuming content in the ways we have already seen, but what is changing is the way that we build an ecology around that content, so that a TV program is one touch point within that ecology,” he continued. “In the immediate term generative AI is going to become a lot more pervasive, so we are going to get to a place where the content is more short form. We will have our own personalised FAST channels in a sense that we will curate them based on the content we all consume, and the shareability.
“It is going to devolve into a place that is going to be open source, like an audience arrest where it is all about how we can engage with very different forms of content and experiences in pervasive ways.”
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