The DTG’s annual conference, hosted by TV/radio presenter Sasha Twining, covered a dozen subjects under the banner of The Bigger Picture. Monetisation has cast a nasty shadow over streaming, and consumers are consumed by financial concerns that have shunted them towards nostalgia. George Jarrett reports.
Richard Lindsay-Davies the CEO of the DTG and Ben Paige, CEO of IPSOS, were the warmup acts for an event that was as notable for attendee chat times as its speaker program.
Lindsay-Davies suggested that “IPTV really does need to pull it’s socks up if it is going to compete with broadcast,” before moving onto the upcoming Media Bill, which he suggested might be too slow for FAST.
“We are working very hard with the DCMS, the industry and OFCOM to make sure that it unfolds in a way we want, and that it is going to look after this industry, but we know it will be super complex,” he said. “It is really hard to protect national and get national to thrive in the global landscape, and additionally it is tough to deal with lots of new pieces of technology.”
Paige painted a somewhat alarming researcher’s picture of the media audience. “For TV the things I wanted to talk about are the cravings at this time of uncertainty for nostalgia and for simplicity, and the divides in our society,” he said.
He read that the room was talking about the industry as a snow globe. He said: “We have thrown all the pieces up in the air, and we are waiting to see where they settle. The future has never been what it should be, and the past is an imaginary place.”
Media people would have to read between contradictions. “Eight out of ten people say they cannot imagine life now without broadband, but six out of ten are saying that technology is destroying our lives,” said Paige. “We do need to keep thinking about letting creativity out.
“When we look at what drives brand growth, it is all about shaping consumer expectations and understanding the context in the way that they are talking about it. The challenge we are onto is presenting people with the paradox of choice,” he added.
“People are saying they want to slow down their lives, so how do you give them serendipity that is easy and simple, and surprises them? And how do you use AI in an intelligent way?”
DTG2023: Converged regulation
Nigel Walley, MD of Decipher, chaired a session on the upcoming Media Bill, which is in the technical engagement phase. All eyes were on Kate Briggs, Director of Content, OFCOM.
“The Communications Act has held up remarkably well for 20-year-old legislation but could not have begun to imagine smart phones. The Media Bill is an important and urgent evolution, and what is quite pressing is imagining a converged world and the need for converged regulation,” she said.
“It gives us vitally important tools for the next 5-10 years. It will enable the regulatory regime to broaden and give PSB’s greater flexibility in how they might want to service those different and fragmenting audiences,” she added. “As it is currently drafted the Media Bill gives a reasonable degree of discretion afforded to OFCOM in setting the codes and guidance.”
There will be the need for further legislation. “One of the things we are looking at is what the 2030’s and 2040’s look like, and what tool kits we might need then,” said Briggs.
DTG2023: Streaming a scripted daily soap
In a session with two executives from Amazon FREEVEE, the subject of resurrecting the soap Neighbours was bound to arise.
Shahina O’Mahoney, Head of Licensed Content, said: “It was complex. We had to talk to our US leadership and explain what it was, why it was so big, and why it was spelt wrong. But, more and more people in the company understood what it was, and it ended up being something that was very important for FREEVEE, and audiences in the UK.
“It took a long time, because launching a scripted daily soap on a streaming service is something that is not done often,” she added.
The launch later this year is already supported by two FAST channels, with more coming. Several seasons of Neighbours can be viewed now.
DTG2023: All TV will be streamed
The great streaming evolution in the contexts of engagement, retention, growth and the big beyond, was chaired by Garazi Goia, Senior MD of FTI Consulting.
Tom Price, Roku’s Director of Content Distribution, works with 70 million streaming accounts for a company that is undoubtedly synonymous with the growth of AVOD.
“People think about the operating system and what it can do, and not about how many pixels are on the screen. The US market is really dominated by Pay TV, and there was little to watch for free. But free is the best price point, and the thing that AVOD teaches you is that if people can get stuff for free, they love to watch it,” said Price.
“FAST channels give people a lean back, relaxed experience where the consumers have the content chosen for them. They do not have to scroll endlessly,” he added. “All TV will be streamed – that is where we are heading. And a lot of people are having to invest for that future, but it has not quite arrived yet. Streaming has lowered the barriers of entry, and it has allowed a more diverse range of people to make TV content and make it widely available.”
Keeping the old going while betting on the new is wrapped in with finding more ways to extract value from content. Dan Finch, the CCO and Founder of Simplestream added: “FAST is telly, it is just how it is delivered. We have been working on our own solution, which allows you to schedule your own TV channel in a similar way.
“But the difference is that you can also add continuity and graphics, as well as service side ad insertion. It is hitched onto the video stream and that allows for a very seamless experience,” he added. “It also allows content owners to have a seat at the FAST table.”
ITVX was just 147 days old, and Rufus Radcliffe, ITV’s MD of Streaming, Interactive and Data, said: “We launched in time for Harry Kane to miss the penalty, and had at the peak 2.3 million concurrent streams and 2,000 starts a second. It is super competitive out there, and every night and day is a battle for eyeballs. Growth will be our priority, but currently, it is all about free, free, free.”
Looking to the future, he said: “Customers will have the ability to just watch what they want to watch – almost the self-curation of channels. It just needs to be smarter in terms of how the content is recommended. Recommendation will be more important, and in the same way that Spotify managed to crack the creation of audio play lists.”
On the future of personalisation, he added: “I agree that people want a personalised experience, but also think they come to TV brands for their editorial and curation as well. It is the brands that get that balance right that will succeed and survive. I do not think we are heading for a completely personalised world though.”
DTG2023: Lost in the mix
Alex Kann, Chief Executive of Together TV, is a relative minnow compared to the big streamers, but takes streaming into vocational and community activities. Together TV also supports important charity and wider public campaigns around things like loneliness.
“We had a very good time of it during Covid when everyone started gardening and baking. We are involved in streaming through making long form available on YouTube, Brightcove, and through content partnerships with MY5 and BT Vision, but our long-standing ambition to have our own branded streaming service capability has now happened,” Kann said.
“As a small independent community-driven broadcaster we get a bit lost in the mix, but we do not want our viewers to watch, we want them to get engaged, so we talk about being a social purpose service streamer,” he added.
“We have an older audience and give them TV or VOD, but they still want to watch a form of live, so our priority is to access more live viewing. We are already on Sky Glass and Sky Stream. Getting our heavy TV viewing audience into the streaming world is quite a challenge.”
Looking forwards, he predicted: “You will see further consolidation in terms of global studios and content owners. We saw the acceleration of SVOD during Covid and there will be a shake out of linear channels. FAST will continue to come in and offer further choice, but at the local level PSB’s will still be in fine form.”
Read more PSBs vs AVOD: Levelling up?