The DPP’s rise to industry prominence: George Jarrett, who attended the first three foundation meetings involving ITV, C4 and the BBC and industry sympathisers seeking an agreed digital production strategy, talks to DPP CEO Mark Harrison.
When the three, founding broadcasters eventually became ordinary members, the DPP went into overdrive, but did it have other big identifiable confirmation points?
“The growth of the DPP has been remarkably constant and steady. As a graph, it is a straight line heading upwards! Having said that, there have been some significant moments,” said Harrison. “The first was in 2018 when the Leaders’ Briefing became a full, international conference event.
“That established our ability to provide high quality business intelligence. The second was in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many industry associations struggled during lockdown, but the DPP grew, with many companies valuing our insight and connections as they tried to make sense of the crisis and what it meant for the media industry,” he added. “And the third was 2022 when we started our European Broadcaster Summit in Germany. It happened at the request of our European broadcaster members and signalled the DPP gaining real presence on the continent.”
Gordon Brooks, the CEO and Executive Chairman of Zixi, a generous contributor from his industry knowledge, is typical of the huge value derived from bringing experts together for the DPP’s annual markets prediction reports and for its conferences. Just how big and exploitable is this resource of live knowledge?
“Ultimately, we are our network. It is our purpose to create high value encounters between industry experts. But to do that we have to ensure those experts know they are in a safe, well managed environment, run by people who deeply understand the industry,” said Harrison. “We take nothing for granted. Behind the scenes we talk constantly about how to ensure that brilliant people such as Gordon Brooks feel a DPP event is worth their precious time.”
Sustainability: Happening everywhere
Ironically, it is Brooks who insists sustainability should be part of all decision making. Are there differences in attitude to sustainability around definite areas of the industry?
“The environmental agenda moved forward significantly during the pandemic, and it felt as if the historic gulf between Europe and North America closed a little. But once the pandemic ended and economic recession began, the change of emphasis was dramatic. Suddenly sustainability programmes are being measured by their return on investment,” said Harrison. “It has often been pointed out that environmental policies can also save money; but now they really must do that. That shift appears to have happened everywhere.”
In terms of terminology that arises - like PSM for PSB – people might wonder what the DPP’s identified ‘actionable insights’ comprise. Where in the business does it fit and what does it explain?
“It is fair to challenge the use of terms such as actionable insights. The fact is, very few insights are actionable for everyone; but some are highly actionable for someone. Ultimately, it is a way of saying ‘here are some insights that, if accepted, either enable you to validate what you are doing, or make changes in your business.’ We should never underestimate how much - in a fast-changing industry with no playbook - people rely on the insights of others to assess their own plans,” said Harrison.
“We know that the insights companies gain in our sessions influence their decision making. We know because they tell us. Insights we provide do lead to actions,” he added.
Reshaping is taking place
One thing that dogs the industry is the anticipation of a significant run of consolidations, with membership bodies seen almost as dating agencies.
“The demand for what our industry makes is huge, but the industry itself is small. The number of customers, and the available spend, is limited. At the same time, the move to IT has opened the field to competitors moving into the media space. This offers opportunities to scale niche media solutions for application in other verticals,” said Harrison. “What we are seeing is a reshaping of how media is made and managed. But confusingly that reshaping is taking place in an industry that is also craft based. The artisanal and industrial live side by side.”
Could organisational transformation be such a huge concept in management tactics it might save companies from themselves?
“I believe so, yes. Many media organisations have succeeded despite themselves, for decades. The value of the content - both culturally and commercially - has been so great that efficiency and effectiveness have been secondary. But in a highly commoditised media world that dynamic no longer applies,” said Harrison.
“Agility, speed to market, the minimisation of waste, business analytics, cost, and time to fulfil - none of these concepts work in a siloed organisation. Organisational effectiveness has been the single biggest theme in our work in the last twelve months. We can expect to see a lot of business change case studies in the year ahead,” he added.
First and foremost a community
The DPP also makes videos covering subjects like content monetisation and the future of localisation.
“We make all our conference sessions, web casts and video interviews available to our members on our website. We now have a very considerable library of text, audio and video content that offers a precious resource. Want to know what a major broadcaster has been focused on in the last few years? We have a record of it,” said Harrison. “The DPP is first and foremost a community - but it is also a content company.”
The DPP has a lot of history on the technology front, considering its core reason of bringing together companies from the whole media supply chain. Would technology ever disappear as it evolves further, and what role does the technology side play now?
“The focus of our work is on what it takes to make, manage, and deliver content. That means that technology will always be central to what we do. Over the years, however, we have adapted to meet the growing need for insight and information on the business application of technology,” said Harrison. “That is why you see us delivering technology insight reports, rather than sitting on standards committees.
“Having said that, member companies continue to look to us to facilitate tech collaborations. We have one running currently, on Live Production Exchange, that is supported by some major entities, and is generating considerable excitement,” he added.
The DPP membership contains a set of companies that have launched FAST channels. Curation and monetisation are issues around FAST, so what has the DPP done with this cascading trend in terms of membership support?
“Our recently published Making Media Pay series has considerable discussion of FAST. We also evaluated the supply of FAST solutions against customers’ demand for them in our recent report out of NAB 2023,” said Harrison.
Intensified by adjacency
The DPP has had a close relationship with SMPTE at one point, so how much connectivity or collaboration happens nowadays between member bodies?
“I believe that in the last couple of years industry organisations have become clearer in their propositions, and as a result have occupied clearer spaces. There are far fewer examples now of everyone trying to do the same thing,” said Harrison.
“In some respects that makes it harder for companies to manage their memberships - because there’s good reason to have several! But that also places more burden on industry organisations to demonstrate value: but this surely is a good thing,” he added.
The notion that AV content no longer remains the main business driver has been a recent discussion subject. Does the DPP detect something stirring due to the expectations of younger viewers and how they want to receive content?
“The media industry is a content business. We should be in no doubt about that. It is just that the definition and form of content has evolved in recent years. And most interestingly, the competition between different forms of content has been intensified by adjacency – that is to say, the co-existence of a huge diversity of content types on a single device,” said Harrison.
“The biggest mistake anyone can make regarding media trends, however, is to assume they will be substitutional: one form of content wins over another. The truth is they are additive. Which means more and more variety competing for a finite number of hours, of people, and of money,” he added. “Data is a constant theme for us, and we address it in most of our work. As more and more media travels direct to consumers, there is an argument for saying that access to and ownership of data is the single most important business driver.”