We don’t have to cast our minds back very far to recall a time when, if you didn’t like what you were watching on television, you had two choices: turn it over or turn it off, reflects Michael Crimp.
Television viewing used to be by appointment only, but we now live in an era of almost endless possibilities. We are all familiar with the many ways in which TV and films can be viewed: online catch-up sites allow us to stream shows we may have missed, while subscription services serve up thousands of hours of content made up by increasing amounts of original commissions.
Such changes illustrate a shift in the balance of power. Viewers have more control than ever before in the way they consume and create content.
Anyone with a smartphone now has the ability to broadcast to the world, enabling a generation of YouTube stars who have millions of subscribers. Such large followings have led broadcasters to beat a path to their door, eager to tap into their ability to reach that elusive group of 16 to 24 year olds who have a thirst for online content.
This disruption and transformation of the industry has been prompted by a handful of relatively new, but powerful, digital giants, most notably Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, that were recently given a collective title, the rather ominous acronym FAANG.
Such predatory imagery is in keeping with the concerns of some sectors of the industry that see them devouring advertising spend and encroaching on what had always been incumbent broadcaster territory.
This upheaval has created uncertainty, with broadcasters scrambling to consolidate or amass the scale needed to compete with the likes of Netflix, which is available in more than 190 countries. Most notably, we have seen Disney and latterly Comcast, the telecoms conglomerate and parent of NBCUniversal, enter a bidding war over pay TV giant Sky.
Further mergers and acquisitions are expected as the battle for content and customers intensifies.
”Anyone with a smartphone now has the ability to broadcast to the world”
Broadcasters are also contending with new business models in response to changing viewing habits and eyeballs moving online, and they are grappling with increasingly complex workflows needed to deliver content to such a wide range of devices and platforms.
But the world of broadcast and media isn’t the only industry dealing with the impact of FAANG. We have seen a growing backlash around the world, from governments threatening regulation and intervention in response to allegations of impropriety related to the handling of user data, to increasingly cautious brands that are anxious about the type of content their ads appear next to. All of which has contributed to some of these digital giants’ efforts to build trust with their users.
And while the political climate may have undermined some news organisations, traditional broadcasters still retain the trust of millions. Despite fragmented viewing and its impact on viewing figures, broadcast news remains an important source of information for many. Broadcast brands are trusted because they are built on solid journalism, ethics and principles, stringent editorial standards and creative excellence.
It is for this reason that we have seen the likes of Apple and Facebook recruit executives from broadcasters to lead their content strategies. They know that compelling, quality content attracts and retains customers.
All this is contributing to more choice than ever before for viewers. The ways in which we capture, craft, deliver and consume programmes and movies may change, and the technology-fuelled and disruptive rapid pace of change will no doubt continue, but the one constant will be the demand for informative and inspirational content.