Friday, October 30, 2009

Adapt or Die! Pt. 1: TV Everywhere (TV 2.0)

[image produced by Adam Goldberg, Principal & Creative Director of TRÜF]

This is part 1 of a series of posts that will attempt to support the notion of 'adaptive' versus 'disruptive' methodologies and media theories... I sincerely hope you find them engaging and helpful, as well as an opportunity to lend your perspective.

Recently, Optimedia's CEO, Antony Young, wrote a piece in AdAge challenging the TV everywhere model, and more specifically called out Hulu's content and distribution strategy. Mr. Young's piece -- in my opinion and that of many who spoke out in a rash of commentary -- was very myopic and self-serving; clearly as a media buyer he is threatened by the prospects, when in fact he should actually embrace them.

Here was my response to Mr. Young:

Interesting post, Antony. Your perspective is well articulated. My question to you is (and with all due respect), should the networks revisit their strategy, or should you?

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that this is an all-or-nothing proposition that should either embrace the traditional media model, or, the more 'chaotic' digital model. Yet there is plenty of research that shows a healthy, symbiotic relationship between viewership online, viewership offline and social participation. In other words, viewers are getting exclusive shorter form content they can watch online, that they are compelled to watch in longer form in their living room... and then talk about it before, during or after programming times. What this ultimately means is that viewers will tolerate advertising if it means they have access to new forms of entertaining content. This is not the death of TV, but rather, its rebirth.

If I understand the networks correctly, this is a way of holding audience retention across platforms, not a means for cannibalizing one channel against another.

There is no question that consumer demand must be managed, and in some cases, mitigated. However, people are still very willing to pay for premium content, and further, different kinds of premium content. If you think about it, what the networks are doing with Hulu isn't so different than the subscription model cable nets have used... so one might ask, if I know I can watch a movie a few months down the road for "free" (or a part of my sub), will this preclude me from going to a theater? Probably not.

On another note, it's interesting that you use newspaper publications as an example of digital eroding the traditional medium. While many publications have undergone a slow death, the fact remains that those who have been earlier adopters in the digital realm have been able to salvage their print businesses -- just look at pubs like the NY Times. And while less people are advertising in print and circulation is way down, this was an inevitability in marketplace shifts and economic variables, not a result of pubs going online.

At the end of the day, we do have to respond to consumer demand, and we can manage it, provided that we give people ample choices in their viewing experience.

Following this was another piece from Andrew Hampp on the everywhere model itself, and detailed in 8 distinct ways what the ad and subscription model might look like.

A gentleman by the name of "J Rosen" wrote what I thought was a thoughtful response, that articulated the delicate relationship between consumer choice and paid content:

I have mentioned in previous posts that the key to survival for content creators is to focus attention on giving the audience options and knowing who your audience is.

Hulu has done a fabulous job of maximizing the audience experience. They have brand safe content, a sleek functional design and have some of the most coveted content in the media world.

The Internet provides opportunities for companies like Hulu to set a precedent. Content IS NOT FREE. But that said, we as consumers deserve choices.

A balance can be struck to provide options for subscriptions, PPV or ad-supported consumption of digital media without having a minority of viewers subsidize the majority.

The Fair Market Value of a performance to an individual needs to be determined. This can only be done through advanced audience measurement. Until a process is in place to determine this value, distribution and pricing of content is simply a guess.

I have worked very hard to produce a process that strikes a balance of fairness for each of the constituents involved; the creators, the audience and marketers.

Perhaps with a little luck and persistence, I will soon have the opportunity to present my process to the powers that be.

The funny part about this is that Mr. Young did not respond to the thread generated by his own post, but did have the presence of mind to comment in this one, in which he acknowledged the viability of the TV Everywhere model... and then referred back to his own article.

This TV Everywhere model seems to offer a sound proposition for consumers, content developers, advertisers and the Networks alike.

The key is building a sound revenue model across all platforms.

I'm not sure Hulu is giving that to NBCU, FOX and Disney.

Antony Young
CEO, Optimedia

There are some insights to take away from these exchanges:

* Saddled by abject fear, hubris and management inertia, media companies have a tough time seeing the light in a multi-channel offering.

* Further, the complexity of content offerings and their distribution channels seems daunting to these companies in developing a transitional model.

* As J Rosen intimates, creators, audiences and marketers can and will exist in a symbiotic and harmonious way, it's just that media companies and agencies will have to 'monitor' and 'contribute' rather than try to 'control' this discourse.

* Ultimately, with better content, more channels and more dynamic forms of measurement, the revenue opportunities for brands and agencies alike will be tremendous, that is, if the agencies can adapt their models to consumer markets, as opposed to disrupting them.

What are your thoughts???


Charlie Quirk said...

Superb post G - it is amazing how little objectivity comes into play by some of the people who have plenty to lose from the shifting power dynamic.

What people like Mr. Young fail to realize is that it is not a debate worth having. Look around and people are finding ways to access information and watch their favorite shows. Name a company that sees things in such black and white that is prospering today? Didn't think so.

On the other hand companies like The New York Times and Hulu are riding the wave of consumer behavior and as a result, strengthening their brands. They are not pining for the good old days, pooh-poohing the unpredictable consumer with this sudden sense of entitlement.

It reminds me of that famous quote by Tom Peters, "If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance even less."

On an unrelated note, I am predicting Sir Charles to get sacked 18 times tomorrow at Autzen

Gunther Sonnenfeld said...

You and the Autzen predictions!

And speaking of pooh-pooh, we have reached the inflection point of consumer intolerance for choice of content, and of course, quality. Market demand is the catalyst, not, as you infer, dated media models.