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Disrupted by technology companies, millions of viewers and $billions in ad revenue are being siphoned out of the traditional broadcast television industry.
The First Front: More of the Same Across More Channels
On the first front, Internet-based companies (think Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and other cash-heavy Internet companies) offer new delivery models (streaming), different business models (all-you-can-watch for a fixed fee) as well as ad-based content.
Addressing that battle is challenging but not unclear.
Traditional networks are porting their content to on-demand channels that they either offer directly or in partnership with Internet platforms and devices, using both ad-based and subscription models.
The battle becomes about quality and quantity of programming — something networks have competed against each other since the beginning.
Except now, the financial power of the Internet companies is allowing them to out-spend the networks, with the result of higher quality programming capabilities.
They’ll all continue to slug that out as has always been the case, just over more distribution channels. They all know how to do that.
The Second Front: Interactive Programming
The year 2018 marks 60 years of the video game*. A primitive video game provided no competition for TV. But today’s immersive, photo-realistic video games are an approximately $100 billion industry as of 2017.
The interactive, user-driven nature of video games continues to migrate viewers from traditional “linear” storytelling — and turn those viewers into participants**. Linear entertainment starts to look obsolete.
People want to connect not only with others but want to talk back to and participate in their programming.
It was time for a change — TV started being regularly broadcast in 1928, exactly 30 years before that first video game. While picture quality has gotten worlds better, its one-to-many broadcast model needed a narrative model upgrade.
Broadcast TV knew how to fight on the first battlefront (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em).
But on the interactive front, it was a situation that needed our engagement.
How We Addressed This Critical Challenge
The time for Interactive Television had come. But many technical and viewer behavior challenges existed.
While a barrage of technical solutions was developed, we studied the way people like to consume television.
As it stood, TV was a passive experience.
And perhaps surprisingly, our extensive research showed most people prefer the specific medium of TV (say, compared to video games) to remain a “lean back” experience.
The key was introducing digital interactive capabilities over time, migrating viewers to a midpoint between passive consumption and full interactive capabilities. A hybrid solution was required.
We began with the social nature of watching TV — connecting with friends and a greater community while watching. Consider the encouragement of social media sharing (Twitter and Facebook) for commenting and voting on talent contest shows.
Over time, adding individual viewer action will be rolled out to create that hybrid blend of passive and active consumption.
As part of our unique research in addressing network television’s situation, we were asked to join the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to co-develop the Primetime Emmy® Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Our CEO became a voting member of the academy to ensure the innovation’s success.
Along with a team of top media and technology professionals, we developed the Emmy Award standards that would drive creative interactive television forward.
We also created a prototype example interactive TV network as a model (“All Interactive TeleVision, Inc.”). There we developed Video Dynamic Involvement™, which let viewers select how they wished to participate in the program and the community as they watched.
It remains the model for target interactivity for all networks.
Carving out a new niche for viewer-selectable interaction involves changing viewer behavior, which takes some time. But that allows the technology and experience to evolve.
As broadcast networks felt existentially threatened, this was certainly a critical and complex situation. And our working with the Television Academy and creation of the interactive television prototype was a great example of our Specialized Execution.
The final outcome is growing the pie for different kinds of profitable and enjoyable entertainment that’s more customer-driven than ever before imaginable.
And it provides an opportunity for traditional networks to join that opportunity rather than being disrupted by it.