On Wednesday 18th September, the Royal Television Society took over King’s Place for their annual conference covering the FAANG threat, content globalisation and shifting consumer trends, posing one key question, Is Bigger Better? As Patrons for the RTS, Lumina was in attendance for all the fascinating sessions, so here are some of our highlights.
The day kicked off with a discussion on the rising threat of the likes of Facebook, Apple and Google. These traditional internet and technology businesses are quickly investing billions into their own original content to boost their platforms. We’ve seen the recent release of Facebook Watch globally, while Apple has been making waves in the industry signing big names from the TV industry. Each appear to be forming their own unique content strategy, Netflix mostly based in LA to make decisions globally, Facebook taking on the YouTube model and Amazon commissioning locally across Europe.
One of the key issues raised in the conference was on regulations. Broadcasters operate to a strict code set both internally and externally by Ofcom to ensure distressing content doesn’t makes it to air. The internet regulation panel discussion, with Damian Collins MP (Chair of DCMS Select Committee), Rachel Coldicutt (CEO of Doteveryone) and Tess Alps (Chair of Thinkbox), raised concerns that the internet does not regulate to codes and conventions that linear broadcasting does. It was argued that over half of households in the UK have an internet-connected TV – VOD services are delivering their content through the same TV as traditional broadcasters, but don’t have to conform to the same rules and codes.
With so much content available to consumers nowadays, the linear broadcasters have identified an advantage – curating schedules rather than offering an overwhelming volume of content. While SVODs offer recommended shows, its based on data and consumers need to develop their recommendations. However, Channel 4’s Alex Mahon was clear in identifying that their programming must become fresher and risky to showcase new themes and reach audiences that other broadcasters and FAANGs cannot reach.
Furthermore, the Public-Service Broadcasters have maintained a clear prominence at the top of the TV schedules, but as Smart-TVs flood UK homes, content discovery is completely changing. Services are serving up content based on algorithms rather than schedules, algorithms built to offer content which the user will likely enjoy. For the PSBs, the crowded marketplace on the Smart-TV screen is forcing them to redefine their content strategy to retain viewers and continue to be the number one place for quality content.
While on PSBs, the idea of a UK Netflix was raised several times and this seems to gathering pace amongst the broadcasters. With the likes of ITV and Channel 4 refocusing their efforts on their respective VOD platforms, a cross-broadcaster revival of the Kangaroo project from 2008 could take place in the near-future. A decade ago, it was dismissed on competition grounds, handing too much control of the VOD market to the PSBs, but in an age of Netflix, Amazon and countless other VOD services, Kangaroo has sprung back into the mainstream. Many European broadcasters have combined their OTT efforts to launch a similar services – France, Germany and Spain included.
The consolidation within the media industry was high on the agenda, with so many mergers and acquisitions dominating the news. Disney-Fox, Comcast-Sky, BBC-UKTV, and Endemol Shine – just some of the mergers or sales in process and the environment is now changing faster than before. While Warner and Scripps have been absorbed recently, the Fox-Comcast-Disney triangle is likely to drag after Comcast’s recent victory in the Sky auction. We will continue to keep an eye on the volatile situation.
This year’s RTS conference was thought-provoking and entertaining as ever. Covering both the successes and the threats to the industry in the near future, the media industry is looking quite competitive. Our thanks goes out to the RTS for putting on a great conference.