The Age of Digital: How Digital Transformation is Driving the Market

Múirne Laffan

In the Media and Entertainment Industry, the opportunity to futureproof your business is higher than ever. With audiences shifting the way they engage with media,  55% of households in the US now using paid streaming services, there is a race for adopting new and iterating old technology and brands. We spoke with Múirne Laffan, former Chief Digital Officer for Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, where she oversaw their digital product & market development, operations and digital strategy, to understand the significance of this change. “Driving growth, innovation and scale of impact is key to surviving and thriving in today’s media world.”

This is a market that naturally changes, both proactively and reactively based on new technologies, industry trends and audience behaviour. As Múirne noted, “We are living in an uncertain world. Media and entertainment has always been dynamic with new ways of creating and delivering content. Now, rapid change is required to be the new normal. The rate of change is accelerating because of new technologies, vast consumer choice and willingness to experiment, and because of the way new entrants have navigated new opportunities and new models to innovate and to meet audience needs in different ways.” It seems that some of that uncertainty is driving the market, so agility, adaptability and continual reinvention is necessary to keep you ahead of the game. Things are looking good however, with huge demand for content and the industry is set for continued growth with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% in the UK.

While that is heartening, competition and consolidation within the market is growing, and the need to stand out is becoming more important. Online and multi-platform services are increasing and audiences are expecting more. “It’s global, multi-sectoral and exponential, so your competition can come from any direction.” Múirne said, “Producing great stories and building connections with consumers is imperative to understanding and engaging with your customers. In a platform economy, you need to build new opportunities to retain relevance and deliver growth”. The role of the brand relationship is key. “You need to be Data, Content and Consumer centric”.

Businesses are evolving, Netflix for example is shifting its focus from distributor, to production house, setting up a production arm at Shepperton Studios here in the UK. This is being driven by the need to own content and to have a unique offering. “IP ownership is a key competitive advantage for a media service. The advent of Disney+ is demonstrating that point.” Múirne is inspired by the innovation, creativity and investments being made in Direct to Consumer Sport, which are futureproofing services, audiences and the sports themselves.  “New services like Golf TV and Golf Pass are building full service sport, lifestyle and transactional offerings outside of broadcast, which will ultimately help Golf build relevance with new fans. NBA and La Liga are using new technologies to deliver 360o immersive experiences for fans and copa90 created a new way of engaging passionate fans by leaning into what motivated audiences. The creative, technological and business success of MLB delivered by their BAMTech platform prompted Disney to buy a majority stake so that they could own the delivery platform for Disney+.”

We are also seeing more partnerships and cooperation. Múirne added, “it is really important for organisations to be thinking about new models and collaboration is definitely part of that. Britbox UK is one such example where ITV and BBC will work together to offer a paid service competing with OTT brands such as Netflix, Amazon and upcoming Disney+”. While these new relationships can pose strategic challenges, it is worth pushing the envelope to find solutions so that you can keep building, she continued,  “The BBC will want to continue servicing the iPlayer free audience that cannot be disenfranchised by the premium Britbox”.

While Britbox is established over in the US, here in the UK, the difficulty to get the product to launch hasn’t been easy as many industry insiders have criticised their plans. The company, which has the support of OFCOM, has tackled this head-on, demonstrating their ambitious plans, creating original content for the platform. The service has shown both reactive and proactive Digital Transformation Strategy, forming to compete with the established brands and adapting to stand out from the crowd.

But innovations such as those in the SVOD market are not enough on their own. As Múirne noted, “Innovation isn’t just brand new ideas, it about constantly improving what you do and how you do it.  Innovation is how you keep moving and growing the scale of impact. Company culture and clear vision are keys to helping that happen.” This is where Digital Strategy is important, it can lay the groundwork to create the needed impact of the company, service or brand. We can see reactive Digital Transformation daily, with companies quickly playing catch-up to Netflix – including Netflix themselves. Yet understanding the market and your target audience leads to greater engagement and impact.

The question is then, how do you achieve audience engagement? Companies have taken different approaches from Netflix’s Bandersnatch, an interactive episode of popular show Black Mirror, or China’s cinema app allowing users to watch new releases from their phone. Múirne added, “if you can find a way to build a horizontal offering of content and engage with people with a number of different content choices, that is even better. It is more active engagement, more participative.” Amazon’s breadth of consumer and industry market offerings , depth of data and capability to marry all points together to develop insight is fascinating.

Interconnectivity and multi-platform engagements appear to be driving the industry now, but finding a way to achieve impact leads to real change. The media landscape is changing fast, and implementing strategy through correct proactive and reactive Digital Transformation will continue to drive the market. “Ultimately, creativity and value creation are what matters. This is beyond Digital.”

At Lumina we would like to thank Múirne Laffan for her insight and expertise into the complex world of Digital Transformation and all her contributing thoughts.

Digital Transformation