The future of TV: On-demand versus on-content

Lord Sugar imagines a future of infinite TV channelsLast month, Lord Sugar spoke candidly about his vision for the future of the TV industry at an exclusive event in London organised by ISBA. During his speech Sugar said that the “bare bones of a revolution in TV” had been formed and how he could imagine a future in which consumers had access to “infinite” channels and providers could set up their own channels for as little as £50,000.

Technology now plays such a powerful role in helping advertisers to reach their target audiences through means other than the traditional television set – in particular, web TV or content broadcast online is fast becoming a mainstream way in which we consume our media. 

The BBC’s on-demand service iPlayer launched in 2007, and in the time since then, UK TV audiences have embraced the idea of using the internet as a long-form content provider. Now that the benchmarks have been established, the convergence of web-TV, on-demand content and streaming technology means that content providers like ITV can capitalise on the continued innovation in screen devices to deliver fantastic new experiences for viewers.

But what does all of this mean for advertisers? When Lord Sugar launched internet-streamed TV service YouView in July, he spoke of the potentially limitless commercial opportunities for advertisers. Perhaps true, but for advertisers there remain many challenges to overcome when it comes to embracing the era of on-demand content. No longer is it just about placing ads in relevant content that may aggregate an audience but about finding, packaging and delivering the right target audiences across a variety of channels and platforms that encourage sharing. This latter model of self-distribution is more important now than ever before in a world that is increasingly driven by the mantra “Content is king but distribution pays his mortgage”.

Content sharing has spawned a type of virtual post boy – free post in a cyber world without the control over who receives it, re-purposes it or who can be publicly critical of it. Bold clients and agencies, however, confidently embrace the value of ‘earned’ media – to think it was just shy of two centuries ago in 1824 that the Duke of Wellington uttered the immortal phrase “publish and be damned”.

Of course, recent technological advancements have opened up a myriad of creative opportunities to garner audience awareness, appreciation and participation. The ‘pull’ model inspired by such technologies opens up a whole new debate in ad agency land – “Don’t tell me how it works, tell me what it lets me do”.

The communication model now ranges from the ‘tell them (something tactically), ‘tell them, tell them what you’ve told them’ (re-enforcement of the message) ‘tell them, tell them what you’ve told them and then tell them again’ (reminding the audience) to ‘tell them, tell them what you’ve told them and then tell them where to go to see more’ (continuation of the message that builds and develops via extended content ).

As this world develops, the durability of video is increasingly apparent – why read when you can watch? Ultimately it is opening up the age-old debate of the division of cost between production and media, especially as the creative assets begin to develop their own audience communities, effectively building their own media assets in which to place additional content.

Simon Orpin is joint managing director at Getmemedia.