Multiscreen Thirst is Forcing Media Companies to Invest in Transformation, Innovation

By Tara Seals April 07, 2014

Consumer viewing of TV programming and movies anytime and anywhere is growing, along with the demand for more devices and more online content. Meanwhile, consumers’ willingness to pay for better access to that content is reshaping the media and entertainment landscape and driving media companies like Disney to invest in innovation and technology transformation.

A recent Accenture survey found that 25 percent of respondents intend to purchase a connected TV in the next 12 months. And, another 11 percent intend to replace an existing connected television, while 12 percent plan to purchase a tablet, expanding the market of addressable screens even further.

“If consumers act on these intentions, it will represent remarkable growth in the addressable market for online video,” said Gavin Mann, Accenture’s global broadcast industry lead. “This rapid digital expansion is fostering a new era of personalized TV experiences with the number of video-centric connected devices predicted to surpass the world’s population by 2017.”

The survey also found that close to half (44 percent) of all respondents are viewing full-length movies and TV shows over the Internet on a daily basis, and 39 percent do so weekly. This demand was not hindered by the fact that 86 percent reported streaming interruptions and 71 percent noted considerable slowdowns in the viewing experience.

For media companies, these disruptive consumption trends are bringing a lot of new technology to the century-old television viewing experience, even though Disney CTO Vince Roberts acknowledged that what media companies still do best is storytelling.

“From an industry perspective, we’re seeing the unprecedented pairing of popular programming with new platforms,” he said, speaking at an Imagine Communications event in New York City. “That changes how we look at technology and our business processes.”

For one, technology is beginning to be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. Walt Disney himself once famously said that, “our business has grown with and by technical achievements. Should this technical progress ever come to a full stop, prepare the funeral oration for our medium.” He was referring to the excitement over the new film, Mary Poppins, which pioneered the use of multi-camera angles and caused a stir over the live action and animation mash-up during the park scene with Bert, Mary and the fox hunt.

“The new TV paradigm—programming much of our content in the second-screen experience—needs to be consistent with what our consumers expect and our brands,” Roberts explained. “It’s about the quality of experience, not just content.”

Image via Shutterstock.

He added, “It’s the innovator’s dilemma and innovation’s opportunity. We’re facing a swarm of successor technologies, so we’re not just considering what we want to do with linear content on an iPad.”

For instance, IBM created a special application oriented around the Masters. Viewers were able to play video clips on-demand, and also watch the action from various camera angles. It also offered ancillary content, like the ability to pull the leaderboard up, jump from hole to hole and follow key matches.

Big Blue did a similar thing for the rugby football union. That app took thousands of data points and offered users a personalized way to call up match playing in real time, analyze the match, view team sheets and stats, track team momentum throughout the games, access live stats, and use a feature that tells “the story of the game.”

“This is about putting people in control of their content viewing and experiences,” explained Steve Canepa, vice president for the Global Media & Entertainment Industry group at IBM. “Media is in constant change. We are moving beyond digital to a new connected consumer era. We are learning to take a finite amount of data and create an infinite number of experiences from it.”

By 2017, there will be 5 million of years of video each month traversing the Internet, he noted.

“And that means we have to get better at giving it to consumers, with horizontal channels to market, which are connected at the edge, and which make it easier for viewers to share what they’re watching and influence others,” Canepa explained, noting that IBM has spent 10 years building a next-generation media platform, along with investing $1.2 billion for 40 data centers—global, cloud, virtual enterprise

Roadmap initiatives for Disney include cloud utilization, workflow reinvention and new production tools.

“We’re abstracting workflows using the cloud, and this gives us scale and agility to change the business model and move freely into new businesses and opportunities,” he explained. “For the Watch Disney TV Everywhere platforms, everything is in the cloud on the back-end. The only thing that sits with us is a small rack of servers that uploads the video. And this is a huge difference in our ability to address the world of mobile devices.”

Disney in fact handles 10 terabytes of video every day globally over networks to contribution partners, be it broadcast, VOD or internal content.

“Our goal is the seamless movement of assets across the globe,” Roberts said. “There is an opportunity in the industry to beef up bandwidth optimization and allow other opportunities than just linear into the mix.”

The underlying technical transformation, much of which is being carried out by service providers, is critical to making brand transformations work on the media end.

“The rate of change will just continue to accelerate, and we need to offer service velocity and new features and technology that will help us collectively to find faster ways of doing things,” said Imagine Communications CTO Steve Reynolds. “We’re going to do a lot more to change the way that video moves through these systems. We will build our products to virtualize functions and run them on COTS hardware and in the public and private cloud.”

He added, “In short, TV is starting to pull in some of the technologies that drove the Internet over the last decade, and service providers will play a key role.”

For instance, consumers are viewing digital content across more mobile screens but it remains anchored in the home. The overwhelming majority (more than 90 percent) of all digital consumption still occurs in the home via a fixed line, Accenture said. Bandwidth constraints outside the home also continue to limit mobile entertainment to a highly significant degree.

“There is a significant opportunity here for providers that can offer a truly mobile video experience regardless of location. The race is on to create the compelling mobile user experience, ‘the Spotify for Video’ – which, combined with increased 4G network coverage, could create the next tipping point,” said Mann.

That in-home experience remains important though. A full 60 percent of respondents in the Accenture survey said that streaming video at home indicated they were willing to pay for a faster connection, while just as many (62 percent) said they would pay extra for better quality so they could view videos whenever and wherever they like.

“Today’s consumers are viewing so much online video content that they are willing to pay for faster connections,” said Mann.  “That’s good news for content owners and for the service providers who are investing heavily in super-fast broadband. The fact that consumers are also willing to pay more for the content itself is a huge vote of confidence in the validity of over-the-top services.”




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

TechZone360 Contributor

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