Archive for April, 2010

Is broadcast media in the Middle East doomed?

April 30, 2010 4 comments

Every time I attend MIPTV or MIPCOM, I am enthused by the dynamic nature of our industry around the world. Every “constant” is changing at the same time: audience behaviour, business models, media consumption habits, viewing technology. This is a time of great disruption but great opportunity and is very exciting.

Then I return to the Middle East, and it feels like we are dinosaurs happily going about our daily grazing while oblivious of the approaching asteroid. We are still debating twentieth century concepts while the world has surged past us. We don’t have a real understanding of our audience due to a lack of the most basic measurement tools. Our business model is broken and means no media company would exist today if it hadn’t been supported by a government or a wealthy individual. We have a huge mobile base, yet all we seem to do with it is generate tons of profits for telcos from good old voice and sms sending. Satellites are a boon to cheap distribution but at the same time dilute the boundaries of individual cultures and oversimplify content development. Producers are too busy sticking to the tried and tested 30 episode Ramadan cash cow. The web and mobile are still seen as “novelties” while other markets have placed them at the heart of their business strategies. We are losing the connection to the vast majority of our young population as their attention fragments either to politics (where else do news channels feature so prominently in the viewer psyche?), corners of the web or chatting to break away from their daily monotony. There is innovation, but in pockets not proportional in size to the population numbers and unsupported by a healthy eco-system of financial backers or business support systems.

How to change this before it is too late?


Volcanic Connections

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

After spending four days at MIPTV 2010, a volcano in Iceland with a tongue-twisting name has inevitably become the most dominant thought in the minds of the 11,000+ delegates. Most of them probably accompanied thoughts of volcanos with four letter expletives, yet the Icelandic eruptions have further reenforced how connected we, and our world, have become.

Borders are increasingly meaningless. A single volcano, helped by jet streams and wind directions, disabled not only aircraft but the flow of daily life for millions of people in tens of countries. Our economic connections are deeply rooted and transcend geographic borders or pre-conceived ideas of national boundaries.

Technological connections are increasingly personal. My trek back home took more than 24 hours across three countries, but I was never alone. My smartphone kept me connected like never before. While I did make some voice calls, the connections were mostly forged through access to various groups of friends, colleagues, and complete strangers. I was interacting with my friends on Facebook, being helped by colleagues back in the office over Messenger, taking advice from strangers over Twitter, and finding out about the plight of countless others through the comments on news sites. Sure I used my phone to check the status of airports, find flights, reserve taxis and book hotels, but the ability to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues was by far the most powerful of its capabilities.

MIPTV Theme 3: Trans-media Storytelling

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Facebook, twitter, mobile phones and the web are increasingly becoming part of the stories that television once told exclusively. Whether this manifests itself in games that call you to give you clues or TV shows that extended into online clips and episodes, the trend is rapidly evolving with many experimenting with different media. Trans-media story telling was the key theme in Tim Kring’s (the creator of Heroes) keynote and a common theme for several sessions.

For TV producers, this means a rethinking of the creative and production process to consider multiple platforms for the story at the development stage of the process and not after shooting is done. This requires new skills within the production team, new commercial relationships with advertisers to support off-screen content, and new marketing tools to engage viewers.

Trans-media story telling promises to turn the passive audience of TV into an engaged audience.

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MIPTV Theme 2: 3D

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

It was evident during MIPTV that 3D has passed the hype stage and several companies are now committing funding to develop content for the format. Most notably, Sky has been experimenting with various genres in 3D (including a ballet) and will expand the content of its 3D channel in the UK beyond sports later in the year. The government of Singapore is establishing a dedicated fund to invest in 3D content. The expectation is that the adoption of 3D TV sets will take less time than HD. I hope this forecast is realised. At ADMC, we are hoping to be able to bring 3D EPL matches to audiences in the 2010/11 season.

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MIPTV Theme 1: “The Connected Audience”

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

You would have been forgiven if, in the first fifteen minutes of Kevin Slavin’s MIPTV session, you wondered whether you had strayed into a psychology and biology seminar. The CEO of gaming company Area/Code spent a considerable amount of time discussing the human brain’s functions and in particular, “limbic resonance“. It was an in-depth look at the science that explains why people are in effect social mammals who want to gather and share experiences. The “connected audience” was a theme that ran through much of MIP’s sessions. Examples of how TV and social media are melding included live tweets appearing below the broadcast of President Obama’s inauguration as well as special episodes of MTV’s “The Hills” which superimposed viewer comments onto the scenes and characters on the screen. Area/Code also explored multi-platform gaming, with one example being web players tracking real sharks with GPS transmitters attached to them. Along with the technological convergence of viewing devices, this trend promises to recreate the social satisfaction of sharing a viewing or gaming experience with others.

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Apps Apps Apps, but not in our neighbourhood?

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

There was a strong focus in MIPTV on mobile applications. Undoubtedly, the launch of the iPad is causing a stir with reactions ranging from the enthusiastic (everyone is announcing an App for iPad) to the fanatical (the iPad will be the saviour of [fill in the blanks]). The Middle East should be an ideal ground for new applications to be created and downloaded given the young population and the relatively high 3G penetration in some markets. However, the region is drastically lagging behind the world.

We don’t have the “sexy” platforms. The iPhone and its accompanying App Store have been the primary catalysts of application development. The iPad is ushering in a second wave of development while Google’s Android is leading an Open Source attempt to “liberate” applications from Apple’s devices. However, in the Middle East, our smart phones are dominated by Nokias and Blackberries. The former has had little success with its Ovi store while the latter, by most accounts, is very cumbersome to develop for. Neither has the region developed a proprietary environment for applications and services as happened in Japan. Although iPhones and Androids will continue to increase their market share, they are too expensive to achieve the same level of penetration as in other markets where operators subsidise the handsets. Finally, even if someone develops an application, they will find it hard to find customers who have the payment methods to enable them to generate revenues from their product since credit and debit cards are not as widely adopted for online payment as in other markets.

All this leaves us at risk of being mobile “have nots” with powerful phones being bought but nothing local to run on them. Changing this requires a concerted push from operators to encourage the creation of applications, the lowering or subsidising the handset costs, and the opening of mobile billing systems.

du and Etisalat

April 7, 2010 Leave a comment

On April 6th, ADMC concluded distribution deals with both du and Etisalat to distribute the Premier League Abu Dhabi Sports channels on their IPTV networks. This is another key milestone on the path to delivering the EPL across multiple platforms to maximize both reach and choice for viewers. More deal announcements are on the way.