Insights and predictions for the future of broadcasting

Vodafone’s Andrew Halliwell, Enterprise Channel Head for Media Gaming & Technology, reflects on the 13th annual Future of Broadcasting event, which was attended by over 100 industry leaders.

In a time where the media industry as a whole, as well as technology is evolving at breakneck speed, the TV Broadcast industry met in London to discuss its future and how to adapt (and to a certain degree) re-invent itself to survive.  Strong consensus at this year’s Future of Broadcast was that the players who will be successful in 10 years’ time, will be those who fully embrace the digital transformation and put the opportunities of the new market at the core of everything they do.

The future of the BBC

‘’Understanding the future’’ was the theme of The Future of Broadcasting event, and as explained by Ralph Rivera, Director of Digital at the BBC, in his opening note, this is not easy in an industry experiencing such rapid transformation.

Ralph has the difficult task of predicting the future digital needs of the BBC and to ensure the organisation stays as relevant and valued for the coming 10 years as it has been to date.

As Ralph presented the network’s digital plans for the future, it became clear that the positioning of the BBC has shifted to become an ‘Internet first BBC’ where the Internet has become a key distribution channel for video and audio content.

It is evident that the changed positioning of the BBC is a consequence of the changed media consumption habits and needs of its licence fee payers. As outlined by Google in their study ‘’The world has gone multi-screen’’, media habits have changed dramatically in recent years; with TV no longer being a sacred altar in the living room. This is something I’m witnessing daily in my own home with different family members using multiple devices whilst still sitting in front of the television.  In order to survive, broadcasters must therefore serve their content in new formats to suit new devices, or they will no longer be able to reach sections of their audience.

The BBC has made good headway here. Over the years, the public broadcaster has secured its position as the pioneer in media transformation. I think most Brits felt immense pride watching the BBC deliver ground breaking coverage at the  London 2012 Olympics; the first truly digitally broadcasted Olympics in history.  Moreover, at the Commonwealth games in 2014, the BBC broke another technological barrier when they broadcasted the event in 4K resolution (which is four times the definition of HD).  I am sure exciting plans for digital only BBC3 and future events will take this a step further.

In a time where the licence fee is under scrutiny, these are great examples of how the organisation is really adapting to the times.

‘’Culture eats strategy for breakfast and technology for lunch’’

The future is difficult, and even impossible, to predict but to be successful every organisation needs to understand their audience, their behaviour and preferences as well as keeping abreast with trends in the market. Or to use Ralph Rivera’s phrase, ‘’Culture eats strategy for breakfast and technology for lunch’’.  This great mantra reflects that a media organisation can’t ready itself by just changing technology or strategy but instead needs to prepare itself for constant change in order to survive.

The need for broadcasters to adapt also applies to non-public service channels.

Stephen Van Rooyen the Chief Marketing & Digital Officer at Sky is of the view that in order to be successful broadcasters will need to create flexibility in their business models for unknown unknowns. This is a common thread I often hear from media organisations and it really demonstrates the need to build an agile infrastructure that can flex for the future.

Investing in the right technology for the future

Adrian Letts, Managing Director of TV at Talk Talk, thinks that in order for broadcasters to enjoy success, organisations need to invest in the right technology. Or as Adrian puts it, “companies need to be reducing entrenched legacy infrastructure to enable them to be digitally ready.”

Adrian identifies four ingredients for success:

– A clear proposition.

– A consistent user experience where services are integrated between different devices.

– A user-centric customer journey and design that is easy to understand.

– Relevant content aligned to the audiences’ expectations and interests.   

The future of cloud and devices

Tom Cape, Director, Connected Solutions from Arqiva predicts the continued growth of users watching more content on mobile devices and alludes to the importance of broadcasters having the right cloud hosting infrastructure. “Today’s customers expect a smooth experience and for online broadcast services to work like TV. They don’t accept buffering or interference anymore”.

In fact, the tablet has organically become the second TV in many homes. Tom Cape predicts the continued growth of hybrid TV with richer user interfaces and richer functionality such as red buttons that allow channel navigation and integrated relationships between channels.

This is something which is confirmed in Your Ready Business’ Perspective Series report ‘’Connected Nation’’. The report found that the average Briton has three other devices in addition to a computer, and that consumers expect to be able to interact via the channel of choice at their explicit moment of need. 

TV is not dead

But the rumours of the death of television are greatly exaggerated.  The medium still holds a massive power with 88% of the population watching live TV, while only 10% of viewing is time-switch TV and just 2% of TV viewing is on catch-up services.

Traditional broadcast television is not likely to disappear overnight, but it is likely that it will continue to evolve to suit new formats, new distribution channels, new devices and new audiences. During the Future of Broadcasting Event, it was predicted that TV screens will get bigger, sharper and better.

Other predictions are that the mobile phone will replace the remote control and eventually become a personalised TV control for the user. This will then drive personalised TV and Over The Top (OTT) services.

My prediction

Whilst more content will be created for a range of distribution channels, new devices and to new audiences, we can only expect to see the continued growth of video consumption. In addition, I expect strong event-based entertainment in real time.

It is hard to predict what the broadcasting industry will look like in 20 years’ time, but one thing that is certain is that we’ve got lots of exciting changes in front of us. It is likely that the technology we can’t even imagine today will continue to adapt and change broadcasting even further.  The key thing for media organisations is how they unshackle themselves from the traditional broadcast infrastructure and business models. There is a great opportunity here for broadcasters to work with a progressive service provider like Vodafone to simplify network and cloud infrastructure, which could help their businesses fully realise the opportunities of digital transformation.