If media and entertainment companies want to continue to be valuable assets to marketers, they need to stay ahead of today’s viewership trends rather than simply react to them, advises professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) in a new report titled “The Future of Television.”
“If the television story were to be splashed across the front pages of tomorrow’s newspapers, the head may read: ‘Consumers are in Control,’” the report says, adding, “The story beneath it may then go on to talk about how an ever-expanding array of channels, platforms, devices, experiences and choice is positioning consumers to dictate the [state] of television for the foreseeable future.”
The EY report identifies six emerging trends that it sees as potentially having the biggest impact on the future of the medium:
• Storytelling will evolve to make better use of an omniplatform environment.
• Ubiquitous screens will demand greater content mobility.
• Social dynamics and synergistic experiences will drive more event-based viewing.
• Innovation in program discovery will drive new techniques to cut through the clutter.
• Bingeing will drive more innovation in measurement and personalization.
• New entrants demanding unique content will drive innovation beyond the traditional studio system.
Some of the reports’ thoughts and hypotheticals may seem to require a bit more evolving in the industry, but could well become mainstream down the road. As the increase in viewing on devices other than television continues to grow, the report says, “there is a tremendous opportunity for a visionary producer to better use second, third and fourth screens as part of the narrative. Perhaps each character appears on a different screen and the screens talk to each other to give a surround-picture experience, similar to surround sound.”
The report also raises the possibility of viewers controlling the story arcs of shows through social interaction and helping a series’ stars solve a mystery during an episode. “Story is everything, but a story with a personal connection is unbeatable,” the report says.
More screens mean more potential opportunities for ad impressions, the report says. One possibility includes watching more television while in the bathroom. “As screens appear in new places, some are predicting that a screen will replace standard bathroom mirrors in new home construction, not to mention the pending surge of glasses and smartwatches.” And the industry will need to come up with ways to measure this new viewing data so the content providers can monetize it with advertisers.
The Big Events
The report says mobilizing large numbers of viewers to watch TV events together will be a trend of the future. It cites an Empower study that finds 75% of viewers watch the Super Bowl with groups of two or more and 26% watch with groups of six or more. And Oscar viewing parties continue to gain in popularity.
The report suggests that savvy programmers take advantage of consumers’ willingness to group view. “Part of the magic of successful content creation will be how to build enough of a social experience around a program that viewers won’t want to be left out from the original event experience,” the report says. “The trend forward actually draws on the old days of ‘Must See TV,’ only now it is ‘Must Experience TV.’”
While electronics retailers are offering consumers a wide range of sophisticated televisions, the report points out that, “the remote and channel guide experience has not dramatically evolved in 60 years.” It cites a poll by DigitalSmiths that found 65% of respondents who said they were frustrated “always” or “sometimes” when trying to find programming on television through a set-top box.
The report suggests that much like the Nest Thermostat, which automatically adjusts the temperature in a home or business based on work habits, similarly, TVs should learn a viewer’s habits to more easily deliver the programs they want to watch. Rather than perusing a content menu letter by letter or topic by topic, types of programming a viewer watches would be regularly pushed to them.
The growing trend of binge viewing will need to be measured more granularly than broadcast television is currently measured, the report also says. The ability to do it will enable marketers to buy new packages linking them to this important new segment of viewers.
The EY report also sees the traditional studio model being dismantled by new ways of selecting programming by content providers. It cites recent experiments by Amazon to post pilots online and let viewers decide which ones become series, rather than letting the studios and media companies decide.
“Ultimately, we see the future of television as a carefully crafted omniscreen experience that combines great content with equally compelling social and gamification techniques tailored to an individual viewer’s stated and implicit preferences,” the report concludes. “This, we believe, is the key to winning the future of television in a world where consumers are in control.”