I was speaking on the panel at the OTT 'mashup' event
at Ogilvy's London Docklands headquarters last night, alongside Turner Broadcasting's Casey Harwood and Anthony Rose, CTO at the BBC's Canvas (now YouView) project, amongst others. As a first-time masher-up and intrigued at the possibilities for the format, the event turned out to be organised along relatively familiar panel debate lines. Casey and I began with introductory comments, and were followed by critiques from the other contributors. The session was then opened up to debate, including audience questions. All the time, running on a display behind us, was a Twitter feed of comments from participants in the twittersphere, as well, presumably, as a few of the 100 or so people who joined us in the traditional, physical fashion.
The only problem was that the panelists had to turn away from the audience to see if any particularly fascinating Tweets had appeared, and if they ever did, it was noticeable that the physical audience's attention would be diverted to the ominous gap between the panelists and away from the speakers. The one recommendation I would make is that questions and comments from the virtual audience could have been added to the debate; it did rather feel at times as though we were being Tweeted at without right of reply.
Nevertheless it was an interesting evening and I hope the audience found the debate valuable. my own contribution centered on a few relevant datapoints from our recent survey of UK TV and online TV viewers. In particular I referenced the fact that 13% of UK people are currently watching TV on the internet at least on a weekly basis. So we needed to bear in mind that the OTT phenomenon is still restricted to a relatively small proportion of the population, and most of that activity is taking place on the PC. The number of people accessing web TV on their TV set is of course even smaller: 6% of people are connecting a PC to a TV, and 4% now claim to use a dedicated internet TV device.
Having said that, our work with early connected TV adopters within our Digital Home Observatory
suggests that television behaviour can change rapidly once viewers have access to some of these emerging technologies. This segment is motivated by a desire for greater viewing flexibility and access to preferred content. They also still see weaknesses in current connected TV solutions, especially in the field of control devices and interfaces.
The panel also touched on the issue of business models, and in response to the question of how things might look in three years I replied that the basic alternatives would not change greatly: television in the UK will still be funded by a combination of public service licence fees, advertising and customer payment of one sort or another. The mix may change slightly, and we may see greater variety in pay business models.
But it’s important to remember that customers are very sensitive to their monthly bills. The impression is often given, especially by new entrants, that new payment models can somehow overcome consumer resistance to the size of the overall television bill. The reality is that 80% of UK customers check their bank statements every month, and a similar proportion prefer predictability in their monthly payments. 69% would agree to pay only for the shows they watch, but only if it reduced the overall monthly bill.
All in all I agreed with Anthony Rose’s comment that too little emphasis in connected TV discussions has been put on live, scheduled television. The assumption seems to be that this traditional model will break down rapidly as various on-demand options become available, but this trend is likely to happen only slowly over a long period of time. Even for early adopters, scheduled broadcasting remains an important part of the overall mix. The overall message is one of increased fragmentation of delivery models and audiences.
Client Reading: Profiling the Connected Media Consumer - UK