Last week’s Connected TV World Summit in London more than lived up to the high expectations it has set over the past six years. It has established itself as one of the landmark annual gatherings for anyone involved in shaping the emerging television industry. (Disclosure: I have spoken or chaired at each of these events and did so again this year.)
A couple of anecodetal contrasts to begin with: By 10am on day one I had lost count of the number of times Netflix had been mentioned. In concluding my panel at lunch on day two I noted that we had hardly heard any mention of Apple during the entire conference – a stark contrast to last year.
The overall impression was of an industry which is moving in multiple directions, depending on who you talk to and where they come from. The geographical, regulatory and cultural divides between the US and Europe were as chasmic as ever, and never more so apparent than during the debate with US pay TV operators, Comcast, Cox and DirecTV at the end of day one. After eight hours of hearing about the success of emerging services like Roku, Viaplay, SF Anytime and Netflix, the US cable industry came across as reactionary and indifferent to the changes swirling around it.
The biggest uncertainty underlying most debates was the rapid changes we are currently seeing in TV and video consumption and behaviour. Most debates tended to split the TV audience broadly into “lean-back loungers” and “mobile snackers”, the implication being that the former represents the “traditional” mode and the latter an “emerging” mode but undefined in terms of scale and impact.
Cisco’s Nick Thexton’s comment that “the living room is where the deepest engagement with content happens” was typical of the lean-back perspective. Established pay TV players, both operators and technology vendors, wanted to argue that this will continue to be the default television viewing experience. No one doubts that it still accounts for the vast majority of viewing behaviour and market value across the global market.
And yet we heard frequent examples of how consumption patterns are moving away from the “TV” towards other screens. I presented my own evidence of this in the chart below. Looking at the very new segment of regular tablet users, the tablet is now the preferred TV consumption device for OTT video, beating both notebook and desktop PCs, connected TV devices and smartphones. As we heard from a number of speakers, however, it is clear that tablets can hardly be described as “mobile” devices: 90% of this consumption is happening in the home.
On the other hand, I could support the mobile snacker argument with my own anecdote which occurred during the event. Travelling on the Underground, a man in his thirties joined the train, stood next to me, put on his Bose Quietcomfort 3 noise reduction headphones and plugged them into his iPad. Holding the iPad in one hand he found and started watching an edition of “24”. We exited at the same station. Mr 24 continued watching his iPad as he stepped off the train, deftly avoiding the crowds with the occasional glance from the screen. Down the platform, on to the escalator, through the ticket barrier and up the stairs to the main station, he barely took his eyes off the show. He finally came to a halt when he folded his iPad away to make a phone call on his smartphone. The mobile lifestyle in action!
In summary the conference highlighted many and varied perspectives on emerging television trends and I would not want to suggest a clear thread emerged. The good news is that Strategy Analytics is planning a major new study investigating emerging TV behaviours and the ecosystem changes which will shape the industry. Watch this space for further announcements.