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How can online work with the old broadcast business structure?


By The Drum Team, Editorial

July 23, 2010 | 5 min read

by Jason Wagner, director of Ping

Merging Technologies

The traditional broadcast industry (programming being paid for via commercials) was running scared last year that free to air channels such as YouTube and Vimeo would kill off independent television. Their reasoning was a decline in viewing figures for main stream broadcasting and an increase in viewing online content.

It’s a conversation I have quite often within the film and animation community - how can online work with the old business structure?

With ad sales dropping, particularly in the US, the broadcaster response was to consider a cost to cable companies for running and airing shows – ultimately putting more cost to the consumer.

The question I would ask is, shouldn’t broadcasters look to monetise emerging technology rather than restrict choice for the consumer?

You don’t have to look too far back to see the exact same situation within the music industry, an industry that is still finding its feet within online but now has a variety of models some of which are profitable for artist, label and provider.

For commercial broadcasters to throw their toys out the pram, stamp their feet and say it’s not fair is not only ridiculous but shows a serious lack of vision.

And I’ve noticed the same throughout the industry, with two distinct groups emerging – some that are embracing new technology and others that want to keep the existing structure and restrict online broadcasting.

I find the latter case frustrating and blinkered. Restricting a growing technology and creative outlet just because it doesn’t fit with your current business model is going to frustrate customers who in turn will look elsewhere.

However, if you’ve bought a new TV recently (probably for the World Cup!) then you’ll more than likely have the ability to connect it to the internet and in turn have an array of widgets, allowing access to the most popular online portals.

For the first time we are seeing online content merge with traditional technologies in a seamless fashion. With this new technology you have access to “Yahoo Connect TV” which includes Flickr, Yahoo News, weather and more.

Rather than sit hunched over a laptop, with a few clicks, you can access BBC iPlayer and a plethora of content. With access to a growing selection of widgets and content from YouTube and eBay the gap between online and broadcast is closing fast.

Furthermore, these widgets are easily developed and by connecting to your own online content the desktop computer and home entertainment system are becoming one and the same. And the technology will develop further this year as mobile developers are looking at an unused carrier wave on the 3G network to stream live television.

This immediately brings two new avenues for online and traditional broadcasters to invest in and produce content for. Any broadcaster, whether online or traditional who ignores these merging technologies will find themselves quickly ignored and potentially out of business.

And while the traditional broadcasters are complaining, the visionaries including Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft who are thinking of solutions.

And it has taken another visionary digital company, Google, with the online muscle to start this revolution – Google TV is on the way and with it a whole new way to access content.

With Google TV (who worked with Sony TV division and Intel to develop the technology) their pitch is to the people and letting us access all the content with a simple search and click. And with that comes the business model with Google TV featuring the usual search and display advertising you find online.

It’s a simple idea and combines existing technologies and services into one package. The challenge for Google TV and others alike is content. Whether it’s created by an individual for online or by a traditional broadcaster, content is king!

Once creatives can broadcast worldwide it can lead to great things, such as Fede Alvarez's short film "Ataque de Panico!" which landed him a £18.6m contract to make a Hollywood film!

It comes down to the internet community and its uncanny ability of sorting the wheat from the chaff – it’s the ultimate public vote where the content you like is accessible and delivered to you when you want it. Creatively controlled traditional broadcasting is dead and in my mind it hasn’t come soon enough.

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