TV’s New Golden Age Demands Fresh Thinking
By just about any objective or subjective standard, 2015 provided further evidence we are in a new Golden Age of Television. Never before have there been so many great shows appealing to such a diversity of audiences.
About 400 series were created this year, nearly double the number just six years ago, and expectations are that 2016 will produce even more. That’s a lot of television. Some are saying it’s too much television.
FX CEO John Landgraf famously voiced that sentiment last fall, and it’s easy to understand his perspective. It has become far more challenging for networks - large and small - to find an audience in this hyper competitive landscape.
And on the flip side it is equally challenging for me to find something good to watch among all the live TV and streaming video service options I have. The traditional set-top box program guide was never a great solution, and has continued to get worse as channels proliferate. Netflix’s or Hulu’s personalization algorithms are a big step forward on the streaming side. They do a reasonable job of recommending content I might want to watch--as long as my wife or kids aren’t hacking my account. But when I want to compare offerings across multiple entertainment providers it becomes a major research project. And who wants to come home at the end of the day to that?
The solution is to do a better job of connecting viewers with the shows they’ll want to watch. Simple, right? This is actually one of the bigger challenges facing technologists as we look toward 2016. Another interesting challenge for us, I believe, will be to recapture some of the shared experience of appointment TV. I am in no way advocating a return to the days of an entire nation of families plopping down on the couch at the same time to tune-in to the same program. But today every water cooler or dinner table conversation runs the risk of a spoiler alert as we individually choose our screens and consume content at our own pace.
Fortunately we have new social media tools that have stepped in to create asynchronous opportunities to engage with our friends and family around favorite shows. As we continue to solve the shared experience and discovery challenges, the key will be to listen to our customers to test out fresh approaches that work for viewers. I am buoyed by the wealth of experiments being undertaken by a range of players from startups to tech giants. Google, Twitter and Facebook, all of whom once viewed television as a competitor for eyeballs, have now embraced the medium, undertaking major TV initiatives.
My company Peel is aggregating both live TV and streamed content guides into one seamless discovery experience - leveraging tune-in data from the 140 million registered users of our universal remote control app to provide smarter recommendations across both viewing modes. We, along with other companies, are also trying to do a better job of helping TV marketers more easily find and connect increasingly niche audiences to their new offerings. In our case we can literally tune viewers in from a native ad on their smartphone to a live TV or streaming video program.
One truth holding the industry back is that virtually everyone in the ecosystem wants to own the relationship with the customer. Silos and walled gardens historically only increase complexity and degrade the user experience. But if everyone makes their 2016 resolution to foster greater collaboration - which will entail giving up some access and control - we can work together to polish our new Golden Age.