In the past two weeks I have attended two events focused on the future of TV, and am sitting here wondering how it has gone so wrong. The first event was the IPTV World Forum, the second a Technology Strategy Board event about the Future of TV Convergence. I attended both as I was interested to see / hear how TV could re-invent itself or manage the ‘eyeball migration’. Boy was I in for a shock.
TV has been the most important media platform in all of our lives. It has defined who and what we know and what we feel is important. It still does to a certain extent (depending on how old you are) but from what I have seen and witnessed recently TV is losing its’ way.
Both events were focused on convergence, a widely held and misunderstood term, but my experience has taken this misunderstanding to a new level…
Imagine 2 events in the same city taking place in the same month tackling the same issues. Now imagine that that neither event references the other, or that the companies and people attending were completely different. Then remind yourself that the subjects they both tackle are about convergence.
I had hoped to see some interesting ‘solutions’ on show at the exhibition – examples of complex services accessed through intuitive interfaces that would enhance the viewing experience. I didn’t.
The most interesting example on show at IPTV was of an early Android prototype that provided a translucent twitter feed on the side of the screen. It represented the best of a poor bunch where two distinct forms of content & interaction were being squeezed into a single experience to create an experience that is less than the sum of its parts - Frankensteins monster…
My big issue here is that broadcast (in all its forms) is a passive medium to viewers, while the internet (& social media) are active. To simply combine them and expect a positive result is wrong on so many levels.
One simple example – the remote control – Given the new found freedom to access the internet through your connected TV, many remotes have grown a QWERTY interface. Yes, that’s right – the example used by most people as poorly designed has added upwards of 30 new buttons to what was already a soup of characters, numbers and hieroglyphics.
One interesting statistic was that only 5% of ‘smart’ TV’s are connected, so it seems that to drive this connection and usage, the hardware manufacturers have decided to add complexity…
The device and technology people are not alone. The Convergence conference was very interesting, but equally worrying as a key topic for broadcast channels and production companies was their desire to increase ‘engagement’ using the 2nd screen – ie more tweets from viewers…. Forgive me if I am missing something here, but when I tweet I tend to not be able to watch the programme….. or the advert. (From my own experience with Twitter, Facebook, Zeebox etc volumes seem to go up during the ad breaks).
So, imagine a business encouraging it customers to place less value on the very thing that pays their salaries and costs…. I asked one of the broadcasters about this, and their answer was to admit that it was true, but that people were doing it anyway, so it’s better to at least remain part of the conversation. – To repeat again, they see something that is harmful to their business, but to remain relevant they encourage that migration, like turkeys voting for Christmas…
So, we have an industry craving convergence, but unable to bring itself to actually look at the problem from a converged perspective, creating solutions that are alienating either the users or the funders.
I am not saying it is easy, nor that I have a complete packaged solution. What I can say is that they have seemed to have missed the 3 key elements that I would regard as the drivers of successful innovation – people, content & experiences.
It seems that little time or effort has been put into taking a step back to look at how new combinations of the above could produce the answer, an answer I think that defines the new business models where classical 30 second adverts shift, where viewers interact and define content and where the numerous screens and platforms blur into history as we just enjoy the content.
What’s missing is an intelligently designed model to do so - once again, in an industry of massive complexity and shifting markets there is one pillar of continuity – that of people and their needs and desires. Starting there and working back might produce something more interesting than a Frankenstein and more sensible than a turkey running towards the knife.