M&E Connections

M&E Journal: Broadcasters Should Be Talking About Non-Traditional Content

Brian Morris, Tata Communications

Delivering content via OTT is referred to as non-traditional distribution and one of its many advantages is that users do not have to subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite TV provider. This technology supports on-demand and catch-up services that allow viewers to watch whatever content they want, whenever they want and on any device – including mobile. While the content travels over the network of the internet provider, the content itself is often managed and delivered by third parties such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.

The advantage OTT brings to the viewer is quite clear: the technology gives the viewer ultimate flexibility and also allows him to tailor the content to his needs and tastes. For broadcasters, OTT provides an opportunity to evolve the entertainment experience from watching to engaging and sharing.

For example, data from Spredfast shows that the season six premiere of Game of Thrones registered a huge impact on social media. Game of Thrones and broadcaster HBO received 829,000 mentions from Friday through to Sunday, with #GOT used 602,000 times during that timeframe. The previous weekend generated only 252,000 mentions, showing how despite living in an on-demand world, live broadcasts still have the power to mobilize viewers in a way that makes them share their experiences on social media. Exploring this dynamic between non-traditional distribution, live broadcasting and social media presents an opportunity for broadcasters and producers.

So, companies with innovative broadcasting distribution models are changing the way content reaches the consumer. Furthermore, the combination of nontraditional distribution and social media is changing the role of consumers from viewers to participants. However, OTT content delivery also presents the opportunity for broadcasters to win over new audiences with high quality content of their own making.

The concept of Netflix Originals is a great example of this. By analyzing data concerning viewing habits and the types of shows and storylines that engage viewers the most, Netflix develops an idea of what its next blockbuster television series or film should be. This approach was core in the commissioning of hit productions such as House of Cards and Daredevil.

Evolving entertainment

To take this a step further, by using data analytics and algorithms to inform content generation, non-traditional distribution models can give broadcasters the opportunity to experiment with different technologies and evolve the entertainment experience for consumers. Unconfined by the shackles of traditional analog distribution in the age of OTT broadcasting, smart televisions and immersive entertainment, what opportunities could virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) hold for the broadcast and entertainment industry?

For example, VR and AR are often associated with gaming – the explosion of Pokémon Go this summer is a good example of the power combining physical and virtual worlds can have on the immersive entertainment experience.

Furthermore, we are already seeing virtual reality capture the interest of filmmakers; Lucasfilm partnering with Industrial Light & Magic’s immersive entertainment division to make a VR movie about Darth Vader is a prime example of this. Rather than simply feeling “immersed” in the spectacle, this experience is said to take immersive entertainment a step further by delivering a fully customizable experience in which the viewer can actively affect the outcome of aspects of the plot.

Such sophisticated uses of VR could be game-changing for the broadcast industry – potentially enabling viewers to create their very own experience of a common story line. This takes us into an area where the social media explosions at the season finale of Game of Thrones will not simply consist of “OMG” tweets and Facebook posts. However, users may have their own original content to share based on the individual outcome of their customized experience.

Therefore, the conversation would be more along the lines of “OMG! Look at my ending. What happened in yours?”

Putting the content creator in control

Despite the on-demand culture OTT networks have helped create, shows such as Game of Thrones prove that recorded broadcasts can still cause fever pitch as the excitement unfolds in real-time. The same is true for live broadcasting – whether it’s the headline act at Glastonbury music festival, or the final lap of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix. Non-traditional distribution gives viewers greater choice over the acts they want to watch as well as the game or individual they want to follow.

Furthermore, OTT has led and will continue to lead to a shift in power whereby content producers have more control over how their work is broadcast and shared with their fans and viewers than previously when those decisions were almost solely in the hands of broadcasters. This is advantageous for brand building and raising awareness of new music and television shows, and emerging sports and other events.

For example, if we use the example of Beyoncé, one of the greatest celebrity brands of the moment, OTT broadcast has enabled Brand Beyoncé to better control how content reaches her avid fans. Whereas earlier in her career viewers had to flock to radios and music video channels, buy CDs and DVDs or attend her concerts to hear her latest hit, they are now able to live stream her concerts, view photography before the media reveals it on Instagram and Beyoncé. com and go to her YouTube channel for her latest videos.

The benefit of this multi-channel world for celebrity brands is that having better control over the distribution of content, in turn means they have more control over the content itself. This promises to be a good thing for their fans, who will receive more customizable and personalized content as well as having the opportunity to vote for the types of content they want to receive using polls and competitions on social media.

Inspiration through distribution

Ultimately, broadcasters and content producers are seizing the opportunity provided by OTT and non-traditional distribution, but delivering content in different ways is just the beginning. We are already seeing how the use of data can nudge producers towards developing ideas and creating content that is likely to be popular based on real-world trends. However, non-traditional distribution channels are likely to change the broadcast and general entertainment experience, whilst further blurring the real and imaginary or physical and virtual worlds.

The broadcasters that will succeed are therefore those that learn how to use non-traditional distribution to inspire the creation of nontraditional content – changing the content we consume and the senses it effects, as well as the way it is delivered to our screens.

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