Within the last few months there has been a movement by several of the major programmers to create a competitive model to the traditional television model by adding over-the-top (OTT) content services to their retinue.
The most recent programmer to declare their launch into the OTT service arena is Viacom’s Nickelodeon, which has now become the latest challenger in the efforts to interrupt the flow of traditional media. Ariel Napchi, CEO of HIRO Media believes that while the ever-increasing number of networks might be exciting for customers, it actually impedes progress and innovation within the industry, because it floods the industry with too many players and recreates the same OTT distribution ideas over and over, in what he refers to as a “rearview-mirror effect.”
Napchi believes that the online environment, as opposed to the impersonal experience of television, which is the traditional model of distribution, permits more levels of personalization and the ability for content creators to target specific viewers, rather than making it necessary for the viewers to select their own channels based on their content viewing choices.
The idea is that video needs to change the way it is currently offered and adopt this personalized approach, because OTT services are not currently changing the way content is distributed. Content is not being pushed and marketed towards consumers, but rather viewers are still choosing and finding their own content. The only way progression and forward movement in the industry is possible, is for content to become more personalized and pushed towards the consumers, the same way advertising currently works.
The Rearview-Mirror Effect
According to media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, people have a tendency to cling strongly to what they know from past experience when faced with a situation that is completely new. In his book, “The Medium is the Message”, written in 1967, he states that “We look at the present through a rearview mirror.” And that rather than moving forwards full steam, we “march backwards into the future.”
This behavior is not unheard of. In actually, it is a well-documented human behavior that sees one repeating old patterns of behavior in a new setting. This behavioral patter was easily noticeable in the move from radio to television, where the techniques used by media created no disruption, but rather flowed in exactly the same way. This situation is now being repeated by some of the online media networks.
There is a tendency by many of the different media outlets to focus on the special creative or the storytelling aspect in the online world. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that Nickelodeon or other OTT services don’t offer new and exciting shows, but rather that there is no evolution in their offerings, which can only be brought about by evolution in their manner of distribution. The move from terrestrial channels to analog channels is what facilitated the creation of MTV and CNN. In addition, the variety of MTV channels was made possible by the move from analog to digital.
The Journey Towards Personalization
As we move forward in the daily progression of online video content and advertising, it becomes more imperative that the traditional model patterns are not repeated and reused. The broadcast tradition of television that requires viewers to all tune-in to a single channel in order to view their content is outdated. By definition, the idea is both impersonal and passive in nature.
Napchi believes that the new method to adopt in the online arena is personalization and push. This method would enable content to be both personalized to the consumer as well as targeted directly to them on the sites and channels they regularly visit, in a positive and active manner. In this way we can ensure two things: that viewers will receive the personalization they expect and need, and that content owners will see their content receive the maximum monetization possible.
The best example of this method is in advertising. Advertisers do not expect the consumer to search for their favorite ad, but rather target the ad directly to them on the sites and channels they visit regularly.
Keeping the Consumer Engaged
What makes online viewership successful? Unlike traditional TV, it is not related to the number of people who enter the site in order to watch content, but rather about outfitting the content specifically to the viewer.
For creators of online content, as well as advertisers, this method ensures that viewers will likely remain engaged, offering a long-term, supportable solution for reaching a target audience. As opposed to the way the traditional TV model works, in this case consumers will receive content and ads that is specifically related to their interests wherever they look. Basically, as opposed to the way traditional media works, this online connection permits content to be tailored to individual viewers.
For instance, millions of viewers watch “Game of Thrones” on HBO every Sunday night. While some viewers may access the show through HBO’s cable station, and others through its streaming service, they are still both basically searching out “Game of Thrones” themselves. A more innovative way of providing this content would be a service that would provide them with “Game of Thrones” automatically, no matter what service they are watching through. Using this example as a basis, at the end of the day, OTT content services are just another version of the same old experience in which the viewer is required to seek out their own content through a specific avenue.
Updating our approach to both content and distribution is imperative in order to avoid this rearview-mirror effect. This approach has already been noticed and implemented by the advertising industry in their use of targeting and native advertising. The time has come for the content industry to recognize it as well. There are a few leaders in the industry, such as Mark Burnett and Dori Media, who have recognized and acknowledged this need, but is now time for other major players in the industry to hop on board as well.
It’s the industry’s job to cater to the viewer and to provide them with content that interests them, pushed to them on sites they already visit. If this approach is not implemented, the industry will remain mired in the past.