Perhaps the most telling bit of statistical evidence that came out of “The State of the Multi-Screen Experience: Facing he Challenge of Converging Multi-Platform Production and Distribution” panel was related to traditional television viewership: In 2004, the average individual-per-day was 259 minutes; in 2012, 259 minutes. Yet when compared with all other “screen devices,” TV dropped from 83% in 2008 (we didn’t always get apples to apples during the session) to 64% in 2012. Put these two results together and it can be seen that TV is holding its own, even as its “competitors” (more and more frequently with the same content) are adding to the total time people spend staring at pixels.
Of course, much of that has to do with “second screen” phenomena where consumers are watching TV even as they Tweet, live stream their own video or chat with others in the various social media communities. Not a few of which will be using their smart phones as the remote control, surfing on their tablets and savouring the HD images on the plasma screen in sports bars or at home.
Busy consumers on the move can also “throw” their tablet or smart phone program onto the family’s big screen without missing a frame (Apple’s Airplay feature).
Little wonder, then, that Thursday’s must-see panel delved into one top-of-mind (certainly for broadcasters) question: What’s the Future of Television? The moderator and guest speakers covered the spectrum (pun intended) most admirably: Ken Kerschbaumer (Sports Video Group) kept relative order over Mark Aitken (Sinclair Broadcast Group), Steve Hellmuth (NBA Entertainment), Chuck Pagano (ESPN) and Robert Zither (HBO). Was their consensus found? “The future of television is really a discussion about the future of video” (to paraphrase the findings of the companies whose unifying goal is to capture as many eyeballs as possible no matter what the platform or broadcasting device).
It was heartening to hear from Zither that some of his producers are still using film; for the rest the earlier chatter about the emergence (or not) of 4K made a spirited encore appearance. Whether just used to archive the masters or drive the explosion of the next wave of screen sizes (even from goal line to goal line monsters are being built within the stadium for football-mad fans: full circle that the live event is trying its best to give the assemblage the same digital—largely replay delights—they are accustomed to viewing from their couches), technology and budgets will be driven by the needs and wants of the Social Media generation.
Prior to the whither goeth TV session (the best-attended so far), the morning keynote managed to touch on virtually every item brought to the table at this year’s conference: “What’s Next in Streaming Video?: How Huffpost Live Reinvented TV News for the Internet.” Having never seen a minute of anything Huffy, I felt just the right sense of detachment to evaluate John Pavley’s take of the world according to The Huffington Post Media Group. Noting his “Top 5” observations/predictions (leading to a prescriptive formula for the future) here will make for an interesting review five years hence. (And with all of the high-tech wizardry throughout the conference, how decidedly “human” that many of the presentations were beset with microphone squeals, “clunks” and utter silence!
No. 5: The Fifth Column [public] is built in a “safe home” even when we disagree.
The notion of bloggers as fact checkers was extolled (also saving Huff management some editing/research costs); the ability to allow free speech was also lauded.
No. 4: Live from New York, it’s the Fourth Estate.
The immediacy of the Internet and the success of Fake News and parody (who can believe that Saturday Night Live first hit the airwaves in 1975?) was added to the mix. Print news has smelled the coffee and now many staid outlets—including the Toronto Star just a few weeks back—are offering Internet editions for cash.
No. 3: Live streaming kills third-person narrator.
The ghost of Walter Cronkite was evoked as an example of the days when news anchors were trusted, respected and admired while they brought good news and bad into living rooms everywhere. Nowadays, anyone can be a reporter and no subjects are taboo. How wonderful to know just what our friends and followers had for breakfast…
No. 2: Second screen integrates with the first.
With the ravages of Hurricane Sandy still fresh (and ongoing in some regions), the consequent blackout of the “first screen” made the value of wireless communication top of mind. With Apple TV set to bring the Internet to screens large and small, the need for two screens may disappear as technologies converge.
No. 1: First-person perspective on the Huff Post
With the former loyal, subservient audience now feeling its power to drive technology and make the news or play games globally in virtual arenas with virtual competitors, the actual content of many programs will depend on the live input of viewers and bloggers. Quantity seems on the verge of trumping quality for a significant amount of me-I shows no matter how or where they are found.
Hence the new-era equation:
[Fifth Column] + [Fourth Estate] – [Third Person] – [Second Screen]
= Mobile, live-streaming First-person Experience.
Will the Huff Post’s moderators and community editors be up to the task of ensuring the veracity and quality of the Brave New Digital Democracy? Or will loudest voices (and most nimble “robocallers”—cyberspace style) dominate the planet’s “Thoughtscape” like never before?
No worries. Keeping in mind barely 25% of humankind are actively participating in the world’s largest chatroom, what will happen to discourse once every person on Earth shares their ideas, desires and favourite pasta dish? JWR