CANAL+ launches Music Moments Spotify app built by The Connected Set

CANAL+ launches Music Moments Spotify app built by The Connected Set

We’re delighted to announce our latest Spotify app project has gone live!

Built for French pay-TV operator CANAL+, the ‘Music Moments’ app which is available on the Spotify desktop client in France provides music recommendations from the stars of CANAL+ including Michel Denisot, Mouloud Achour, Vincent Glad, Emma de Caunes and Ariel Wizman.  Launched earlier this week to coincide with Cannes Film Festival the app also contains music-related content from shows and CANAL+ properties including Le Grand Journal and live sessions from Canal Street.TV.  And in a Spotify first the app is neatly integrated with Instagram to enable users to share their own photos illustrating their own ‘music moments’ via dedicated hashtags.

This tops off a busy few months for The Connected Set who recently launched the Stagebox iPad app for BBC R&D that allows camera operators and vision mixed to control broadcast cameras over IP, plus new prototype projects for Channel 4.  Coming up we’re about to kick off two new projects – one with CBBC and one for Fremantle – and we’ll be launching a new graduate training scheme in the next few days – watch this space…

If you’re based in France you can launch the CANAL+ app by clicking here – if you’re outside of France then sorry but it’s geolocked!

Canal+ Portfolio

Posted by Jason 2013.05.23 PayTV, Spotify Apps No Comments

British TV broadcasting: 2012 Predictions

It’s that time of the year where it’s obligatory to make a few predictions about the year ahead.  Here’s my topline thoughts on what’s in-store for British TV broadcasters and producers in 2012:

5 things that are likely to happen

1. Massive upheaval in TV commissioning teams
For those commissioners that have their fingers firmly in their ears when it comes to multi-platform storytelling 2012 will be the year they get found out. Maybe five years ago it was cute to say “I’m no good with computers”, now it’s frankly embarrassing when you’re supposed to be in touch with how your audience are behaving. Channel 4 will probably be the most visible broadcaster to transform its commissioning team – weeding out people that are either not capable in a convergent age or are stale from too many years in the same place, and unlike in previous years where it was a case of musical chairs in the TV commissioning job market expect to see new types of producer stepping into their empty shoes.  With some big departures already announced at C4 it will be interesting to see who they hire.  Where Channel 4 lead expect others to follow – not least at UKTV now 50% owned by US network Scripps who will be looking to drive revenues through their digital lifestyle properties.  ITV on the other hand will probably continue to flail around in a state of utter confusion.

2. Reform of independent production commissioning quotas
With NewsCorp, NBC Universal & Time Warner rapidly snapping up indies (plus Endemol and All3Media likely candidates for acquisition in 2012) there will be an increasing pressure to reconsider the effectiveness of indie commissioning quotas in supporting grassroots creative TV production businesses.  I’m told that when Jeremy Hunt recommends reform to quotas in the forthcoming Communications Act he’ll be under considerable pressure from the BBC to replace the current ‘catch all’ indie quotas with a quota for start-up and small independent producers.  The likely effect on the big indies will be marginal as they already have diverse and often international businesses, but for smaller players this could be a huge boost and precipitate a new wave of startups (particularly led by key talent currently in broadcasters and the bigger indie groups).

3. The Rise and Rise of YouTube
2011 was the year where Google’s Eric Schmidt extended the hand of friendship to the TV broadcast and production community at Edinburgh TV Festival – wanting to bring together the ‘luvvies’ and the ‘boffins’ (all of course mediated by Google technologies and platforms).  Burnt by the lack of interest in Google TV in the US during 2011 Google were in overdrive wooing the British TV community as they prepare to launch Google TV in the UK.  Now in 2012 we’ll see how far Google are willing to go when the broadcasters most likely don’t play ball.  Google already have thousands of hours of professional content in production for a new suite of YouTube ‘channels’ and expect them to ramp this up further.  I’d put money on YouTube securing exclusivity with a number of key TV personalities to front content for them (is Jamie Oliver’s contract up soon?  Or what about Oprah or Doctor Phil?) plus they’ll go after sports rights, first look movies, bring back TV series – expect Google to write some big cheques for content in 2012.

4. Battle of the connected TV services
Putting Google TV to one side there will be a huge push by Microsoft to turn the XBox in to a premiere entertainment hub with a number of high profile content deals coming on stream in early 2012.  There’s the launch of youview *sometime* next year which, if done correctly, could be the logical next generation of Freeview for 8million+ homes. There’s the increasing sales of connected TV’s from the likes of Samsung, Panasonic, LG etc as people upgrade their TV’s for the summer olympics (although a continuing lack of compelling ‘app’ content will remain on these CE devices because of platform fragmentation), and finally there’s the rumoured entry of Apple in Q3 with an Apple TV set which will inevitably have a fantastic product design, intuitive UI (possibly using Siri) and great content via iTunes.  Away from the consumer electronics space there will also be some big entrants on the content distribution front – not least Netflix launching in the UK in early 2012, but don’t be surprised in Tesco does something clever too following its purchase of Blinkbox.

5. A breakthrough multiplatform format
This is the one I’m really hoping for!  There’s been success with shows like “Million Pound Drop” and tomorrow Channel 4′s next big interactive gameshow “The Bank Job” is due to launch, but I hope 2012 will deliver something truly transmedia that breaks all the rules.  I’m not saying “Million Pound Drop” isn’t a great show – it is – but I’m not sure how much we’ve really moved on in terms of play-along since BBC’s “The National IQ Test” which is now officially 10 years old!  Yes achieving 12% playalong levels is very good but I would love to see something that is so compelling to the audience they just have to participate!  I’m not saying all TV should be like that – lean back television is what the audience want most of the time – but I’m hoping 2012 will see at least a couple of new immersive formats that push boundaries, particularly in genres other than traditional studio gameshows… that’s certainly my personal focus for 2012.

Supporting SMEs: Is it time Channel 4 ask ‘what is an indie’?

I read this weekend in Broadcast that the DCMS is thinking about ways to safeguard smaller indies when it writes the new Communications Act… and one of the more radical suggestions is to do away with broad-brush indie quotas and introduce a minimum quota for broadcasters to commission from SME indies.

Whether you like regulation or not, there’s no denying the positive impact the creation of Channel 4, the establishment of indie commissioning quotas and the BBC window of creative competition has had on the health of the indie sector.  Take All3Media for example, it’s got a turnover approaching £500million and it still has independent status (although maybe not for long as it seeks a buyer).  All3 are a great British success story and I congratulate them, but there’s no denying how much power is now concentrated in a small number of giant media groups… and if SMEs are going to lead the economic recovery this could become a problem.

But surely it’s all about the quality of the ideas – everyone is equal no?  If only that were true but commissioners are human – they prefer to give work to people they like and have worked with in the past (or if you’re skeptical like me they particularly like giving work to media companies that might employ them in the future).  It makes total sense to work with people you trust, however is there a way we can get commissioners to work with a handful of companies they don’t know on top of the usual preferred supplier list?  Sometimes obliging them to do this is the only way to make it happen.

And then there’s the reality that size is strength and the big media groups have the resources to negotiate better terms of trade, they can overspend on a pilot or completely self-fund a development, and they have their own distribution arms to retain profits.  I don’t begrudge them their success, but when you’re a startup who has to pay £600 an hour for legal advice to try and get halfway to the terms the big boys can negotiate it becomes a problem – the rich just get richer (one specific recommendation on that point: broadcasters should be consistent with their terms of trade (don’t screw your small suppliers while you’re getting screwed by the big suppliers – all you’re doing is making the big suppliers bigger so they can screw you even harder)).

I think an SME indie quota would certainly help redress some of the imbalances in the indie sector – but let’s not forget an SME is any company with a turnover of up to £50million or under 250 employees – there needs to be real focus on the ‘S’ end of the scale… these are the people who can innovate quickly, who can think in new ways and formats, and will ultimately determine the future direction of TV.

Which takes me to Channel 4.  I personally have no issue with indie quotas being scrapped altogether then it comes to BBC and ITV, but one of the key reasons Channel 4 was set up was to help nurture and develop the independent sector – and what an amazing job they’ve done.  It’s great that the network are again being proactive in investing in ideas from small indies from within and outside of traditional TV, but isn’t it time for a more radical approach?  Isn’t it time Channel 4 redefine what an indie is – to return to their roots – to invest in the kinds of ideas that could only come from an enthusiastic, often-naive, idealistic boot-strapped startups?  I know I run the risk of sounding like a xenophobic protectionist but is it Channel 4′s job to line the pockets of NewsCorp, NBC Uni and TimeWarner – or nurture new British businesses? Isn’t it time to rip up the schedule and become a genuinely alternative voice in broadcasting?  Yes advertising revenues may dip slightly, and in turn there may be less money for the ‘Gok’s Fashion Fix’es and ‘Come Dine With Me’s of this world, but is that really a disaster?  Is success just ratings and ad-revenue, or could it be in kick-starting a new dawn in British independent production, in innovation and alternative types of format, and in reshaping broadcasting?

I know I have a vested interest – but as the whole world is on the cusp of economic reorganisation maybe it’s time for Channel 4 to change with it?

 

Zeebox and first mover advantage

3 weeks ago I bought myself a sexy new Samsung smart TV, then just over a week ago came the perfect accompaniment in the form of Zeebox for the iPad.  Sure it may not be the most incredibly groundbreaking idea to create a TV listings app that delivers and allows you to share contextual information about what you’re watching – but then it’s simple things which often catch on.  Most of us have done the conference circuit and heard talk after talk about all the amazing possiblities of the second screen syncing to TV (from interactive ads to transmedia TV formats, shopping to new forms of content discovery), but now someone’s actually done something about it, and you’ve gotta at least respect that.

So here’s what I like:

1. Simple, intuitive and clean UI: It’s a really sleek design on iPad.  I love the forwards/backwards EPG (albeit limited to now, next and the previous show).  Clearly Anthony Rose has taken one of the better ideas from youview and run with it, although it would obviously be very exciting if/when it integrates with catch-up services.  I also like the simple ways of organising content by channel, popularity, friends and genres… if I had more than one friend on Zeebox I’m sure the ‘friends’ view would be quite compelling, which takes me on to…

2. Social features: It’s nice I can see what my friends are watching (although maybe my friends don’t appreciate me knowing they’re watching ‘Boob Envy’ on PickTV).  I like the prospect of inviting friends to view with me (again, when I have more friends on the app).  It’s a great bit of foresight to automatically add the show hashtag when I go to tweet.  And the fact my login to the app is via Facebook Connect makes life easy too.

3. Zeetags: Sure some of these aren’t quite right – but they’re pretty spot on!  While everyone else seems to be talking up investing shed loads of money into audio stream technologies Anthony Rose has taken the simpler and cheaper approach of generating tags from subtitles.  Ok – so it’s not that exciting that zeetags only lead to wikipedia and news – but there is HUGE commercial and creative potential here for both broadcasters, content owners and third parties – zeetags could be like a google adwords (or promoted tweets) for TV.

4. Controls your TV: I love the fact it can switch between channels on my TV – that makes it worth it alone.  Of course it’s pretty limited right now and doesn’t really address the issue that I tend to flick between Freeview HD and Sky – but again there’s a lot of potential as Zeebox is cutting out the remote and the traditional EPG – again a clever move with big implications (how long until a service like YouTube or Netflix buys a placement in the Zeebox EPG?).

5. Fast: It goes without saying but to keep my attention the app needs to download images/metadata quickly and be traction free – and it is pretty good in this regard.

There’s a few other bits in Zeebox that I’ve not tried or don’t really pay attention to (shopping, audience popularity, twitter feed (but that’s because I have my tweets open in tweetdeck on my third screen)), but then I’m sure others do use them.

The big thing for me is this has the potential to be disruptive.  So no one’s heard of ‘Zeebox’ as a brand yet, but how far behind are the broadcasters with their own version of this kind of thing?  If youview try to do something then are we to wait another year?  In that time zeebox (which will be on iPhone and android too I’d guess) may be a destination in its own right.  I was running a brainstorm called ‘Death of the Remote Control’ at Mindshare last Thursday and I was taken aback when I showed them Zeebox and they got very excited at how they could promote brands through zeetags… there are serious dollars which might leak to this kind of third party app.

So what are broadcasters to do?  They can get on board and make Zeebox an even more compelling proposition by giving it access to advertising timelines, additional content, interactive features, on-demand, and maybe in return share that potential revenue and get some valuable data?  Or they can try to kill it – create technical standards that make integration complex, deny it access to on-demand content, or try to create something better (and stay better).

It’s an exciting (and shrewd) move on the part of Anthony Rose.  To deliver something like this in under 9 months is pretty impressive, and the broadcasters are going to struggle to move at that pace themselves. I look forward to seeing what Zeebox, broadcasters and advertisers do next.

Zeebox Video Tutorial

People in TV are their own worst enemy- not data

I’ve just read in Broadcast an extract of Peter Bennett-Jones’ BAFTA speech – with the headline “Has data become the enemy of originality?”.  The article is about how broadcasters are taking less risk because of the increasing use of data in decision making – namely that commercial pressures drive commissioners to chase ratings, and this ultimately leads to a raft of derivative programmes.  The result, according to PBJ, is that “original and polemical programming is in the casualty ward”.

This view troubles me… data is a great thing. Look at the world of entertainment outside television… is crunching numbers and understanding audience behaviour making things like social games worse?  Apart from the fact if it weren’t for understanding this data social games wouldn’t exist, let alone be a $2billion market, but understanding the numbers (and by extension the audience) means they can constantly innovate, tweak their product, and improve the experience.

The real problem with how data inhibits innovation in TV is actually a cultural problem in TV itself… *some* (or maybe I should say *most*) people who don’t understand how to use data to aid creativity.  I actually don’t have a problem with commissioning on the basis of how a similar format did on another channel when moving that format on in a decent way (for example it’s great how Channel 4 borrowed the successful ’fixed camera rig’ from shows like Big Brother and applied it to documentary), that doesn’t mean that I approve of the BBC making ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ as soon as they saw ‘Downtown Abbey’ was a hit.  One thing I certainly disapprove of though, much to the disappointment of the old school of TV producers and commissioners, is commissioning based on whims – on things you read about in a newspaper or something your daughter said was a good idea.  Occasionally you hit gold, but rarely.  I think it’s a unique trait of TV that decisions are so often made with little or no business case, at least data goes some way to helping broadcasters scrutinise ideas.

Where data could really empower commissioners goes beyond just understanding the competition – it even goes beyond understanding the audience - it should be about responding to them, and quickly.  The big entertainment companies operating online work on an ‘agile’ basis -they release quickly and refine constantly.  Wouldn’t it be great if TV were more like that?  Ok – maybe not always practical for a drama, but what about live TV?  I personally loved ’10 O’Clock Live’ on Channel 4 – but it didn’t rate that well – and the format didn’t change over the entire run. Sure things can take a while to get an audience and I’d never advocate ripping up the format completely each week – but where was the iteration, the testing, the evolution of the show?  It’s not just ’10 O’Clock Live’: ‘Famous and Fearless’, ‘Red Or Black’, the list goes on.

Peter Bennett-Jones may yearn after the good old days when it was all about the idea – that ‘hunch’ on an A4 piece of paper with no supporting evidence.  I’m not saying broadcasters shouldn’t take risks, they must to stay ahead, but data can mean the difference between an informed risk and just being downright reckless.  If TV is going to survive in the long term we all have to work and think differently.  We need to use the powerful and exciting richness of data to improve the products we offer – and ultimately improve the prospects for our businesses.

Peter Bennett Jones speaking at BATFA

Chasing the convergence cash

Last weekend I was at Edinburgh TV festival.  In previous years it’s been a bit of naval gazing affair – opulent parties where commissioners congratulate each other, screenings of forthcoming ‘hits’, the odd celebrity wheeled out by his or her paymasters.  This year wasn’t a massive departure from that except for the addition of those pesky internet people encroaching on the party – infact I’m told by the organisers that they’ve seen the biggest growth in attendees from outside the broadcaster/indie sector.  This year there were sessions on IPTV, mobile apps, data crunching, and not least the addition of YouTube as a headline sponsor and Google chairman Eric Schmidt giving the McTaggart lecture.  For me the interesting session wasn’t Dr Schmidt but the session on how convergence is impacting the business of television for broadcaster/publishers.

One big theme was the debate about how broadcasters have taken their eye off the ball and seen lots of valuable interaction around their content take place on third party platforms like Facebook and YouTube.  David Abrahams talked a lot about how Channel 4 is thinking hard about the extent to which they work with successful social services like Facebook to ‘join the dots’ between their programmes and other forms of interaction, and how their solution will (in part) be their own proprietary registration system.  At the moment Channel 4 have all kinds of inert databases around different shows and genres, so they’re working hard to join these up and create a backend system to help them mine more valuable data from their audience, and thus prove their worth to advertisers with the kind of analytics social networks can offer.

Of course the big question for me is what do the audience get in return? David Abrahams talks about personalisation and some exclusive content, but is that really enough?

For me the most exciting places on the web are the communities where you can express your identity, connect and share – and yet every broadcaster is obsessed with moderation and the integrity of the channel brand- too scared to give their audience free-reign to comment, or self-moderate.  The broadcasters have imposed such strict standards on their services that apart from great on-demand content everything around it is generally sparse and dull.  Fru Hazlitt from ITV talked about the future of TV being around not only live TV but keeping engagement running between live shows – but how many of us are actually reading about X Factor on ITV.com when rivals like MailOnline have juicier content, infused with personality, allowing people to add their comments, and even allowing people to vote on the comments on those message boards?  The Ofcom regulatory mindset has crept into the broadcasters’ online offerings, and so they’re not realising their full potential.  Sure they do ok, but imagine the potential.

David Abrahams talks about Channel 4 as this big trusted brand that people will see as a safe place to share their information, but I still think people are more engaged with shows than channels – and so real fans will ultimately engage with that show in the place that gives them the most freedom to express themselves.  There’s always a balance of carrot and stick – but ‘personalisation’ and ‘extra content’ feels like a given in a world where consumers have such high expectations.  Even though Channel 4 give their content away for free on 4oD (ad supported) this is still something the audience has come to expect after a decade of publishers giving away their content for free online.  How ITV think they’ll make any meaningful revenues from charging for content online is beyond me.

So yes – broadcasters are right that they need to become the place where show interactions happen.  Yes – this is how they’ll defend their revenues from online rivals who can offer deep audience insight.  But the question remains – what’s the carrot for the audience? For me going down an AOL.com/Yahoo route of expensive editorial teams producing copy and exclusive videos is not the answer – it’s removing the filters and allowing people who are passionate about programmes to truly express themselves, to connect with fans, and to use this insight to deliver them richer and more personalised experiences.  It requires a big culture change in the channels’ brand and editorial teams, but ultimately this is the only way I can see broadcasters really becoming multiplatform destinations in their own right.

Connected TV sets and boxes: an overview

Over the last 12 months we’ve seen all manner of connected TV platforms enter the market – from market leader Samsung’s Internet@TV service complete with TV apps, to a revamped Yahoo Connected TV with broadcast overlay (see this post).  We’ve had flops from Google TV, rumours of game changing new entrants in a revamped Apple TV, and of course promises of a next generation IPTV Freeview in the form of YouView which has suffered a series of embarrassing delays (see here).

All these services have been built on different technologies, with very little progress in a common standard (HTML5 anyone?), and so the ‘TV app’ market has remained little more an experimental space.  There have been successful app launches, particularly broadcast catch up services like 4oD and ITV Player on PS3, but this market’s hardly taken off, yet.

Connected TV penetration is still on track with manufacturers using their web enabled services to differentiate themselves from the competition, but in the TV set market at least it’s the CE manufacturers pushing it rather than consumers demanding it that’s driving growth.  If you look at actual engagement amongst people who have access to TV apps it’s pretty low, with TV catch up and YouTube an exception despite the interface clunkiness (and for commercial TV broadcast catch up a serious lack of content).

The really exciting convergence so far is on the second screen – playing on your mobile, laptop or tablet while you have broadcast on TV: the lean back TV and the lean forwards second screen, deepening engagement.  We’ve had endless launches in this space – check in services (here’s an old post on that), social services like starling (see here) and tbone, loads of second screen apps created for specific programmes like Million Pound Drop and New Look Style the Nation.  There’s also loads of great startups in this space creating services that work across devices tying together catch up, social and live interaction.

Earlier this year I created an overview of some of the key CE platforms in the connected TV space in the UK.  I’ve decided it’s no longer worth updating this overview – the differentiation between devices, platforms and services is fast becoming irrelevant - convergence is happening, even if getting these different tools to talk to each other is becoming increasingly complex.  But for anyone who wants a read of where things were last time I looked in the consumer electonics TV set and console space here’s an overview of connected TV services:

IPTV players grid image

 

How Brits are using their iPads

Imano has just published a great infographic on how Brits are using their iPads.  Here’s a quick summary:

As a leisure device:
95% of owners use it in their living room and 89% in bed. Internet browsing and email is the killer application (98% and 94% respectively), but 88% are also using it to consume video, music and radio, and 78% use it for social networking. iPads are primarily for leisure – less than half of respondents use it for work.

A great transaction platform:
78% of owners use their iPad for online shopping. What’s very impressive is that half of owners (48%) say their iPad is the internet connected device they spend the most money on – more than mobile (11%), laptop (16%), fixed computer (19%) and cable/internet TV (4%).  If broadcasters/content owners want a transactional relationship with their viewers in the future then chances are this will not be via red button but via a second screen, particularly a tablet.  However investment in second screen commerce will be limited until iPad/tablet penetration picks up (which will probably come as prices drop). In terms of apps most iPad owners have paid-for 20-49 apps.

A shared device
31% of iPad users say they’re the only user.  50% of users share it with a spouse/partner, and 29% let their children use their iPad. While we talk about mobile as personal device, we need to design apps for iPad that can switch between a state of being personal and communal.

A strong connection with gaming consoles
I thought it was particularly striking that 51% of iPad users also own a Wii, 34% own a PS3 and 30% an XBOX – a far higher proportion of console owners that the broader population. We’ve already seen iPad used as a remote control with Comcast Xfinity amongst others, how long will it be until the iPad becomes the games console controller? Also, 79% of British owners use the iPad itself as a gaming device.

For watching video
The most popular source of video on iPad is YouTube (87%), closely followed by catch-up TV (74%).  The catch up TV stat is pretty impressive when you consider that it’s really only iPlayer that offer a full inventory of catch up material, with Channel 4’s 4oD service offering limited content and Sky Player costing £8 per month (although that’s changing shortly when Sky launch Sky Go)… this is going to be a major growth area.

iPad owners are real advocates
94% of British iPad users love their iPad – 70% say it’s ‘excellent’, and 24% say “it’s the best thing in my life”… oh dear!

Uk iPad Usafe infographic
Screen shot from Imano: click here for the full infographic

 

Will the rise of social TV be the death of UK drama?

5 years ago many media commentators were predicting the end of the linear TV and the death of the television schedule as people migrated to on-demand internet delivered TV, or simply moved their attention to other types of online content.  The reality is that linear viewing has held strong- in both number of hours (over 4 hours per day and growing) and the proportion of viewing (95% of TV content is still viewed live).  The prediction that the web would cannibalise television was too simplistic; in many cases it has provided a new platform for existing viewers to interact with shows on the second screen, thereby deepening their engagement, and the web has even driven new audiences to TV and cemented live viewing as people discuss and share shows on facebook, twitter, and many of the new generation of social TV apps… the ‘watercooler moment’ has become realtime!

This is all great news surely?  Well yes and no – because this 4th dimension of television, the social layer, has implications for the type of content that UK broadcasters want.

The shows that generate buzz are typically ‘live’ or ‘event’ TV… X-Factor, Million Pound Drop, The Apprentice, live sports – television that demands linear viewing because if you don’t watch live you’ll either miss out on the water cooler conversation (which can often be as much fun as the actual show), or in the case of most reality shows you’ll miss the result and therefore lose out on the entertainment of guessing the outcome… I’m sure it’s not just me that’s had my catch-up viewing plans ruined by finding out who got fired on The Apprentice on the twitter stream?

The economics of production (particularly the relatively lower cost of reality over drama), the economics of broadcasting (the need to capture large simultaneous audiences to satisfy advertisers), combined with the social layer as a driver to live TV and a new form of audience insight will increasingly drive commissioners and schedulers to live and event telly, but what does this mean for other genres?

Many of us appreciated critically acclaimed dramas like ‘Any Human Heart’ or ‘Red Riding’ on TV, but the truth is they didn’t rate, these kinds of dramas rarely rate, and they’re expensive to make – commercially most of them don’t make sense for TV broadcasters.  I’m not saying drama never works in terms of ratings or buzz – look at Downtown Abbey, Doctor Who, The Inbetweeners – just that in the pursuit of maintaining audience sizes and share broadcasters will increasingly have to rely on live, event and participative content that creates and feeds off the buzz online. Furthermore I’m not saying drama can’t be commercially successful, many dramas make lots of money from international sales, downloads, DVDs, but most of that cash goes back to the producer/distributor, not the broadcaster.  For now viewers and UK producers are in a somewhat fortunate position to have two PSB broadcasters in the BBC and Channel 4 who are obliged to produce types of content like drama (and documentary) that don’t typically demand live viewing from the audience, but there’s no guarantee in the long-term that this commitment will stay.

So the importance of social network activity may not be good for all genres and all viewers in the UK, but the resulting glut of reality and live TV may ultimately not be good for the growth of on-demand services – because if all the content we’re watching (or at least the content that gets decent levels of investment) is live and only relevant to that point in time then who’s going to watch it further down the line?  I certainly wouldn’t watch last years Strictly Come Dancing again, but I might watch a great original British drama a year later, 10 years later, and further down the line.

So what’s the solution?  I’m no drama expert but I’d suggest three things.  First UK drama producers need to re-examine the terms of trade -  if they want broadcasters to pay for a large chunk of their glossy high-price-tag drama they need to accept that broadcasters should get a longer window for offering this content on-demand, or otherwise the economics don’t make sense… and UK drama will ultimately lose out to both US drama and other cheaper programme genres.  Second producers need to innovate – they need look at interesting ways of engaging audiences to create a buzz that doesn’t ruin the linear experience – and a great example would be in shows like Misfits or Skins who build an active fanbase pre-broadcast, drip feed content between episodes and constantly reward their fans. There are lots of other examples too, from Hollyoaks asking the public to be a virtual jury of a rape trial in the drama, to shows like Dexter in the US that created an animated series to run online between series.  Finally, dare I say it (I know this is an easy thing to say but less easy to do): broadacasters, producers and distributors need to invest more in UK drama – to make what the UK does do stand its own against US imports – to create fewer but bigger longer-running drama brands that attract international attention, international investment, and a broader and bigger noise on social networks… shows like Torchwood have started making these steps with international production, lots of interesting participative elements, but there’s a long way to go.

Dexter Early Cuts animated series Skins Take Part Channel 4

Registration: our best friend and worst enemy

I have a confession to make: I don’t have a different password for every single online account in my name. Sure there’s a few particularly sensitive or transactional accounts which might be an exception but for most there’s a good chance it will be one of a couple of variants.

As a digital evangelist I should probably know better, but as more and more of what we do online is powered by a personal relationship with hundreds and thousands of different companies can we really be expected to remember the same number of unique and uncrackable password combinations?

Well for the 77 million plus Playstation Network users out there (of which I’m one) we’re faced with this this very question.  It’s a real wake up call that if a company the size of Sony isn’t encrypting our data properly then can we place faith in SMEs… is it safe to share my details with the likes of ITV, or the Guardian, or foursquare?

So what does all of this mean for the convergence of TV and the web? All the major broadcasters recognize the need to move past a reliance on BARB data and to develop a direct and data rich relationship with consumers, but the catastrophic failure at Sony is a further dent to consumer confidence in sharing their information.

Without registration it will be harder to offer consumer products that deliver a personalized service, from surfacing content that’s relevant based on explicit user preferences, to using account histories and user behaviours to power recommendation and improve user experience (eg. one-click purchase).  And let’s not forget this data is also important customer insight and of value to advertisers who may support our services.  As consumers lose trust the consequence may be to strengthen the attractiveness of universal login services through third parties like facebook further eroding our direct relationship with consumers and introducing a middleman (and middlemen eventually need paying).

There’s also a very practical issue for the kind of convergence we want to deliver.  Because of the PS3 hack I not only have to change my twitter login on twitter.com, but on all the accounts that sync with it: my mobile, tweetdeck, peep, tweetme, facebook, and the list goes on.  What does this mean if we want people to be able to buy through Amazon on their remote? And what about the next generation of EPGs that will be powered by the social curve and our online behavior elsewhere on the web?  We’re talking about not only a lot of places for data to leak but many more places to update when things go wrong.  Again this plays into the hands of the big players like Facebook, who would surely love every movement we make on the web passing through their walled garden, but then the debate moves from one of data protection to privacy…

Right now many consumers are sharing their information in a pretty unguarded way, in good faith, only to discover that the privacy they thought they had isn’t so, from facebook thinking it’s ok to pass their mobile numbers to third parties, or masses of sensitive information being passed to app producers via the unregulated Android marketplace (including many apps with the sole purpose of harvesting data). To remind consumers that all of this activity is permitted by the ‘terms and conditions’ on these services is no defense, these companies really are cutting off their nose to spite their face.  Add these privacy violations to the PS3 data leak as the latest in a long list of recent security compromises (play.com, Internet Explorer…), and a press who love to stoke up fear amongst the public, and we have a serious problem…where consumers will simply refuse to share, or worse the government will intervene in a big way.  Both scenarios are terrible news for competition and innovation, but most depressingly it’s terrible news for the free web and SMEs.  From Sony and facebook to startups present and future: we need to get our house in order, take consumers concerns seriously, or risk losing the most valuable thing we have: a relationship with the customer.

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