|Topic:||Content speaks for itself – in the viewer’s language|
Philippe Rouxel is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for GlobeCast, a content management and delivery company for broadcasters, and a member of the Orange Group. Mr Rouxel oversees the company’s global product strategy, including business units in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. Prior to joining GlobeCast, Mr Rouxel served as the Vice President of International Distribution for France 24, an international broadcaster serving 165 million households in five continents. Previously, he held business development positions with channels belonging to Lagardère, Canal+/Multithémathiques, Viacom/MTV Networks International, Première, and Walt Disney International.
Philippe Rouxel graduated from EDHEC and CELSA Paris-Sorbonne.
For immigrant and expatriate viewers, the best experience is one that brings them ‘home’. There is an important, and lucrative, new market awaiting broadcasters – their own expatriate communities in other countries. People away from home want familiar content in their own language. With the right global partners, broadcasters can harness this demand and create new revenue streams. By producing a meaningful experience for their overseas viewers – they can bring new levels of closeness and connection to communities everywhere.
Today’s connected world is one that embraces diversity: diversity of content and technology of course, but also the diversity of its viewers. In any given country, most of us belong to specific communities and cultures, but we’re also more mobile and more far-flung than at any time in history — and the days of cities and regions with a singular cultural identity are long past. The democratization of international travel and mass cultural migrations, enabled by the Schengen Zone in Europe and other international treaties, have made it easier than ever for large populations to pick up stakes and to create diasporas in new lands.
But wherever we roam, we still have a basic human need to stay connected with the folks back home and get a dose of the familiar from time to time. In the old days, family might mail a newspaper, movie, or book to someone living in another country to make that person feel more connected to his or her roots. That basic need is still there today, but the means of keeping that connection have evolved in a big way.
Perhaps more than any other technology trend, the availability of a vast array of content on an ever-growing and equally dazzling line-up of platforms and mobile devices has changed the way people stay connected and access information. As the world becomes more and more of a melting pot, viewers’ demand for international content on the device of their choice will present powerful new opportunities, and new challenges, for broadcasters.
How we got here
In the early years of television, channels never left their home market. Each country — and indeed each region — produced its own programming for a local audience. Beginning in the 1960s with the launch of satellite communications, technological innovations spawned an evolution. Suddenly the world started to shrink, and for the first time, events of international significance, including sports programming, began to cross international borders.
There was no going back. Major news networks such as CNN and BBC were the first to create international versions of their channels for various regions of the world, followed by powerhouses such as MTV. Today, major international networks appear on cable and satellite systems on five continents.
Initially, such a global operation was prohibitively expensive for all but the largest of the world’s broadcasters. Tailoring international content for overseas markets was a technically and financially gargantuan task and remained so through the end of the 20th century. To effectively cater to these markets, a broadcaster had to establish local bureaus as well as purchase huge amounts of satellite capacity. However, once the digital age had replaced analogue broadcast and Internet bandwidth became robust enough to carry streaming video, the floodgates of information opened wide. All of this set the stage for an unprecedented explosion in international content.
An ideal marriage: international content and multiplatform delivery
We know that today’s connected world is all about content. But if content is king, the user experience is King Kong. International content has a built-in advantage in this respect; after all, what experience could be better than feeling “transported home” on any device, anywhere in the world? This former niche area is finding exciting new ways to touch audiences far beyond their borders, sharing their unique world perspective and reaching expatriate, immigrant, and culture-minded viewers across the globe.
Consumer demand is driving video delivery on user devices ranging from gaming consoles, mobiles, and tablets to PCs and connected TVs – and international content is no exception. As a result, today’s viewers live in an age in which, with a click of the mouse or a wave of the finger, they have unprecedented access to their program or channel of choice. For shrewd broadcasters who apply the right tools and choose the right distribution, it’s an opportunity to build loyalty and revenue by presenting engaging content to targeted audiences.
The multiplatform, multi-device environment lends itself well to international content delivery for a variety of reasons. The first reason is the scalable nature of these solutions with the ability to control costs. This is particularly important to broadcasters who are launching in a brand new market. Even premier broadcasters in their home country may have to start from scratch from a budgetary standpoint when expanding to a new country. Conventional solutions such as satellite – although they have a wide reach – can be prohibitively expensive in some cases.
Over-the-top (OTT) distribution via IP networks offers a more cost-effective entry point for broadcasters looking to establish themselves in new markets. While many broadcasters view OTT as a complementary strategy for their traditional services, others approach it as a primary launching pad for entering a new market. In some cases this choice can be dictated by technology as well – especially in less-developed regions where terrestrial networks are not as mature or reliable as mobile services.
Despite the initial uncertainty of launching in a new country, if they do their research right, international broadcasters have a clear advantage over local and thematic content in the sense that they have a dedicated, built-in community of viewers hungering for content in their own language and culture. In fact, some viewers are so hungry that they will get their content through any means necessary – even illegal downloads off the Internet or satellite pirating. Therefore, it behoves broadcasters to proactively approach these markets and take control of content delivery through managed service offerings.
From a technology standpoint, the increased mobility of viewers and the access that comes with a handy mobile device only enhances the opportunity to win these viewers over.
Key ingredients for success
In order to build a profitable operation and unlock every opportunity for monetization, broadcasters need to offer the widest possible variety of content at the highest quality, with relevance to different audiences wherever they may live. The best OTT offerings make full use of the broadcaster’s entire content portfolio by offering live programming that can be easily converted to VOD for catch-up viewing, as well as pre-existing VOD titles and assets from media libraries.
Of course, each offering must be highly tailored to the target audience and region; simply time-shifting the content or trying to stream the same channel to every market might have worked before, but is no longer effective in today’s hyper-connected world. Therefore, robust tools for content regionalization and localization are a must, as are tools for graphic insertion, subtitling, and program substitution. The good news is that Internet-delivered content makes it much easier for broadcasters to create tailored offerings, by providing easy access to a wealth of statistics and metrics about their audiences. Better knowledge of viewers and their habits leads to better targeting of services and therefore better controls on the viewer experience with the goal of increasing audience loyalty. Also, a competent global service partner can help ensure a smooth rollout of tailored content offerings by providing an intimate understanding of the target markets, and also providing localization services.
The future is now
Although we might be a few years away from widespread availability of international content in any language and from any country, there’s already a groundswell of activity from broadcasters around the world. To date, leading broadcasters from Brazil, Africa, Romania, and Portugal have signed onto the service as an easy and cost-effective means of bringing local news, sports, and entertainment programming to their expatriate communities in the U.S.
Other examples abound. beIN Sport a global network of sports channels jointly owned and operated by Qatari Sports Investments, now offers three channels in France and two in the U.S. The Cambodian Television Network (CTN) now delivers Cambodian-language content to viewers in the U.S. and also offers a mobile app for accessing the content from phones and tablets. Russia Today, a 24/7 channel covering news, world affairs, and human interest stories from a Russian perspective, is now available in a range of Asian countries.
To summarize, there is a bold and extremely lucrative new world awaiting broadcasters, and they need look no further than their expatriate communities in other countries – people who yearn for familiar content in their own language. With the right global partner, broadcasters can harness this demand not only to create new revenue streams, but to create a meaningful experience for their overseas viewers and bring new levels of closeness and connection to communities everywhere.