|Issue:||North America 2007|
|Topic:||Controlling the TV connection|
|Title:||Senior Vice President of Marketing|
Tracy Geist is Senior Vice President of Marketing for OpenTV Corp, overseeing all of the companyís marketing activities. Ms Geist has over 15 years of experience developing solutions, services and products in media and technology for companies such as Oracle Corporation, nCUBE 9 (now C-COR), ExtendMedia and the Bulldog Group. Tracy Geist holds a BBA in Information Systems and Strategic Business Analysis from Baylor University.
TV viewers need greater control and flexibility when selecting content and scheduling their viewing. Today, a viewer might have access to over 300 linear TV channels, 50,000 hours of video-on-demand, VoD, user-generated content from YouTube and MySpace and digitalised libraries of personal music, photos and home videos. With the viewerís problems managing choice; new forms of navigation are needed to centralise all these sources. Whoever manages to control viewer navigation – the broadcaster, cableco, telcoÖ – will win the battle for the customer.
More than at any time in its brief history, television is changing – and it is changing in many ways. One of the biggest driving forces behind that change is that viewers themselves are changing. A new generation of viewers is emerging from todayís connected world, and they are demanding greater choice and flexibility. They want their television experience to be richer and more involving, to include social interaction and greater levels of participation. This new generation demands change not only for themselves but they are also influencing the expectations and appetite of the mass market of couch potatoes, who are beginning to realize that there is more to controlling their television experience than zapping between channels. The most visible change is the explosion of content available to consumers. The amount of commercial content and the number of access points to it is growing nearly exponentially. A typical viewer now has access to over 300 linear TV channels, and the majority of operators are looking to offer over 50,000 hours of video-on-demand, VoD, content. Content is also available for a variety of broadband services from the established Apples iTunes service to newly launched Joost. Beyond commercial content, there is an almost unimaginable amount of user-generated content available from sites such as YouTube and MySpace. As the creators of content gain access to advertising revenues, the quality – and therefore demand – will increase, moving the experience from PC-based ësnackingí to prime-time consumption via the living-room television. The digitising of the viewersí own libraries of personal content – from music to photos to home videos – and high-definition screens and home cinema systems, have made the television the best place to consume this personal content. This growth is challenging not only traditional television network operators but also the viewers who face the challenge of finding what they want from a universe of content that spans broadcast TV, PVR, VoD, personal and shared libraries, and the Internet. The problem these viewers face is that of managing choice, not managing content. One of the most disturbing effects of these changes is that TV earnings – advertising dollars – are under threat. Broadcast and pay TV networks are losing eyeballs, viewers, to the fast-forward button, time-shifted viewing, other content sources and other media. As a result, the value of the TV ad dollar – the price charged – is under pressure. Advertising still funds the majority of television but the television industry needs to make its advertising more engaging, relevant and accountable to retain those dollars. Open it up How should the television industry react to these changes? Rather than ignoring or resisting change, the industry needs to embrace, explore, enable change, and to ëopen television upí. Channel surfing is no longer an adequate way to deal with massive amounts of content. New forms of navigation are required that make it easier for viewers to find the content they want to watch. These forms of navigation need to be able to support discovery across all sources of content, from traditional TV networks and video-on-demand to personal and user-generated content. There are many companies competing to control the consumer relationship with the end user. It is the company that solves the content navigation and discovery problem that will win the battle. This interface needs to bridge the chasm between network operators, broadcasters, content providers and viewers. Despite the hype around new devices such as Apple TV, the companies in the strongest position are the traditional network operators – cable and satellite operators. They already own the relationship; they are the providers of the majority of the entertainment content consumed in the home where content is still accessed primarily through the traditional electronic programme guide that the digital set-top box provides. These operators need to evolve their services to support and utilize the full range of content sources. If the operators do not provide access to them, consumers will bypass the operatorís equipment and connect these alternative content sources directly to their televisions. Whenever the connection to the television is switched to an alternative provider, the alternate providerís interface controls the consumer relationship until the television is switched back to the operatorís service. Few viewers are ready to switch away from their traditional sources of entertainment overnight, but exposure to other interfaces will slowly lead them away. Operators need to provide set-top boxes that are capable of offering access to a wide range of content sources, from traditional linear television and video-on-demand to Internet video and personal content. These set-top boxes require a software solution that not only handles these diverse content sources but also integrates them into a single, consistent experience independent of the hardware or device it is running on. That experience needs to extend beyond the television, the central hub for consuming entertainment, to the other connected devices that form part of the consumerís digital lifestyle. A PC has an interface through a keyboard and mouse that provides a much better way to manage and configure all the elements of an interface and can provide more detail discovery. For example, a high-definition television may be the best device for sharing photos directly with friends but the PC will remain the best device for managing and editing photos. The television interface needs to extend to the PC, to both benefit from and include its content. Likewise, mobile phones can add mobility to control by enabling people to control, and even experience, their entertainment choices while on the move. The television interface should also extend to the mobile phone, enabling an operatorís service to be accessed and controlled at any time and place, meeting consumersí demands for total mobility and total access. The social networking trend that threatens the television industry status quo can also be harnessed to benefit the television interface for operators. Through crowd sourcing, operators can use the community of viewers to enhance the effectiveness of the interface they provide. Reviews, recommendations, links and tags can all be sourced from the community of viewers to enhance the ability of the television interface to enable content discovery and to manage choice for the viewer. That community can also create loyalty, binding viewers to operators, and reducing churn. Today, the leading social technologies around the world are the phone and the Internet; the television is next.