Is TV dead?
What: Royal Television Society Digital World Conference 2012
Where: The Barbican
Topic: When Worlds Collide: Beyond the Digital Looking Glass
Date: Friday 28 September 2012
Last month, I attended my first Royal Television Society Conference. With an impressive line up of speakers including Anne Sweeney, Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks, David Abraham, Chief Executive, Channel 4, Alex Balfour, Head of New Media, LOCOG, Tess Alps, Chief Executive, Thinkbox, Steven Moffat, writer of Dr Who, BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine and Richard Taylor from BBC Click plus a very special Digital Keynote from Will.i.am, I was excited to find out what innovations UK broadcasters had developed in an increasingly digital world.
The room was full of TV bods, marketing and media folk with many key influentials invited to the event ( i.e I spotted Tracy Forsyth, VP Commissioning, BBC Global Channels at BBC Worldwide).
However, after attending the day, it seemed most UK broadcasters were asking ‘How can I make more revenue by using new media technology with existing advertising models?’ rather than ‘How can I innovate and develop new technologies to disrupt the TV business?’
The sessions covered everything from SocialTV, smartphone apps for TV shows, the Olympics in the digital era, gaming, social media and even a segment called ‘The Dragon’s Voice’ where startups had the opportunity to pitch to UK broadcasters and producers.
This was my favourite session of the day because not only was Jeremy Vine an entertaining moderator, it also revealed how UK broadcasters thought about new technology and whether they could spot an early opportunity to get ahead of the curve.
The panel included:
- Julian Bellamy, Creative Director and Head of Production and Development for Discovery Networks International
- Jeff Ford, Director of Programmes, Channel 5
- Sophie Turner-Laing, Managing Director, Entertainment & News, BSkyB
They were also joined by two ‘acting VCs’ to provide an alternative view:
- Daniel Waterhouse, Partner, Wellington Partners
- Brent Hoberman, Founder and Chairman, mydeco.com
The format was a ‘blind pitch’ where entrepreneurs were invited onto the stage to talk through their startup, and the ‘Dragons’ i.e. (the UK broadcasters), sat in their chairs facing away and only turned around when they were interested in the product or service.
First to pitch was Dressipi, which is a free fashion advice and recommendation service. With already 100,000 people signed up and major deals with well-known retailers, the founders said they were now looking for a media partner to leverage their consumer base, using their technology and data. For example, their service could provide UK broadcasters an opportunity to tap into their user base while creatively listing what presenters and characters were wearing on TV shows.
As it turned out, Dressipi didn’t capture the imagination of the ‘Dragons’ (no chairs were turned) because they didn’t see the direct value of the service to their audience. Sophie Turner-Laing, of BSkyB, commented that ‘’It was hard concept to work with when producing a TV show such Britain’s Top Model on SkyLiving. The biggest issue is that they shoot their shows so far in advance that it would be a scheduling nightmare.’’
Next up was, TweekTV, which is a social TV guide and aggregates all TV listings, schedules and featured shows from UK broadcasters, plus other platforms such as YouTube. Again, the ‘Dragons’ didn’t see the appeal of such as service, which was astounding because in short, this can potentially drive ratings for particular TV shows. Jeff Ford, of Channel 5, questioned, ‘How does this work in a payTV environment?’. Although, Brent Hoberman of mydeco.com talked some sense, and suggested that the service was ‘’about social discovery, which is similar to Zeebox but with an added recomendation layer.’’
Finally, FanSauce, an app for fans to post their photos from live events and share them instantly, created the most excitement from the ‘Dragons’. All three chairs turned around and Sophie Turner-Laing saw the most value for their SkySports and news channels, as it allows fans to interactively become part of the show and create content. However, on further discussion, Brent Hoberman said that the service would need a better UX design and an added filter, so that they only show the best photos from the feed.
The last session include a special pre-recorded interview between Richard Taylor, BBC Click and Will.i.am about the future of TV. In short, Will.i.am suggested that the time is now for UK broadcasters to innovate and that their real competition is not each other, but those developing new technologies and ways of watching TV without the insitution of the TV channel. He recommended that TV producers and broadcasters attended tech conferences such as CES held in Las Vegas every year, to find out what is really happening in the digital world and new technologies.
And here is a handy tip for those UK broadcasters reading my review, check out a list compiled by Mike Butcher, TechCrunch Europe’s editor, covering the Best Annual Tech Startup Events in Europe.