Year in Review by Helge Høibraaten, CEO at Vimond Media Solutions
There’s no doubt that the way the audiences of today consume media services is changing dramatically, and if broadcasters and other media providers intend to stay in the game beyond the next decade they need to be making a strong connection now with the mobile generation. For most broadcasters this involves radical shifts and a willingness to strike out from the familiar territory of the one-to-many model. But one of the most immediate moves they can make is to raise their online profile by making topical content quickly available to a mobile audience. For Vimond, 2015 started with our launch of a solution to help broadcasters do exactly that.
What broadcasters were lacking was a really efficient way to create clips from their live feeds and publish them online; until recently this has been a surprisingly time-consuming and messy process for broadcasters, technically more complicated than might be thought, and expensive if edit suites had to be used just to create clips. As a result, many broadcasters have not been able to get clips out to online audiences until the peak of interest in the event has passed. To keep in front of the online audience – especially with news and sports – it’s very important to get content out to them with the minimum of delay. So by helping them to do this, the Vimond Highlights solution that we launched at NAB meets an important and urgent goal for broadcasters targeting young, mobile audiences.
One of the most exciting aspects of being a manufacturer in the digital media services sector is the sheer amount of innovation we get involved in with our clients. Several very large scale projects that we’ve been working on with clients came to fruition during 2015, and each of these in its way offers a radical departure from convention. Like most ground-breaking projects, these have been in gestation for some time, but it’s clear that the rate of innovation is increasing as the media landscape changes dramatically.
Among the initiatives that have been re-shaping the media industry this year, the launch of a completely new concept in personalised news for connected viewers shows how inventiveness is vital in the fight for audience share. Offered by the one of world’s most prestigious and ubiquitous news agencies, this service is the first foray into offering its news coverage direct to the consumer, in a departure from its core model of news supply to other broadcasters and media outlets. To make this entry into the market a success, the agency wisely chose to offer a service designed from the ground up for the connected audience consuming news on mobile devices, and built in a unique customisation capability allowing subscribers to receive their own preferred mix of news content.
In Asia, piracy is woven into the way people consume media, and media organisations have to work very hard to make an impact against this background. The launch of iflix, a big new regional player with a multilingual premium TV service and a pricing model designed for wide appeal, was the culmination of another big collaborative project for Vimond. And in this case, not only is Vimond technology being used to power individualised services Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, with a potential market of half a billion people, but we have also established a joint development centre with iflix in Kuala Lumpur, to explore and create further innovation for consumers who watch television in a mobile-first environment.
In the USA, it’s a very different kind of market, but the impetus to find and develop new audiences is no less strong. In another pioneering move, one of the country’s major cable enterprises has launched an online media service with a new model for packaging content and serving multiplatform audiences. The pressure on broadcasters to get to market with a good offering in this space is intense, but it’s not a trivial task to develop these services. Our involvement with this project stretched over three years and inevitably required the adaptation of our technology to suit the workflow and culture of a very large established broadcaster, while providing the key benefits of flexibility, security, confidentiality, and efficiency in managing and distributing the volumes of content the service will feature.
What drives all this change is the alarming decline in audiences for conventional television. When research studies regularly show figures such as a drop in linear TV consumption among males in the 18-24 age group of 50% since 2002, and a staggering 25% a 12 month period in the last couple of years, broadcasters have to react fast.
After years of intensive social media use, most people who have yet to reach middle age are more interested in social media than conventional television, and the TV industry has given them few opportunities to have a social experience when consuming media content, especially when the mode of consumption is VOD. The second screen phenomenon is still viewed askance by some established broadcasters, who address the second screen primarily as a way of luring the viewer back to the first screen. The research shows that younger audiences are using their mobile devices while watching TV, but they are using them for activities that are completely unrelated to the TV – mostly, to stay in the loop of their social media activity, which is a crucial part of their lives.
To bridge the gap, and to create the same kind of experience of being in a social group while watching TV and being able to carry on a conversation with other viewers, Vimond has been trialling a social TV solution during 2015. This solution enables viewers of VOD content on mobile devices to discuss content asynchronously with other viewers, and experience this conversation as if it were a live discussion with all the contributors watching simultaneously. It’s clear that viewers value this sense of shared experience, and if television is to have a secure future with the connected audience we think it’s important that broadcasters and other media service providers build a social TV experience into their offering. So while in 2015 we’ve been testing our solution with trial audiences, this is only the beginning. In 2016 and beyond, we expect the social TV experience to become one of the most important areas of development for the industry as it seeks to stay in touch with an audience that is very different from the one that has sustained it until now.