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Technology and Evolving Consumer Needs Transforming Media Landscape
Venkat Prasad
Co-Founder & CTO, COO-Culture Machine
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Media landscape in the past:
In the early 80's in USA and early 90's in India we saw a major shift in video consumption from broadcast television to cable television. With that shift came a major change in how TV content was produced, distributed and consumed. In broadcast era there were a few terrestrial channels (owned by CBS, ABC, Fox in the US and Doordarshan in India) and most programs were time-slotted around primetime, while programming was done for mass audience with prime time reach becoming the most coveted slot for advertisers with a goal of mass reach. One can relate to the Cosby show's in the US and Ramayan/Mahabharth shows in India during that time period that had the entire family's sit together and watch TV during that time of the day.
In the cable era, in early 90's, although the programming was still linear, dedicated content channels emerged around specific interest group-News, Food, Science, Music etc. Most media companies started building networks of these channels and emerged as a dominant force in the entertainment industry. For consumers, there were hundreds of programming options. Audience started fragmenting around content they were interested in watching and advertisers around the networks with top ratings to reach these audiences. Ratings became the primary measure for ad-spends. This worked for a few years but the internet started changing everything beginning with the advent of broadband internet and YouTube.

Today's online video landscape:
Social networks like YouTube, facebook are emerging to be the new cable operators for video distribution. Audiences are now global and are consuming videos in new ways- on-demand, socially, on multi-screen, multiple formats resulting in massive audience fragmentation and emergence of content niches globally. New monetization and distribution models are emerging with the likes of YouTube, facebook, Vessel, NetFlix, Hulu, Buzzfeed, Hotstar and are changing the way content is packaged, sold and monetized.

As brands are increasingly looking to connect with audience in their new home, top cable era media publishers are trying to come in terms with this quick and massive disruptions to their existing business models and migration of value to new players.

In India, although cable is still large and growing, we are in the beginning of a massive consumption shift to digital video primarily via Smartphones. Entertainment, especially for the new age consumer is access to snack-able content on demand that can also be shared with friends. It could range from a few minutes in length of a satire that you share with friends on a Snapchat or Whatsapp to a how-to-video or tutorial you watch on-demand on YouTube to a full length TV episode or movie that you watch on your TV using streaming devices, downloading content online. Today videos are consumed as a part of a lifestyle, not an isolated choice especially among the millennial audience.

Technology's role in online video space
In this new online video world of infinite channels, where audience create, engage, co-create and provide instant feedback about content and inherently drives success or failure by sharing and advocating for their favorite videos, the importance of technology as an essential building block for content success cannot be overstated.

If you breakdown the traditional value chain of a media industry, content creation, packaging, promotion, distribution and monetization, we see technology play a key enabling role at every aspect of this value chain.

Let us start with Content creation. In linear TV era, content was the undisputed king and was the only major ingredient for success. Even in this new era, content still remains the king, but the data about the content is as powerful as content itself and makes all the difference between success and failure. Today's audience have infinite choices in terms of channels and videos with every consumer having their own taste profile resulting in emergence of different sub-cultures and communities. The trick is to reach the right micro-community of audience with the right content.

With the emergence of Big Data technologies it is now possible to track and derive insight from every audience interaction and feedback that back to the programming and content creation process.

On the distribution front, multiple over the top players have emerged starting from YouTube, Vimeo, Vessel, Netflix, Roku who provide an outlet for content to be syndicated with almost no distribution cost. These distribution networks do own the audience and collect a toll to use their platforms. But individual publishers and media companies also have the option to directly reach consumers via their own apps (like Hotstar, Buzzfeed) or using white-labeling OTT platforms like Ooyala or BrightCove to build their own branded players. The various technical aspects ranging from ingestion, transcoding, adaptive streaming, and edge caching are handled by these while the label platforms or the publishers owns the audience and media brands.

Packaging and personal promotion now happen either by the inherent virality of right content reaching the right engaged audience or by seeding such content on social networks via paid media spends. In platforms that allows users to upload content like YouTube, facebook etc using technologies like content-id that the platform's provide, fan-created content (UGC - User generated Content) can be properly leveraged to act as a promotion tool for original content using engaged fans resulting in a larger earned media. Thus technology is becoming the bedrock underlying every aspect of the digital video value chain and business models.
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