Television for the New Generation – Dynamic Playout as Creative Art (Part 2)
Squaring the Circle
In the first entry of this blog series I explored how broadcasters are trying (and failing) to engage younger viewers. It gave a first glimpse about what might be an alternative, where Playout stops being a heavily automated activity and takes on a more dynamic role as a vehicle that allows the freedom to create new experiences for the viewers.
Multi-channel media consumption is becoming the norm. By that I mean that typically when we consume media we tend to multitask, watch TV while communicating with our friends via social media or looking for information related to what we are watching or reading. So even what would sometimes be a collective experience (with other people in the room with us, with others online, etc.) becomes a personal, unique experience. Second screens were an attempt to harness multi-tasking, to keep the audience within our domain but ultimately, an attempt that was unsuccessful. There may have been a number of reasons why the second screen phenomenon didn’t catch on, but probably it was mainly due to several factors – most importantly people didn’t want to be fenced in. But there was also the problem of multiple devices and the need for special apps for each show or channel, constant updates, etc. just meant it wasn’t convenient enough. Facebook and other more generalist platforms and sites ended up being the default “second screen” for all but the fanatics.
So what’s a broadcaster to do? What we propose is, instead of trying to control and limit this type of behavior, what is needed is to embrace it! If this is the way viewers consume media, then it needs to be the way media is played out as well! Extended/flexible playout, designed for this type of consumption that uses analytics and real time metrics to ensure that audiences are engaged, collectively and individually.
- Some fixed times for programs that serve as reference points. This is important both to provide context for all viewers but especially for older demographics. They need to feel that this is still their television that they haven’t been left behind.
- Some programs can be variable length with variable starting times. Social media can be used to ensure relevant viewers are informed of when and where their shows will appear.
- Viewer metrics and detected audience reactions can be used as a pulse to shape programs and schedules.
- Short form content, both for broadcast and online can treated almost like music for a deejay
- Real time (or near real time) analytics of social media activity are vital to be aware of what the audience is saying and thinking.
- Non-real time analytics for daily or weekly tendencies can also be used
- In the case of online channels, real time viewer/user statistics, with demographics where possible, can be used to gauge how a program is doing
- The recommendation engines, whether directly integrated in the case of online, or via social media for broadcast, should be variable with changing weights based on analytics and other factors such as weather, news, social, etc.
- Currently all broadcasters have social campaigns but for this new format of playout, it becomes even more important and real time. The campaign needs to be coordinated, in real time with the activity of the Playout team. Part of this activity should facilitate the multi-screen activity that the audience is going to do anyway such as provide links to other information such as IMDB or Wikipedia or bespoke websites
- Communities should be an integral part of this. They provide the easiest more direct communication channel to understand the audience.
The idea is to create a multi-channel, multiscreen experience that takes advantage of already existing platforms (thus avoiding the second screen trap) and embraces modern usage scenarios, all controlled from one MCR (Master Control Room) with a Playout Director at the controls. None of these individual ideas or activities are really new but until now it has probably not been technically possible to do them all at once and in real time. As already mentioned, it is sort of like some of the ideas behind second screen years ago, but with more flexibility and more ad hoc, with creativity and spontaneity as defining principles. Playout as a creative art that mirrors how most of us experience media today!
In the next 2 instalments we will discuss what is required to make this a reality in terms of both technology and the way broadcasters are organized and their working culture. In the first instalment, we will look at some of the technologies and technological requirements that will serve as the basis for this new dynamic playout.