Television for the New Generation – Dynamic Playout as Creative Art (Part 4)
What about the content?
In previous blogs I have outlined some ideas around how a new more dynamic way of doing content distribution and playout might allow broadcasters to increase their appeal to younger audiences (Part 1 - The Conundrum, Part 2 - Squaring the Circle and Part 3 - Technology Can’t Resolve Everything But…). In these next 2 blogs we will look at two of the most important potential blockers for these kinds of solutions, which are around content and organizational/cultural issues within the broadcast organizations. This blog will deal with content.
In terms of content, for dynamic playout like this to make sense, first and foremost, sufficient and appropriate content not only needs to exist but needs to have the adequate rights and be formatted correctly for Playout. Most public broadcasters have huge archives, hundreds of thousands of hours, sometimes millions. But, unfortunately, large volumes of that, and in many cases most of it, is not digitized, sitting in old fashioned film or tape archives where it is gradually becoming unusable - rotting film, tape formats where there are increasingly few machines left in the world capable of playing the tapes, limited documentation that makes knowing all that is in the archive difficult, manual processes that depend on the personal knowledge of soon to retire individuals, etc. Simply from a cultural angle this is a huge problem – we may lose a significant part of our cultural heritage of the 20th century. But from the Dynamic Playout perspective it is also an issue. Here is a source of huge amounts of content for broadcasters that is vastly underutilized and could probably be used to seduce older audiences to this new format of television.
But even with modernized archives, the question remains, is there enough content for dynamic playout of this kind? For a radio DJ or an MTV VJ this wasn’t an issue because they played the same songs over and over sometimes with just a smattering of new material to test the waters. But people don’t want to watch (non-musical) video material over and over, so what can we do? For traditional content some (more or less obvious) ideas are:
- Know your audiences and your content – make sure you understand the audience that is now watching show A, when it finishes, the following show B must be coherent for them to avoid channels hopping
- You can repeat content but try to avoid similar slots and audience segments. And when you do repeat, make sure you let viewers know what you are offering on other channels of yours.
- Take advantage of the archive
But for younger audiences this will not be enough. More content will be needed.
- Make better use of user generated content
- Short form and medium form content. Perhaps sadly for some of the traditionalists, this is needed for younger audiences. Broadcasters need to make a bigger commitment towards other types of content, but that is clearly beyond the scope of this blog.
In most broadcasters, there is a large segment of the managers who believe that they cannot and indeed should not try and fight the likes of YouTube or Vice Media on their terms – short form, more “authentic”, more edgy material – but rather should do “what they do best”. But I would say to them that:
- your audience for what you do best is shrinking, and
- Netflix, Amazon and others are getting to be as good (or better) than you at what you do best. Remember the retailers I talked about in the first part of this series.
The next questions around content are the content supply chain, formats and metadata. Obviously, just the fact that the relevant content exists is not enough, it needs to have correct detailed metadata assigned to it to allow for rapid search. As well, it needs to either be in a format ready for playout or with sufficiently reliable and fast systems to do the proper content formatting and transcoding on the fly. What this implies goes beyond the scope of this blog but it is definitely not trivial.
And finally, and in some ways the least understood question, is about content discoverability. One thing is to find, and have properly prepared for Playout, content we know about. But how do we discover other content? Sometimes this discoverable content will be needed immediately. So how does the Dynamic Playout artist discover the appropriate content in almost real time? Content curation has always been one of the core functions of a broadcaster but now we are talking about ad hoc or near real time curation. I don’t claim to have the answer here but it will almost certainly revolve around, on the one hand, doing lots of homework, and on the other, having far more sophisticated search and discovery tools and something like a Playout recommendation engine to partially automate the process.
Another question around content is about interactive formats such as AR, VR, gaming, and others. How can they be added to the mix? Sooner rather than later this will be needed.
In the next instalment, we will look at institutional blockers to the liberation of content distribution and playout.