“There’ll be a point in the not-too-distant future when we’ll be able to watch TV, and YouTube will be Channel 6. When we reach that point, they’re going to be serious competition.” These aren’t the words of a social media visionary; it’s the view of mainstream TV impresario Simon Cowell.
YouTube’s original content initiative is aiming to prove that producing for the web is much the same as producing for broadcast telly. It is still difficult to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) from online content. Business models range from subscription, download payments through to various forms of ad-revenue, but the big breakthrough is yet to come.
There are two major factors at play; content and behaviour.
As we all know Bill Gates coined the mantra “Content is King”. If online content producers really create quality programming, viewers are likely to pay. The HBO model is built on releasing outstanding series that their viewers can’t get anywhere else and HBO has about 30 million subscribers.
New technologies require changes in behaviour. Through these new models our way of consuming culture changes too and new business models must emerge. The music industry has already seen this change in behaviour and consumption. We don’t buy records anymore; we download from iTunes or stream on Spotify.
Netflix has grasped both these factors. Their first original seriesHouse of Cards is directed by Oscar-winning director David Fincher and stars Kevin Spacey. They certainly comply with the obligation to provide high quality content. When it launched on 1 February 2013, the ‘channel’ released all episodes of its first season on the same day.
Data analysis revealed that a third of those who streamed an episode on the launch day had viewed the entire series by the close of that weekend.No commercials, no waiting. The time when you had an appointment to view with your favourite drama series is all but over.
Social media plays a big part in behaviour change. Young people rely less and less on professional critics for recommendations but follow the favourite shows of friends and peers. People want to be part of a shared conversation and that isn’t limited to their closest circle. If a show is trending on Twitter people tune in to see what all the fuss is about. In the UK, 40% of all Twitter traffic in at peak times is specifically about what’s on TV.
If TV becomes more like YouTube, rather than YouTube like TV, it will create a wider range of TV programmes. It will also produce an opportunity for less mainstream but more innovative content. Broadcasters will benefit from a larger variety of content too, as their current schedules sometimes struggle to hold consumer attention.
According to Matt Locke, former Head of Multiplatform Commissioning at Channel 4, “there is evidence that most significant shifts in culture take around 30 years to fully play out”. We’re already several years into the upheaval but if Matt’s right, let’s chat about this again about 20 years from now.