Convergence. It seems that has been a buzzword for years, a multimedia dream that is always about to happen but never quite comes to fruition. Yet all the signs are that 2014 will be the year that the blurred boundaries between different media platforms finally break down.
What can’t be denied is that the way people watch and consume TV content has changed beyond all recognition in the last twelve months. DVR boxes and On-Demand services have made the traditional art of TV scheduling all but obsolete. More and more viewers are watching with a second screen to hand, and are expecting relevant content from their favourite shows. And that’s not counting the up and coming generation that sees YouTube as a perfectly valid alternative to broadcast television.
All the signs are that 2014 will be the year that the blurred boundaries between different media platforms finally break down.
And yet the Quixotic notion of the single tech box that does everything remains frustratingly elusive. The reality of media convergence is fragmented, with viewers watching on iPads, streaming via games consoles or simply catching up with last night’s soaps on their PC during their lunch break. Even the TV itself, that reassuring magic lantern that has anchored the living room for over half a century, is evolving into something new. The Smart TV revolution has been slow to start, but with 123m connected sets projected to be in homes next year it’s evident that the notion of television as a passive medium is now woefully outdated.
The lack of a single defining trend around which these changes can settle into a comfortable orbit leads to natural uncertainty, but also incredible opportunity for the production companies that can navigate these turbulent times.
Shows can now be developed, pitched and produced in myriad ways. Netflix and Amazon are investing heavily in original content, while Microsoft is actively seeking TV projects that can be delivered via its Xbox One console. Traditional channels such as Comedy Central increasingly use sites like Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die as a hot house incubator from which to pluck promising concepts and talent. When even a scheduled mainstay like Saturday Night Live is turning to YouTube for its incoming stars, the shift can’t be ignored.
The companies that thrive are likely to be those who let go of the safety rail of old thinking and embrace the new.
The question, of course, is how best to take advantage of these changes? The answer, as we move into an era of increasingly bespoke content, is that there is no single answer. The companies that thrive in this new environment are likely to be those who let go of the safety rail of old thinking and embrace the new: developing concepts to take full advantage of digital distribution, turning ideas around quickly, seeking partnerships with games or app developers to build interaction into shows at a core level, approaching platform holders directly and tailoring shows to their needs.