After four thought-provoking days at the Media Insights and Engagement Conference, I’m struck by the recurring theme echoed in nearly every presentation (and which Oscar-winning producer Dana Brunetti adroitly addressed in his keynote speech and Q&A with our own Peggy Einnehmer): disruption in the media industry is here, and we – researchers, marketers, distributors and programmers – need to embrace it or get left behind.
This should come as no surprise. We’ve been witnessing the simultaneous explosion of original content and audience fragmentation across platforms, screens and sources for several years. Clearly, we are now at a tipping point; “alternative viewing” is no longer alternative, and there’s no going back. Increasing competition from Subscription Video On Demand services (SVODs) with deep pockets to fund lavish productions has driven programming costs through the roof, an estimated 76% increase in the cost per TV programming hour in the past 5 years.
Proving ROI for advertisers has become massively complex, as researchers must stitch together a variety of sometimes not-so-compatible data streams for media attribution models. As a result, traditional programmers are facing pressure to scale up via mergers and acquisitions in order to remain viable, while Silicon Valley tech giants flirt with entering the entertainment market in earnest. Media needs market research more than ever to understand the myriad of ways people access all of this great content, as well how it can be monetized – now and in the future.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however; the rapidly changing TV market provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to innovate and evolve (and we left inspired to do so thanks to awesome keynotes from Jeremy Gutsche on creating cultures of innovation and Soon Yu on building iconic brands). Media giants are joining forces to create new ad-buying platforms and advertising models. For example, OpenAP, a joint venture of Turner, Fox and Viacom, promises to allow advertisers to hyper-target precise audiences and deliver highly relevant messaging, resulting in serendipitous moments of content and product discovery. And networks like NBC are experimenting with new ad models (e.g., live ads, picture in picture) and finding them highly effective at capturing attention and improving the viewing experience.
The explosion of content has coincided with the explosion of data, creating tension between traditional researchers and data scientists. There’s a new kid in town; his name is Alex Algorithm, and folks fear losing their jobs to him. But others, like Kent Reed of Pop TV and Edwin Wong of BuzzFeed, encouraged us to bridge this gap; data scientists need researchers to extract meaning from the data, and researchers need scientists to help them answer the complex questions their bosses are asking. Big data is here to stay, but organizations will continue to need smart, business-focused strategists to make sense of it all.
Even with all of the changes at hand, Evan Shapiro reminded us that TV remains one of the most powerful storytelling media with the broadest reach of any platform. While media research is undoubtedly entering a complex (sometimes intimidating) new era, I’m encouraged to see so many colleagues addressing the changes head on and devising innovative solutions to make sense of this diverse and disrupted new reality.