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Home > Departments > Perspective > Rising to the challenge

PERSPECTIVE

Rising to the challenge

By Eli Uzan 26-06-2014

Rising Star premiered on ABC last weekend in the US. It was the first time a broadcaster in the world’s biggest TV market put the live outcome of a primetime talent show in the hands of the viewer, dictating the winners and losers in real time.

Rising Star

Rising Star

More than one million people have downloaded the Rising Star ABC app so far, making it the number one free app in the US App Store at the time of writing. More than five million votes were cast in real time. In addition to the social engagement and participation within the app and the show, Rising Star was also the number one most social TV series in the US on Sunday with 129,071 tweets, according to Nielsen.

So as the TV industry starts to embrace formats that are born digital, ie shows that have a digital component built into the format from the outset, traditional TV is facing the biggest challenge in its history. Don’t just take my word for it – look at the way viewers are consuming TV these days.

We used to watch our favourite show and then have to wait a whole week for the next instalment to hit our TV sets. The broadcaster had us wedded to the channel and the show. You had to tune in at the same time on the same day the following week, or you risked never seeing the episode. In a nutshell, the broadcaster controlled the relationship and the viewer had no say.

As the digital TV viewer is beginning to assume control, that reason to tune in has now all but disappeared. Today we want the choice to watch back-to-back episodes, or even whole series, in one marathon sitting. We want the freedom to make content fit into our lifestyles.

Scripted programming is a great example of the direction TV is going in. Take House of Cards, one of the biggest and most successful dramas of recent times, starring Hollywood A-lister Kevin Spacey. Netflix made the series for the web and its strategy is simple: give the viewer a whole series and the choice to consume it whenever and however they like. It works, too. You only need to look at the growing success of the many other shows that were either premiered on, or were made for, online.

The viewer now holds the aces and scripted shows are leading that change. Reacting to viewer needs and building genuine engagement with the viewer is the future of TV.

These changes in viewer behaviour and the industry’s moves to satisfy their demands will have a marked impact not only on the type of shows but also on the way shows are produced. Even now, programme-makers are still sitting in a room for nine months and working on a format concept and mechanism that has no viewer engagement. Then they launch the show without any thought towards digital extensions. At best it becomes a very late afterthought. Either way, digital extension is not yet an integral part of the creative process for the vast majority of shows.

But that is changing too. At Screenz, our creative director and chief technology officer sit down together at the same table at the same time to create formats, developing the next big thing together with broadcasters and producers. That’s how we worked with Keshet to create Rising Star and others are beginning to follow that process.

The warning signs threatening linear TV have been there from as far back as 2003. The UGC revolution, which occurred over 10 years ago, entrenched the internet into our everyday lives by putting the public at the heart of the web. Citizen news-gatherers beat broadcasters to be first in reporting historic events – it changed the news landscape forever. Regular people on the street uploading pictures and video content created a two-way online dialogue for the first time. That’s now the norm with hundreds of millions of images uploaded to Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis. History shows that we ignore consumer demand at our peril.

So, what does the immediate future look like for linear TV?

Well, unless you’re screening live events like sports, news or big reality shows viewers currently feel no commitment to watch linear TV. The fact that viewers can watch content on tablets and phones whenever they want means it has become more difficult for broadcasters to lure viewers to consume TV in the traditional way. However, sports and news broadcasts are still generally hanging on to real-time viewers because if the viewer does not watch live, they miss out. Take the World Cup or major breaking news events. They are compelling live broadcast moments.

Producers and broadcasters surely now need to adapt their programme development in order to deliver similar exciting live digital moments into their output – thus creating instant viewer engagement, boosting ratings and creating new advertising opportunities for brands.

There are other promising signs for the future; Rising Star is a great example of a show that gives linear TV an alternative. Full interaction and participation is so important to the premise of the show. It’s not just about people voting, it’s about the fact the viewers are fully engaged throughout the course of the show. The audience has the power to control what they are watching as it happens. We are already seeing like-minded shows gaining traction in this space.

Technology completely revolutionised the music industry and I believe we should take cues from other entertainment sectors’ experiences in digital development to see how digital technology will also lead the way for the future of the TV industry.

Just as you can subscribe to listen to anything, anytime on music streaming service Spotify, linear TV’s job will be to create content for the TV version of a playlist. It’ll take a little time but the game is definitely changing. Ask yourself if you really believed that 10 years ago the world would be renting music as opposed to owning it. I think most people genuinely didn’t believe it would be embraced so successfully.

The music industry didn’t change overnight – it took around eight years for the likes of Spotify to have an impact on traditional music stores on the high street – but it happened.

Many in the TV industry agree that linear TV has changed forever. The entire business model will have to adapt to this new reality. Instead of fearing the unknown, we should embrace it because it provides the industry at large with new opportunities. Whether you are a broadcaster, format creator, producer or advertiser, it makes for a rather exciting future.

today's correspondent

Eli Uzan CEO Screenz

Eli Uzan founded Israeli content and new media firm The Box Group in 2001 at the age of just 21, partnering with some of the world’s biggest consumer brands to create pioneering interactive campaigns. The Box Group set up Screenz in 2012.

Screenz is a Tel Aviv-headquartered cross-media company that creates digital products for the television industry. Screenz's mission is to transform shows into real-time events where the outcome is driven by the participation of viewers. A notable example of this was its partnership with Keshet International on its trailblazing talent format Rising Star, which has been sold into more than 25 countries. Screenz provides technology, strategic insight and cross-media products to broadcasters, producers and format owners. Visit www.scrnz.com.