Digital Hollywood: Platforms Battle to Dominate TV Viewership

A group of industry experts gathered to determine what platform(s) would be the ultimate TV winner. OTT, over-the-air broadcast, cross-platform, multiscreen experience, set-top boxes, mobile devices and consoles were all fair game for conversation. Among the more interesting pronouncements were that set-top boxes are on their way out (although it may take some time), that the proliferation of apps begs for aggregation, and that the lowly antenna is regarded as a miracle device by millennials.

CH Potomac managing partner David Leibowitz, who moderated the panel, noted that while adult ownership of tablets and smartphones has matured, the amount of TV/movie viewing on those devices is growing at a rapid pace. He also reported that the time spent watching video increases based on the size of the device: 13 minutes on smartphones and 24 minutes on tablets. “There’s lots of room for video growth,” he said.

tvremoteIn the environment of ever-increasing content, said Leibowitz, universal search may be more important than ever. Gracenote co-founder and chief strategy officer Ty Roberts noted that, although consumers want universal search, not all providers do. “It’s hiding what you have vs. sharing,” he said. “You need to be index-able and compete on the idea that you have cool stuff that people want to watch.”

Mike Earle, CEO and founder of aioTV, said that if content providers are doing what they’re supposed to, “search should be a last ditch resort.” “Discoverability is what it’s about,” he said.

The proliferation of apps is partially due to the fact that there is a very low barrier to entry. “There are dozens if not hundreds of companies that will create an app and rent you cloud service to deliver it,” said NAGRA executive Robin Wilson. “It’s easy to fragment the space.” That is something that all the panelists agreed with.

“The MVPDs (multi-video programming distributors) are realizing they’re in the position to be super aggregators,” said Earle. “They have the relationship with the content owners now, so it’s a natural transition. A year ago, the content creators resisted but now they’re willing to start ceding some of it.”

When Leibowitz asked about the future life of set-top boxes, several panelists loudly proclaimed that it was dead, destined to become software. But Vubiquity executive Dana Forte demurred, noting that not everyone in the country had a big range of choices. “My kids are just as happy with tablets as watching content from a STB. It’ll be a long time before it dies.”

Live sports and local news are crucial to the cable industry. “That’s what’s propping up cable TV: zombies (or other high profile programming), sports and local news,” said Roberts. But cord-cutters or cord-nevers are also discovering the TV antenna. “Cord-cutters are antenna-pluggers because they want to watch sports,” Roberts added. “Broadcast is an amazing thing. Millennials had no idea you could get this free over the air. We’re trying to figure out how to make the most of it. It’s retro revolution.”