Just in case you were sunbathing at the beach these past few weeks, let us remind you the important milestone the TV business just hit: as Re/code reports, « last quarter, for the first time ever, the biggest cable TV providers started selling more broadband subscriptions than video subscriptions, according to a new tally from Leichtman Research Group. »
One small step for broadband operators, one giant leap for TV? This could at least be the confirmation of what we’ve all been witnessing in the past few year: the borders between TV and other devices blur, questioning the very definition of « TV », as original content can now be produced by OTT players, delivered by broadband internet providers and watched on any kind of screen, from the traditional TV set to our smarphones, as our contributor Lior Sasson pointed out in his latest blogpost. Are there any borders left at all in this ever-changing industry where the notion of barriers to entry is constantly challenged?
There aren’t just downsides to this. Remember Sharknado, the Syfy disaster film about flying sharks? Who knew that is would became a cult film with a solid fanbase in just a year? The sequel to Sharknado (photo above) did even better and became cult before its broadcast on Syfy on July 30, thanks to huge buzz on social networks. Borders between « traditional » TV and the internet have blurred to the point that everything that used to be secondary by its nature (second screen, tweets, blogs, etc.) has become part of the show. Time points out that these « cuckoo plot devices, premises ans twists » are « a deliberate programming and business strategy »:
« Just as a tornado erupts from converging hot and cold air masses, the Sharknado is a perfect storm formed from two opposing media trends colliding. The first is that technology threatens TV ratings and revenue: when people record shows and watch them long after they air, networks don’t make money off the ads. (…) The second is that technology can help traditional TV, by driving viewers to watch certain buzzy shows live: if your friends are burning up Twitter about Scandal, you want to OMG along in real time. » Watch the hilarious Sharknado 2 trailer to understand the social media madness around the TV film:
Between the wild internet jungle and the old TV business, lines blur even more when it comes to producing new shows: are Apple, Google, Netflix and Amazon bound to be the studios of the future? Not so fast: production is probably the only domain where barriers to entry remain strong. The Verge thus stresses the key role of networks’ studios for… OTT players, and reports that CBS will now make « direct-to-internet TV shows for services like Netflix and Amazon. » The Verge futher explains that « television networks and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are often cast as fierce competitors, but the two rely on each other greatly: studios earn big revenues by selling streaming rights to companies like Netflix, and video services need popular content to drive subscriptions. » Indeed, competition between streaming services remain fierce – Quartz analyses this epic fight in their Q&A with Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios: « How Amazon built a TV studio that’s finally challenging Netflix. »
The thing is, competition for original content will also come from new entrants in the near future, and especially from media companies with a very strong online presence, such as Vice and BuzzFeed. VICE – whose CEO and cofounder Shane Smith created quite a sensation at MIPTV this year – started out as a magazine, and BuzzFeed as a digital player specialised in viral content, but both media companies « now appear to be converging on the same business, and video is an integral part of it », Mashable points out. « Both companies have grown significantly over the past several years, in part due to major investments. Those changes have begun to make the two companies look very similar: major media outlets anchored on the Internet with a serious international footprint and serious video aspirations. » These aspirations are easily understandable: TV is still the most lucrative video platform. Will players like BuzzFeed manage to reach audiences beyond their social media fanbases? Only time will tell.
Last but not least, lines between creativity and commerce blur, too: PSFK reports that brands now find inspiration in the short-film format, a new way « to communicate their ethos to jaded consumers », very different from the traditional TV commercials. « This summer, celebrities have been popping up in people’s social media feeds, but not in trailers for their own films or indie shorts, but in branded short films where the focus is away from the label and onto the story. » Indeed, what could possibly be better than spending summer with Jude Law, drinking Johnny Walker Blue Label on a yacht?
See you at MIPCOM in just two months to find out more about the future of TV and entertainment, and attend media mastermind keynotes, including a special session with CBS executives David Stapf and Armando Nuñez!