Growth Strategies in the Broadcast Media Industry
Few industries have experienced as much disruption over the past few decades as broadcast media. From the advent of the internet to the proliferation of cable and satellite options to seemingly endless options for content streaming, adaptability has been not just a desirable attribute but a necessity for survival.
Like many other industries, broadcast media suffered a series of body blows at the hands of the coronavirus, as the pandemic brought production to a near-halt, cancelled innumerable performances and sporting events and greatly curtailed advertising revenues (although broadcast TV viewing did spike in 2020 thanks to at-home consumption of pandemic news).
What does the future hold for broadcast? Here are some educated guesses:
Nearly every industry learned to embrace new cloud-based technologies out of necessity during the pandemic. As broadcast moves forward, the cloud is no longer the future but the present. While cloud-based solutions were in many cases the only way to accomplish production of certain events in lockdown, broadcasters discovered the efficiencies of the cloud and are expanding those uses. And like other industries, cloud and AI-based solutions are now being deployed across nearly all facets of broadcast, from operations to production.
Cloud technology has grown immensely in its ability to support broadcasting, even at the local level. For one example, a news anchor or weather reporter might seem to the viewer to be in the studio but is actually appearing remotely.
Going Over the Top
It probably goes without saying that consumer preferences have changed significantly towards increased streaming services (subscription video on demand, or SVOD) and away from traditional broadcast-satellite-cable delivery. This increase in cord-cutting has led many providers to introduce “skinny bundles,” lower-cost packages featuring far fewer channels. While this keeps some subscribers on board, it also has a detrimental effect on top-line revenue. The increased use of DVRs to skip commercials is another wild card that has impacted viewership and ad revenues.
On the other side of the ledger, broadcast media outlets are embracing their own streaming outlets (“over the top,” or “OTT” services), from the network level (for example, CBS’ Paramount+) down to apps for local news outlets. This offers a few advantages: Whereas broadcast TV and radio ratings have always had a bit of guesswork attached to them, streaming offers direct feedback to what’s being streamed and by whom, allowing OTT broadcasters to set subscription rates and ad rates appropriately.
And at the local level, broadcasters are able to build greater viewer loyalty with some OTT solutions, for example by providing weather forecasts that are more detailed, more localized or both, freed from the time constraints of broadcast.
All the cord-cutting has had at least one other positive impact also, as some markets have seen an uptick in viewership via old-school, antenna-on-the-roof broadcast viewing from consumers who have opted to no longer consume TV news via cable or satellite.
Content is King
The battle for the ears and eyeballs of the consumer has never been as fragmented or competitive, as there are nearly infinite choices for news, sports and other entertainment. Broadcasters need to find new efficiencies to remain competitive, and after delivery technology, AI will probably top that list. Already, IBM Watson is being used to generate improved closed-captioning services, work that might previously have been done by a human being. AI will continue to play a growing role in broadcast.
Also in this competitive environment, the “what” of the actual content becomes at least as important as the “how” of the delivery method. Broadcasters and OTT providers are looking to provide content that engages viewers on a repeat basis, with social media providing a natural adjunct to the broadcast product.
More to Come
For all the impact that technology continues to have on both content and delivery, there’s still more on the horizon. Within about a year, look for the NextGen broadcast technology standard (officially known as ATSC 3.0), which will allow 4k resolution and Dolby audio via broadcast. The good news here is that many current TV models are already equipped for NextGen, and for many other sets, all the consumers will need is an antenna and an inexpensive tuner.
5G mobile technology will add yet another option for distribution, with download speeds of up to 1 Gbps lessening the need for a Wi-Fi connection to view high-quality video, and potentially making viewers more mobile than ever. Our guess is that more targeted and localized advertising options will quickly follow.