The Future of Television with the Same Challenges

You know when television has crossed the Rubicon from a traditional box of analogue content to a multiplatform black box of digital video when the first moderator at the recent DMW Future of Television conference (Vertere’s Tim Hanlon) explained his background as coming from "the medium formerly known as television."

It confirmed to me the general acceptance of television’s changing market position but also led to some uneasy questions: Since consumers are the drivers of change, are we as an industry leading from behind? If television is indeed transitioning, why do we cleave to legacy measurement? Will we be able to hold onto television ad dollars or will it erode as the landscape becomes more digitized? How can we better monetize all the new technological opportunities? How can we best harness big data so that it reveals the true story?

While these are not new questions, we are still waiting for answers.

"Is it the best of times or the worst of times for television?” Hanlon began, “Is it a vast cornucopia of choice, quality content or it is at the edge of a nervous breakdown with financial models, the illegalities of peer sharing and unmeasured audiences?" For those on the content side such as Matt Diamond of Defy Media and Roy Sekoff of Huffpost Live, the answer was resoundingly positive – it is absolutely the best of times. But for those on the buy and sell side, such DigitasLBi's John McCarus who is grappling with monetization under fire, “It is the best of times but with dark clouds." The uncertainties of living with change and the slow progress on entrenched challenges continue to vex and increasingly worry the traditional sectors of our industry.

Predictions are rampant. Diamond predicted that “The consumer wants choice either in an internet minute or a radio decade. Consumers will win out. You don't need a cord to watch. It will be choice so eventually all will be a la carte.” CBS’ David Poltrack said, “We are adding dynamic ad insertion so an ad can be schedule close to the point of sale. That is where we are going as an industry. We are making our medium more effective.” But Sekoff noted that,” We have not made the next great leap forward in advertising. We are still talking about 30 second pre-roll and you can't have that before a six second vine.”

As for me, the issue of measurement looms large. We still use the proxy of age and gender to transact in television when, with the expansion and convergence of big data sets and innovative systems to data blend, we could target much more efficiently.  And with the roll out of smart TVs, it is expected that the entire television household universe will be digitized in the next few years. So why then the measurement stasis?

Howard Shimmel of Turner put it into context, “We have a huge challenge in the TV (measurement) space. We typically use historical data to predict the future. Basing it on age and sex is ridiculous; Lady Gaga and Sara Palin are both W25-54.” On the buy side, Jonathan Boker of MediaVest saw the challenge in the silo’d nature of the industry and to some extent, the data. “You can't shovel attributes off one platform into another. It doesn't work. The TV platform and its underlying technology is different from IT platform.” From the sell side, Shimmel concurred, “How do we put new data into our current infrastructure? We structured our inventory according to age and gender. Now, how do we do it with target segments? We struggle with doing that in scale. We license some outside technology that plugs into our infrastructure. In concept it is wonderful. But in practice it is not simple.”

Since the user interfaces are different, it can impact usage. Linda Ong of TruthCo noted that content choices are reached differently depending upon the platform; “You can’t channel surf on an iPad as you do with a TV.” She continued, “We use psychographics. Breaking Bad viewers have more of a common sensibility which is not necessarily related to age or gender.”

It may be a matter of continuing to allow the advancement of technology to wend its way through the various industry silos until a commonly accepted solution can be developed. But in the meantime we scramble to find temporary solutions while leaving money on the table and allowing certain industry sectors to either entropy and erode or lie fallow. But what may arguably be the biggest risk is disenfranchising clients, as Allison Dollar of the interactive Television Alliance stated, “We are tired of being promised things that are not delivered.”

Yes, indeed.

Q& A with BrightLine's Jacqueline Corbelli

Jacqueline Corbelli, CEO of BrightLine, started out her career as a lawyer before moving into financial services and then media. What drew her to media, specifically advanced TV, was the acceleration of change occurring in the media industry at that time in the 1990s. As an astute executive, she saw the prospect for impacting change, the ability to turn around big companies and opportunity to put her change management skills to work and thus launched BrightLine.  In this interesting interview, Corbelli talks about her company and its place in the media firmament, the metrics and the use of data in advanced television, cross platform applications and a look ahead at the landscape of media over the next few years.

There are five videos in this interview:

Subject                                                 Length (in minutes)
Background                                                     (7:47)
BrightLine                                                        (5:46)
Metrics and Data                                           (2:59)
Terms and Cross Platform                            (6:02)
Predictions                                                       (6:04)

Charlene Weisler interviews Jacqueline Corbelli, CEO fo BrightLine  who talks about her background and her company in this 7:47 minute video:

CW: Tell us about BrightLine.

JC: BrightLine was founded in 2003 with the overall mission to bring television into the interactive fold with online advertising. It was with a very specific approach – we believed that convergence was inevitable. Would not go as far as to predict who the winners and losers would be, because we believed then and as much so today, that consumers and the choices they continue to make to weave internet powered activities more and more into their lives that will be the ones to determine that endgame. What consumers are actually doing is what means the most to an advertiser trying to reach, connect and engage them. We wanted to help advertisers stay on top of, out in front of, how TV viewers’ behaviors were changing as digital technologies were sweeping through. So from that perspective, it was great to have started the company in 2003.

Today we couldn’t be closer to our mission. We have completely repositioned the company in order to take advantage of what we see as the emergence of real convergence. Convergence is finally here. Connected TV technology in the form of smart TVs and over-the-top, which have been around for a little while, now have an accelerating adoption rate. So what BrightLine does is provide the TV equivalent of rich media advertising online or on mobile. We do that by delivering interactive video advertising to connected homes. So whether its through your smart television or your Roku or Amazon Fire TV device, or your Xbox or PlayStation box, we have engineered a technology and ad product suite that allows any  digital or TV advertiser to supplement their commercials with interactive video ads.

CEO Jacqueline Corbelli talks to Charlene Weisler about Brightline and its direction, clients, and distinct brand position in this 5:46 minute video:

CW: In fact, BrightLine needed to shift its emphasis in advanced television advertising as the medium and consumers’ behavior evolved over the past ten years.

JC: Yes. For us we knew it would be about spotting a particular moment in time. With the emerging trend in smart TV use and OTT devices we saw a way to open up interactive television advertising to more homes simultaneously and thereby make it even more valuable to advertisers. Until this point our focus was about building and understanding on a very deep level the remote control click behavior of TV audiences. Our work was almost exclusively done on satellite, cable and telecom platforms. We were, and we continue to do some of this, creating interactive TV advertising experiences that were video rich and immersive. We gave the viewer a reason to participate in the ad. We made the pivot to shift as the connected television adoption got underway, as Samsung, LG, Phillips in the smart TV space combined with users of Roku and others began growing rapidly. It was becoming commonplace for us as consumers to access the video content that we wanted to watch by accessing it through the internet versus watching it in real time or our VOD service.  Around the time that we made the shift, there was one statistic that showed that just 54% of TV audiences watch TV in the traditional way and 46% do not. Forty six percent of us watch TV via nontraditional means whether that means over the Internet or VOD, DVR or pay per view. So for us it was one of those calculated risks that we needed to take to meet the market where it was going and be in a position through the use of HTML5 to code and create ads that could be delivered across the preponderance of living rooms that would increasingly be accessing TV content via the internet, regardless of how they were connected.

Charlene Weisler interviews Jacqueline Corbelli, CEO of BrightLine  who talks about metrics and data in the advanced television space in this 2:59 minute video:

BrightLine's Jacqueline Corbelli talks to Charlene Weisler aboutadvanced television terms and the difference in platforms in this 6:02 minute video:

In this final 6:04 minute video, Jacqueline Corbelli discusses some predictionsfor the media landscape with Charlene Weisler: