Based on an article by Ariel Napchi, founder and CEO at Hiro Media.
Surpassing the customary television model, a group of major programmers have recently made the first strides towards adding over-the-top (OTT) content services to their regular range of offerings.
The latest candidate in the arena, making an effort to disturb the traditional media flow, is Viacom’s company, Nickelodeon, who announced their OTT service launch recently. While on the consumer-end of things, the increasing number of networks offering these services may prove exciting, it appears the over-extended pool of players in the industry are causing a “rearview-mirror effect”, simply reinventing something that has already been done. This recreation within OTT distribution may deter progress within the industry, as well as hinder innovation.
The difference between the traditional model of distribution and the online network is simple: While the traditional model, such as television viewing, is not personal to the viewer, and expects the viewer to choose their own content by selecting specific channels, the online environment permits creators to directly target their specific viewers, using a more personal approach. In circumstances such as advertisements where successful online ads target specific content to specific viewers, we can already see proof of this concept.
Conversely to the current standards, video content needs to adopt an approach similar to that of the advertising industry in order for progression to be effective. Currently, OTT services have not changed the path of content distribution. Content is still driven based on viewers choosing and seeking what they want to watch, rather than having content personalized to their likes and offered to them.
The Rearview-Mirror Effect
According to Marshall McLuhan, in his 1967 book, “The Medium is the Message”, the media philosopher stated that as a whole, people tend to stick to that which they know and which is most familiar when faced with a completely new situation. He equates the way humans look at the present as though looking through a rearview mirror and states that “we walk backwards into the future.”
McLuhan’s opinions represent a documented human behavior: that of applying old behavioral patterns to a new situation. For instance, this approach came into play when, rather than creating a disturbance, the media applied to the same techniques found in radio to television. Much of the same is true in regards to some online media networks.
Currently, in the online world, there is more focus on the special creative or on the act of storytelling by a large percentage of the media companies. While we could absolutely find new and entertaining shows using Nickelodeon, or another OTT services, the progress of media lies in the progress of distribution.
Both MTV and CNN were facilitated by the move from terrestrial channels to analog channels, and the formation of various MTV channels was in turn facilitated by the move from analog to digital.
Taking Steps Toward Personalization
As the daily move continues toward online video content and advertising, it is imperative to not replicate the patterns of models past. The current “pattern” of standardized television content is a broadcast pattern, forcing viewers to all engage with a single channel in order to view their content. By its definition, this approach forces the viewer into an experience that is both passive and impersonal.
When it comes to the online environment, it’s important to create and implement a new “pattern” of personalizing content and targeting it to viewers in a positive manner, using sites and channels that they already visit on a regular basis. This process of personalization and push allow viewers to access the personalization they want and need, while content owners are simultaneously able to maximize the content monetization.
A good example of this approach is the advertising field. People do not search for ads, rather the ads are targeted to the specific consumer and pushed on them wherever they are surfing.
Keeping the Consumer Involved
Traditional TV counts viewership as successful based on how many people watch their content. Online viewership however, is successful when the content is tailored specifically to the viewer.
What this means for advertisers and creators of online content is that the viewer will likely stay involved longer, providing a maintainable long-term answer to the effort of reaching a specific target audience. As opposed to the current model used on television, with this method viewers are presented with content and ads that appeal to them and their interests wherever they go. So, unlike traditional media, this online connection permits content to be tailored specifically towards the individual user rather than the whole.
For example, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is watched by millions of people every Sunday night. It doesn’t make a difference whether the viewer accessed the show through HBO’s cable station, or whether they arrived there through the streaming services. The only thing that matters is that viewers are still initiating a search for “Game of Thrones.” To reinvent this process, a newer model would include an updated service that would provide “Game of Thrones” to viewers automatically, despite what they may be watching. OTT content services, therefore, if you follow this example, are simply another example of the same old traditional experience whereby the viewer must seek out their own content on specific sites.
It’s imperative to update our approach to both content and distribution in order to avoid this rearview-mirror effect. This need has already been realized in the advertising industry and their approach to targeting and native advertising. The time has come for this need to be realized and met within the content industry as well. The industry does have some market leaders who understand this need, such as Mark Burnett and Dori Media. Now it’s time for the major players to join them and come on board with this approach.
The industry must cater to their viewers. They must push content targeted to their viewers’ interests to the sites their viewers are already visiting. If this realization is not met, the industry will remain in the past.