Panel: Connected TV is at start of 'golden age and chaos'

Entertainment technology execs discuss the concept of "video everywhere" and the hurdles for consumers and content providers alike in a multi-screen world.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- We're at the beginning of a long adventure for viewers with the advent of a bevy of technology that offers different ways of experiencing television, which is becoming ever more so personal, according to Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for Disney/ABC, while speaking during a panel discussion at the Open Mobile Summit on Wednesday.

See also: LightSquared CEO: Demand for data will outweight spectrum capacity soon Data caps blocking consumer understanding, demand for 4G Mobile wallet wars aren't actually so heated, panel says

"It's both the golden age and chaos," added Mitch Feinman from YouTube's strategic partnership development unit. "Everyone says this is the beginning of an inflection point. Consumers are starting to understand their power."

However, not all of the panelists agreed that actual television programming is actually being affected.

Daniel Danker, general manager of programs and on-demand for The BBC, argued that TV distribution and TV discovery have become more personal, but TV itself hasn't changed much, explaining that we're only just watching programming in our own ways and discovering them in slightly more personal ways.

"We're just at the beginning of where TV starts transforming because of this liberating technology," said Danker, predicting that news will change the first -- and possibly the most -- because of these trends.

As the concept of video everywhere expands, Danker concluded, "I think the audience wins out of all of this."

So as the multi-screen world of tablets, smartphones, laptops, HDTVs, and whatever else might come next expands, where are viewers looking for TV and film content now?

Hulu's vice president of distribution Pete Distad remarked that it's a little too early to draw conclusions as connected TV is still in its infancy. Yet, mobile is one area where Hulu is particularly interested, whether it be a primary or secondary viewing device.

"We want to be on every single device that consumers want to watch TVs on. So we're not going to make early determinations," said Distad.

YouTube is also concentrating more on mobile as Feinman noted that his company sees 300 million daily playbacks via mobile.

Now people are not just viewing content on mobile devices, but also uploading as well -- as much as two hours every minute -- Feinman asserted.

Cheng said that the iPad, in particular, has been exciting for Disney and ABC, especially with tie-in mobile apps for programs like Grey's Anatomy. Cheng added that Disney/ABC has seen more video watched per viewer on the iPad than on its websites.

"It is by far a media device and the future of opportunity," Cheng said.

Danker simplified the situation to stating that any device that feels like TV and gets closer to the original experience, the better off you are. With BBC iPlayer, for example, Danker said that the app has appealed more to children using the Wii, while the PS3 version attracted the 18-34 age group.

But as viewers change their habits on where they watch content, that can prove troublesome for content providers and where they make the bulk of their revenue: advertising. But most of the panelists remained optimistic in this regard.

"Monetization right now is really a short-term problem," Cheng said.

The goal, Cheng argued, is to make sure we're focused on the consumer and how they want to interact with the content. Eventually, he theorized, we will figure out the model that works.

"There are mobile ad formats that all of us can utilize, but they're not perfect," added Marc DeBevoise, senior vice president and general manager of entertaiment at CBS Interactive, adding that many of them are interruptive and distracting (therefore, upsetting) to viewers.

(Disclosure: ZDNet is a property owned by CBS Interactive.)

But video, DeBevoise said, gives us the easiest content platform to use as you can almost always run a 15- to 30-second video.

Although the focus right now might be on home entertainment devices like gaming consoles as well as mobile, the goals in five years might be very different from just enabling access to content on as many gadgets as possible.

Danker said that right now, only 20 percent of the U.K. population uses BBC iPlayer in a given week. In five years, he hopes that number rises to 80 percent as some of the barriers that the audience encounters -- whether it be inconsistent Internet delivery or not knowing the benefits of these products -- gets knocked down.

Cheng has higher expecations in mind.

"In five years, hopefully we will have redefined what 'television network' means," Cheng stated, explaining that by then, content providers should be taking programming and putting it in the hands of customers wherever they want to access it -- no borders or boundaries.

Editorial standards