Tuesday, December 11, 2007

FutureThink: The Media & Entertainment Industry 2008 and Beyond

I attended today's NY:MIEG breakfast featuring David Poltrack of EVP of CBS Television. Mr. Poltrack is EVP and Chief Research Officer, CBS Corporation and President of CBS VISION. David Poltrack oversees all research operations at CBS encompassing audience measurement, market research, program testing, advertising research, and monitoring of the national and international video marketplace. And he was brilliantly interviewed by Garrick Utley. Mr. Utley is the President of the Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce of The State University of New York. For forty years Garrick worked as a broadcast journalist on NBC, ABC, CNN, as well as Public Radio and Public Television. With a primary focus on international affairs he has reported from more than seventy-five countries.

The conversation centered on the 3 screens: TV, Mobile, and Internet, and the explosion of choice and exponential growth of content. The TV screen continues to be the medium of choice, and while becoming highly fragmented do to the number of cable and broadcast channels, it is still experiencing strong growth. It expects to continue to grow because of retrans consent, international opportunities, and of course Hi Def. Along with technology, TV continues to reinvent itself as noted by the rise of new types of alternative/reality programming, which began as low cost summer programming, has now become a more important staple for prime time, especially now with a prolonged writers strike.

Mobile is still finding its legs in the US. Over 35% of users have phones with video capability, but currently less than 5% of them watch video. The rise of the iPhone and technological change means better video viewing opportunities. That it is still subscription based means that there is revenue attached, but the future is dependent on how this business migrates to a free, ad supported model and the portable viewing benefits. While many look at the Europe and Asia use of mobile, it was noted that they rely on this type of viewing because there is not as much TV content available for them to view.

The third screen, internet or broadband, has seen huge change. As little as 2 years ago, the first streaming of long form content occurred with Lost and Desperate Housewives. Today, broadband penetration is at 45% and their is more upside. Also, the ad supported model is being tested although its impact at the moment is small. But it offers more cross-over strengths with the TV screen. The internet has lowered the barriers to entry for content creators and has become a "virtual workshop to find new creative talent and bring them to the bigger screen." Mr. Poltrack looked at how CBS has made its distribution accessible on all sites so people won't go to the trouble to illegally download. Mak eit easy to get and you just have to watch the ads.

Mr. Poltrack spoke also of the research center in Las Vegas, able to reach immediately a cross section of America. When asked what was the biggest profound change in television, the answer was not the colorization of the tv picture, but the growth of the DVR. Now 40% watch shows in playback and growth of the DVR has also been explosive as more consumers use the fast forward feature to bypass ad spots. It has change the ad model, with advertisers now paying on the audience watching commercials. It has also caused advertisers to seek new ways to get the message communicated - bugs, product placement, sponsorship, etc.

As to the future, Mr. Poltrack says the challenge is for the user's attention and time. What it will take these screens to continue to be viable to the viewer, "make me laugh, make me cry, and inform me."