As is often the case with exciting new technologies, as an industry we tend to put the cart before the horse. We get so excited about new capabilities and possibilities and how they will ultimately impact revenue streams that we fail to ask the most basic question: is this something the consumer wants? Perhaps even more importantly, we fail to educate consumers as to the value these new technologies offer.
Convergence, in terms of the TV industry, is what synergy was to the corporate world a decade ago. It is a term that means many different things depending on whom you ask and, at the same time, isn’t really defined by anything tangible or concrete. Like synergy, convergence has become a buzz word pushed by the press and conference organizers in hopes of spurring discussions. But the actions required to bring these promising new technologies to fruition – namely educating consumers as to their use and value – are startlingly absent from the global television environment.
As an industry, we’re all aflutter over the potential revenue to be generated by the convergence of video and mobile platforms. You can’t open a trade magazine without seeing at least one story on mobile video. But do any of us really believe consumers are going to pay to download a one-hour documentary to watch on their mobile phone on the way to work?
According to a recent study in the US (conducted by San Francisco-based Telephia in Q4, 2005), only 1.5% of the US subscriber base, or roughly three million wireless subscribers, streamed TV or played video content on their phones. What we don’t know, unfortunately, is if this is a result of poor marketing, the mobile phone companies’ failure to educate consumers as to the capabilities of the mobile devices, or simply a lack of consumer interest. Personally, I don’t think many people want to watch movies or TV shows on the little screens of their phones.
Convergence is also used to describe the soon-to-be-available capability of merging all of your household appliances and electronic devices, making it possible to download the latest installment of your favorite television show onto your computer and then sling it over to your big HD television set for viewing later in the week. Oh, just think of the opportunities! Problem is, the average consumer will require another two years just to figure out how to use that new box in his home that actually moves the content from one platform to another.
Another example of our marketing failure can be found in my own home. I subscribe to one of the two major satellite providers in the us. Over the three years that I’ve subscribed to this service, I have had no communication from the company in terms of new channels, special event programming or service upgrades. I find out about new channels through surfing. Ridiculous, yes, but it proves my point that, as an industry, we are doing a very poor job at marketing the technologies and services we have, let alone what’s coming down the pipe.
We need to study how consumers use content, how they would like to use it in the future and, the most vital of all questions, what would make the consumption of this content most convenient? Then we need much of our marketing effort to educate the consumer about the convenient operation of these new technologies and distribution platforms, as well as how they meet the consumers’ needs.
How content is transported or manipulated is irrelevant, especially to the consumer, so let’s put our focus on addressing the use and convenience that these myriad content distribution platforms provide consumers.