Next TV: Monetization Still A ‘Train Wreck’

Panelists: Device Fragmentation Will Continue, But Tech Gains Should Ease Pain 3/21/2013 10:12 AM Eastern

A cross-section of new-TV platform experts both lamented the “train wreck” of the landscape in terms of monetization and expressed great optimism about the leaps technology will take in coming years.

“There is a movement happening” to reap profits from the new multi-platform landscape, Tom Ahn Hicks, head of business development and strategy for adRise, said during a panel session at the B&C/Multichannel News Next TV Summit on Thursday in New York.

“The space is still highly fragmented,” Christie Hartbarger, VP, strategic alliances and field marketing for YuMe, said. “The app world is a nice way for people to find content. The content discovery piece is where a lot of the development needs to happen.”

Hicks said game consoles remain the leading alternate platforms for TV content, followed by streaming boxes such as Roku and by smart TVs. Adding to the crowding is the fact that hardware manufacturers have often insisted on having their own user interfaces and content systems.

“It’s a train wreck,” said Ashwin Navin (pictured), CEO of Flingo, an app developer that is rolling out an automatic content recognition app for video à la Shazam. The challenge, he said, centers on gaps in the content experience – that is, consumers accustomed to a certain caliber of content via their MSO’s set-top box being frustrated by not getting the same experience on newer platforms. That, in turn, hinders monetization via ad-supported apps and other means.

“Even the best interface in the world isn’t going to make up for the lack of content,” Navin said. “The most relevant, culturally interesting content is too expensive to play with.”

Meghann Elrhoul, VP, client services and analytics for Trendrr, argued throughout the session that understanding customer behavior is the key to making money.

“For consumers, it’s confusing,” she said. “You have a different app for every single program. We have to understand how consumers are discovering content.” She shared a few intriguing stats during the session, noting, for example, that 96% of Facebook conversation around TV content occurs when programs are not airing. Also, last December showed a 200% surge in social TV conversation over 2011 levels, despite the fact that December has not historically been a top viewing month overall.

Frank Sinton, CEO of Beachfront Media, said thinking broadly is important, echoing a theme mentioned earlier in the day by Epix president and CEO Mark Greenberg. “Content needs to be cross-platform,” he said. “It needs to be everywhere on day one.”

Hartbarger agreed. “Consumers are everywhere,” she said. “We get so siloed – we’re thinking, ‘What’s our mobile strategy? What’s our social strategy?’ … But that’s not what consumers are thinking. They just want the content.”

Moderator Guy Finley, executive director of MESA and the 2nd Screen Society, asked panelists for their views on where things are headed.

Answers covered a wide gamut, but Elrhoul’s particularly suited the dark cloud/silver lining conversation. She cited Trendrr research on AMC’s The Walking Dead. “Social conversation is happening during commercials or after the show. So that’s disruptive from an advertising perspective. But it shows an incredible level of engagement.”