Panel: Monetization Still a ‘Train Wreck,’ but Improving

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NEW YORK — A cross-section of new-TV platform experts last week lamented that monetization in the multiplatform world is a “train wreck” but expressed great optimism about the leaps technology will take in the coming years.

“There is a movement happening” to reap profits from the new multiplatform landscape,” Tom Ahn Hicks, head of business development and strategy for adRise, said on a panel at the Multichannel News/B&C Next TV Summit here.

“The space is still highly fragmented,” Christie Hartbarger, vice president of 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 platform for TV content, followed by streaming boxes such as Roku and smart TVs. The market has grown crowded, given that hardware manufacturers have often insisted on having their own user interfaces and content systems.

“It’s a train wreck,” said Ashwin Navin, 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 become 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, vice president of 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.”