Saturday, August 27, 2011


Dear friends, we are gathered here today to farewell a friend we have all known and loved for some time. Some of you knew this friend from birth, others have only been lucky enough to be friends in recent years. This friend has been there, through relationships, break ups, births, deaths, good times and bad.

Some us haven't always agreed with the choices this friend has made, but in the end our relationship has always endured.

And so my friends, it is with great sadness that we commemorate the passing of our cherished companion, broadcast television.

You will be missed.

(cue Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and the laying of roses)

Morbid imagery I know.

But this is a glimpse into the future.

One of the reasons this newsletter is late this week, is that I was struggling with how to explain the lessons I learned at an Industry seminar on Tuesday. The seminar was "SPAA Masterclass 3: Digital - Where's the money?". It was supposed to be about how to make money (known as "monetising") from digital/online media.

It ended up being about how traditional media companies, especially broadcasters, were attempting to catchup to the revolution (and I use this word deliberately - it is a revolution!) that is happening in the Film, TV and Media Industry. I won't bore you with details, although feel free to email me if you would like to know more, but there were a few key sentiments that came out of it. They are:

1) The explosion of the internet has changed the world, forever.
2) The next era we are entering is the era of consumer power (i.e. the revolution). This is already true in key consumer areas like shopping (ebay), news (Google), and music (Napster/File sharing).
3) The existing major companies in these areas suffer the most from the revolution, see the major papers closing and major music labels crumbling for evidence.
4) Film, TV and media is next, as broadband speeds get faster.
5) We either evolve or starve.

Being in the room with representatives of the big media companies was a strange experience for me. It was like I had mistakenly stepped into a meeting of the rich and powerful. Like Michael Moore at a gathering of BP, Shell and ExonMobil. The film, TV and Media Establishment live in person.

And me, wondering how they kept missing the point so badly.

Do you want to know what the film, TV and Media establishment talk about?

How to stop evolution.

The film, TV and media establishment talk about how to keep up with the revolution and, as much as possible, keep things the same. For their own survival.

Survival! Not growth, SURVIVAL!

They are "experimenting" with online video under duress. They believe that whatever happens online should direct people back to the "primary platform", which is Television.

The idea of online media consumption becoming the new normal, and telling great stories that engage an audience, was only mentioned by one of the speakers. His name is Ricky, the Head of Video Media at Fairfax Digital. How ironic that a guy from a newspaper/magazine company is leading the way in online video?

I chatted to him after his presentation, and found out that he worked in music, when they were hit by the revolution. Then he worked in Newspapers, when they were hit by the revolution. Now he is in video media, when the revolution is coming. Poor guy.

But Ricky gets it. He is monetising videos on-line already, with a profit sharing arrangement with Producers. He is trying to get a head start on what's coming. He's seen it too. Currently it takes 8-24 hours to download the average pirated movie online. With the broadband speeds proposed in the next 3-5 years, the average time to download a pirated movie will reduce to just 11 minutes. At that point, the film, TV and media industry becomes the music and newspaper industry. Unless we evolve.

In the very-near future, consumers will NOT ACCEPT television channels telling them what to watch. They will watch the shows they want, when they want, online. Hell, they are already doing it with entire TV show seasons on DVD and single episodes online.

And when the audience's TV is web-enabled, so they don't have to use their computer, with high speed broadband plugged into it, the TV broadcasters better have ALL their shows online, on demand.

The consumer is KING again. Don't give us what we want, and we go online and get it somewhere else, possibly for free.

No more channel surfing to find something worth investing my precious time in watching. The broadcast TV Channels will be responsible for 3 things: Commissioning new content (i.e. pay creatives to make shows); curating their catalogue of programs (e.g. channel 7 will become the home of reality television, channel 10 the home of cooking and dancing shows); and uploading their shows online. In a world of infinite choice, they had also better make sure the shows are good, or the audience will go somewhere else.

From what I saw, sipping my free coffee and listening to them speak, the traditional media establishment don't get this. Not completely, anyway.

It's actually the start of a FANTASTIC time for creatives who want to tell good stories (you will be in demand!), and terrible for big established media companies.

Broadcast TV is already dead, it just doesn't know it yet.

The revolution is coming.

You have all been warned. Start creating.

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