On my flight back to Boston from PaidContent’s “Battle for the Digital Home,” I had a chance to reflect back and distill the 4 pages of speaker “soundbites” I captured from the daylong event. Here are three themes that emerged across the 20+ industry leaders who spoke at the event.
#1. It’s not a technology issue but a content issue.
As Revision 3’s Jim Lauderback demonstrated, the technology capability is here today for consumers to access any content and have it displayed on their TV screens. And while, for now, we see physical connected TV devices like AppleTV, Boxee Box, Roku, and GoogleTV “all of these set top boxes will eventually end up in the TV.”
As Sony’s Rob Wiesenthal said, “The vision is to have a 1 cord TV where the only cord is the power cord.”
So the issue comes down to the politics of the rights to the content itself. Actually, it simply comes down to money. As NBC’s Jeff Gaspin said, “For us it's about monetizing our content and getting a fair value for it. It's one thing to stream content online but once you move that content to the TV, then there's a risk of [revenue stream] cannibalization.”
CBS’s Zander Lurie feels similarly, “To the extent we see things as cannibalizing, we are less interested [in content partnerships]. We are trying to maximize the revenue potential for these assets.”
And Freewheel’s Doug Knopper summed it up, “It's going to be about the total monetization of content and there are going to be places where you cannot find content. Content owners are going to be very selective on where it goes.”
#2. People want to consume content on their terms.
We want our content when and where we want it – plain and simple. Many speakers and panelists addressed the notion that it’s not necessarily about the size of the screen, it’s about the screen that’s most convenient at a given time.
One audience member joked that he’d watch Family Guy off his colleague’s back if it were the only “screen” available. Nielsen’s Cheryl Idell indicated that “Although the HD TV is the center of the living room, consumers will use the best available screen for the content at the appropriate time.”
And Sony’s Rob Wiesenthal brought up the notion of ownership vs. access. “A common account that follows you around so that you can start a movie on your TV and finish it on your laptop.” He spoke of a not-too-distant future where downloading files/content no longer exisits.
#3. We are seeing new forms of content emerge.
Microsoft’s Paul Mitchell said it well, “We are starting to see new and different forms of content emerge. Before there were video games, there was no concept of video games as content.” CBS’s Zander Lurie recognizes the effect that Twitter and Facebook have had in helping drive interest in current content.
Boxee’s Avner Ronen takes it a step further, “I think social is going to be a big part of TV consumption even more so than search. Often times you don't know what you want to watch and it's about surfacing content that's relevant to you.”
Revision 3’s Jim Louderback has his eyes on the TV check-in apps like GetGlue as a means to socialize TV content. And Google’s Mario queiroz is very optimistic about the future of content, “This is an opportunity to create new content that isn't available today by bringing the web to TV as a platform.”
A note about “cord cutting.”
The notion of “cord cutting” came up a lot as well. Most tended to believe that there’s very little evidence that true cord cutting exists (leaving cable & satellite providers to get content exclusively from “over-the-top” sources).
Many felt that over-the-top content was best when it’s additive to existing services and platforms. But I like they way Microsoft’s Paul Mitchell put it, “Cord cutting is really a replacement of what had been private networks as distribution to interconnected distribution mechanisms.” Netflix's Ted Sarandos cited that, "TV content has become half of all the viewing hours of Netflix streaming content. Our intention is to get into every device that is connected to the internet + TV."
But while just about every speaker and panelist said that ultimately they are taking the lead from their consumers’ content consumption preferences, what really ends up happening is what will generate the most revenue (my perspective).
In the end, Yahoo’s Ronald Jacoby gave the soundbite that set the tenor for the future, “We have a chance to shape where this industry goes.”