Broadcast Data Convergence (Guest Post)

Like all well-intentioned ideas, I setup this blog intending to post regular ramblings on topics of relevance to our industry and the future of TV in general. Having failed miserably so far, I want to open the floor to anyone else who would like to make a guest post on here and I am delighted to post the first one below. If you have something interesting to say on the future of TV and would like to write a guest post then please DM me @splunkett. Only rules are that you post as yourself rather than an employer and no product endorsements etc.

Rethinking Convergence

Have you ever stopped to wonder what is meant by convergence? In the world of broadcast we have been on the verge of convergence for many a year, the past five of those have bought into sharp focus the products that work and the products that do not. A previous blog entry on this site (Extraordinary Broadcast Delusions and the Madness of Clouds) discussed the evolution of some of those once distant prophecies.

Sure, convergence of technologies provides us with opportunity aplenty to re-imagine our own personal relationship with broadcast content.  Our box in the corner continues to play merrily for our entertainment, a dumb slave to our mastery of the remote control, providing new ways to enjoy the same old experience. That is convergence, isn’t it?

Well, I prefer to look at convergence from another angle; the convergence of ideas and practice across industries.

It was in 1993 that Sir Terry Leahy first envisioned an idea that would transform his business and his industry. In 1995 the Tesco club card was launched. Over the next 18 years Tesco was transformed into one of the most significant companies of our era, or indeed of any era. The premise behind this scheme was simple; learn as much as you can about your customers, store as much information as you can, keep every ounce of data and sell it back to your customers in the form of promotions, offers and targeted deals. Tesco’s customers get a great shopping experience, Tesco cuts its marketing bill, gains customer loyalty and drives up the spend per customer in its stores.

Broadcast media of course has always been different, the relationship with the chap sat in his chair is as remote as the remote; a one way interaction. There is little, if any, data collected. Yet the revolution of technological convergence changes all that.

In February this year Tesco announced the trial of Clubcard TV – imagine that, a retailer moving into TV! Yet isn’t this a logical progression for convergence across industries? All that data about what people buy must have relevance to what people watch. After all if it doesn’t, then what is TV advertising for?

Of course the launch came with all the usual comparisons with Netflix, lovefilm and the like. The caveat emptor for all such launches was displayed loud and clear “success depends upon the quality of the content”. I wonder though whether that is strictly true, in my mind success will depend upon the quality of the data. Content will follow. Netflix proved this when it broadcast House of Cards earlier this year.

So our dumb slave sat in the corner, now resplendent with Apps, takes on a different meaning. The Clubcard of the broadcast world gives us a greater experience, personalises our viewing and makes us want to watch more. It gives the broadcaster better targeting for its ad slots, better loyalty from its viewers and drives up spend from viewers and advertisers alike. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

So where are we headed, will all industries end up looking like all industries? Perhaps! Amazon is far cry from a book retailer; the purchase of Lovefilm shows its intent in this direction. Yet I still don’t see many broadcasters heading in the other direction, they of course don’t have years of data to fall back on…yet!

@Lee_Cowie is Head of Technology Delivery at a leading broadcast service provider.