Seven’s CDO: The future of TV is addressing consumers across all connected devices

Chief digital officer for TV broadcaster and media company shares its plans to increase content ownership as well as build rights to stories across all digital channels

The future of TV broadcasters is about being involved in all forms of TV content development and streaming whatever the connected device, Seven West Media’s chief digital officer claims.

Clive Dickens told attendees at the inaugural Chief Digital Officer Forum in Sydney that the media company is increasingly getting involved in all types of digital content delivery, regardless of device, opening up a wealth of opportunity by changing the nature of how consumers view TV.

His presentation dived into the impact of the increasing swathe of connected devices on consumers and their TV viewing habits, as well as the data opportunities available for organisations in utilising that intelligence to deliver products and services to customers.

“It’s these connected devices putting all their data in the cloud that we need to think about, worry about or utilise to create completely new products and experiences,” he commented. “There’s a huge, enabling opportunity around all that data.”

As well as increased diversity, Dickens noted the screens being used to consume content are rapidly shrinking in size. At the same time, while broadcast TV viewing time is reducing, overall TV watching across all screens is exploding, changing the nature of what it means to view such content, he said.

Seven West Media’s strategic vision is to turn every IP connected screen into a TV, he said.

“In my first week at Seven, I banned the ‘second screen’ term,” Dickens said. “The one in front of your eyes all the time is already the primary screen. Mobile is the screen, and fora TV company to accept that, is a big leap around the content we own.”

With this explosion of screens comes profound and personalised ways to connect with consumers, Dickens said.

“Streaming makes it possible to connect, consume and discover new, personalised content,” he said. “With this information and data we have access to comes our opportunity to create new viewing experiences for the consumer. It’s the consumers that matter and the content they want to consume.”

Having so many screens and so much choice, however, makes things incredibly complicated and confusing for the consumer, Dickens continued.

“So they turn to friends and brands to filter that confusing information and there lies another opportunity,” he said.

For Seven West Media, a key strategic question is whether it owns enough of the stories, Dickens said.

“Rather than just leasing other people’s content, we are increasingly owning our own stories,” he said.

If it can’t own the stories, Seven West Media’s strategy is to own the rights to tell the story across every screen. As an example, Dickens said the Australian Open coverage this year was the first time the TV broadcaster has rights for every screen. The deal saw a significant uplift in audience viewing across all channels including free-to-air, he said.

In addition, for the Rio 2016 Olympics, Seven West Media owns the rights to every screen through to 2022, including those that haven’t even been invented, Dickens said.

The third prong to Seven West Media’s strategy is having the business models and products to leverage those stories across all screens, Dickens said. He noted the company’s work with digital platforms, such as its own Plus 7 and Presto offerings, as well as third-party platforms such as iTunes and Freeview, as vital to achieving this.

Rather than having direct resources to scale to every device, Seven West Media is also increasingly tapping into centralised offerings and repurposing content for its own audiences.

While 78 per cent of the Seven West Media business is still wrapped up in overnight TV ratings, Dickens was adamant this was not the future for the broadcaster in the digital age.

“We have taken a bold step in being involved in many if not all forms of the future of TV,” he said. “As a result, I have a view around consumer behaviour that few other people enjoy. I know how many people use SVOD [subscription video on-demand], who uses TV on-demand and downloads content, those using social video, those using AVOD [audio video on-demand], plus broadcast. And as of 1 December, when we launch our new live streaming product for all channels, I’ll know what people are streaming live.”

Yet while customer data is vital in delivering relevant content digitally, it can’t just be about personalisation, TV has to be driven by personality, Dickens warned.

“Personalisation is not going to be everything – you have to have a hybrid approach,” he said. “We have to keep it human. It’s about storytelling, not just algorithms. I don’t always want to watch ‘Clive TV’, personality, linear and lean-back experiences will continue to be important.

“I do not believe the world of insightful ‘OTT’ evangelists who think the whole thing is just about personalisation… We are not as different as we think we are and we need this hybrid model.

“If we forget the human storytelling aspect, it’ll leave us in a very different space.”

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