#TrendSpire2013 – Four Ideas For The Future of Television

I was honored to be a speaker last week at Trendspire 2013 in Atlanta, which was the brainchild of Native Marketing working with Turner Media Group (TMG) Insights & Inspirations.  Native Marketing has been doing trend research and presentations for Turner since 2011, but this is the first internal company-wide conference to explore trends in media, entertainment, technology and pop culture.

It was a terrific day of inspired panels and presentations, filled with very smart people. Since it was held at, and for the benefit of, Turner, much of the talk revolved around television programming.  From what I heard from others, plus ideas of my own that I’ve been knocking around in my mind for a while, I’ve come up with four ideas of what the future might hold for a more interactive future of television*

1. Have a TV show host a hackathon, use winning idea in show

Television and hackathons makes a lot of sense. In fact, there was a TV Hackfest in San Francisco earlier this year, and I’ll be a judge at the upcoming TV Hackfest in London.  The 2nd Screen Society is also producing an AppHACK event with AngelHack in Los Angeles on November 2nd/3rd.  These events tend to focus on creating tools to make the consumer experience of watching television better. Here’s how the London event describes itself:

What is a HackFest? The aim of TV hackfest is to provide a range of tv technologies, SDK’s and API’s  as well as briefs and competitions – to developers, designers, agencies, creatives and entrepreneurs  to build design and show how future video entertainment could be delivered within an interactive multi-screen environment. From first and second screen apps, to social tv mashups and broadcaster / content centric content briefs , the TV Hackfest is a way to get creative and build future mutli-screen TV concepts with some cool prizes for the winners.

But here’s what I’d like to see: What if a show like ABC’s new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. held a hackathon? Ask the developer community to create a cool new piece of tech and incorporate the winning idea into the showI’m sure that a developer or start-up would kill to have their app or tool integrated into a primetime television show. The PR for the network, the show and the winning developer would be enormous.

I could also see a brand integrating into this very easily.  A mobile phone company would be great for this sort of thing, or really any brand that has a tech focus, or a brand that wants to develop that perception. You could build an entire season-long campaign around this, plus in-show integration and sponsorship of the hackathon.

2. Create spin-off as mobile-only mini-series during off-season

People have a voracious appetite for the shows they love. From Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead to Sons of Anarchy and House of Cards fans count the days until the new season starts. The idea of content made for the web (webisodes) isn’t new, but it’s time to develop content that is mobile first. Why not make a 5-10 episode mini-series set within the world of an existing show? Twelve to 15-minute episodes could be created to develop secondary characters (for a possible 1st screen spin-off?) or wrap-up plot lines that weren’t given enough time during the regular run of the show. In a similar vein, check out USA’s Burn Notice graphic novel. Each episode could end with an interactive survey, poll or questionnaire that could provide valuable data to the writers and show-runners.

3. Kickstarter + Gamification = Pilot Picker

One of the tenets of new marketing revolution is the importance of building communities and engaging people on a deeper level, getting them invested in your offering. Kickstarter is a perfect example.  Every year networks offer up a host of new programs, yet very few of them survive. Perhaps if people were more directly invested in the success of the show the network could develop a new dynamic with its viewers. Here’s how it could work:

  • First, properly integrate game mechanics into a network’s website.
  • Set up a page on the network’s site in Kickstarter-style, where writers/producers can “pitch” their shows.
  • As viewers accumulate “points” through various activities on the site, allow them to “invest” in new show concepts (prior to shooting pilots).
  • The shows with the highest investment (which represents potential viewer interest) get greenlit for shooting a pilot.

This has the capacity to completely disrupt several current industry models, potentially saving money for the nets and generating a higher percentage of successful new shows.

4. 2nd Screen App + Augmented Reality = Character in your room

At TrendSpire 2013, Steve Brown, Chief Evangelist and Futurist and Intel, spoke about what he’s expecting to see soon and I was truly excited about an idea he threw out. Computing power is going to be so big and fast that we’ll be able to bring characters from the first screen into our living rooms via a 2nd screen app, and they’ll be able to recognize and adjust to the environment. Imagine Walter White sitting next to you on your couch discussing the finer points of meth dealing. Or a horde of zombies suddenly stumbling around your bedroom as you pan around the room with your tablet. This sort of 4D experience could open up a host of creative opportunities and truly change the viewing experience in ways we can only begin to dream of.


Mobile, interactive and off-screen are all ways TV can reinvent itself to benefit from the changes in culture and consumer behavior we’re currently experiencing. The question is, which networks will jump in and grab first mover advantage.

HBO, Jay Z and the #SecondScreen opportunity for #PicassoBaby

Jay Z’s not just a rapper and he’s more than a businessman (or a business, man); he’s a cultural force. From Rocawear to marrying Beyonce, from selling a million copies of an album before it’s released to a subliminal shout-out from a Presidential candidate.

We could talk about his Livestreamed concert at SxSW last year, or his fledgling sports agency, but for right now, let’s focus on Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film which will be premiering on HBO tonight at 11pm eastern. Here’s a taste:

As a fan of Jay Z, and an HBO subscriber, I’m certainly planning on tuning in. As a marketer, and Content Advisory Board member to the 2nd Screen Society, I’m intrigued by the possibilities. HBO and Jay Z are both rightly lauded as innovators in their respective fields. This seems like a perfect opportunity for going beyond the traditional and extending the experience to a mobile device or tablet.

Marketing strategist Rob Fields thinks it’s a missed opportunity: “Since it’s only 11 minutes, HBO should make it available on HBO GO for, say, $1.99. Whatever the price is, it would open up the viewing legally to a whole new audience. They’d get the revenue and the consumer data, which is probably more important. It’d be a huge prospect list.”

This sort of content, from an innovative thinker like Jay Z is ripe for something like a 2nd screen experience.  I spoke with several 2nd screen industry innovators to get their take on what they’d like to see, or what they would have recommended:

Jeremy toeman, CEO Dijit media:  “In this era with such rich apps and a huge, excited, engaged, and obviously mobile, fan base, seems like there’s a lot more to offer an audience. From alternate camera angles to making of/extra footage to interactive social experiences, it seems like a great second screen opportunity!”

Aaron Williams, Founder/CEO of SocialSamba“The most exciting part of the whole concept for me was seeing the fans, 

Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery

Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery

participating in and recording their experience with the performance.  Think about it this way – it would only take 14 different fans hitting record to rack up a thousand different takes, angles and perspectives for every second of that song.  That’s a pile of content that begs to be mashed up by amateur fans and pro remixers alike.  There’s a kick-ass startup called Switchcam that does exactly this kind of syncing across multiple fan cams to allow everyone to mashup their favorite take on a shared experience (like concerts and weddings).  Jay should give them a call and put all that content to great use.”

Gitamba Saila-Ngita, Chief Innovation Strategist at Deft Collective had a different take:  “If you’d seen the process of creating the video you’d know that Jay Z spent almost 8 hours performing the song as “performance art” to random strangers and celebrities, with some joining in. Somewhere in that process a second screen experience should have been born that would enhance the experience when viewing the content on mobile or tablets. I think adding second screen to this [the HBO presentation] would be purely novel and nothing quite innovative or ground breaking. That said, it could explain why this is being pushed as something you have to watch on our downtime Sunday night.” 

Rob Fields counters, “The second screen experience could be interesting.  Remember that Jay filmed 6 hours, so there’s a lot of footage that could be teed up.  Point at which audiences on laptops, tablets and phones could go deeper.  They should definitely offer bios and video perspectives on the other artists that Jay included.  For example, I’m only broadly familiar with Marina Abramovic, and the broader population may be less so.  Also, do they have footage of Jay talking about why he chose the other artists?  It’d be great to hear his own words on this.  A win for HBO would be to have the 2nd screen experience be incredibly immersive so that you’d stay on the HBO site long after those 9 minutes were up.”

Rather than from purely the content aspect, I look at it from a brand opportunity point of view.  Jay Z’s deal with Samsung, the one that allowed Samsung mobile owners to download the new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, a few days early – the one that got Jay Z a million sales before the album proper even dropped – was criticized for certain privacy related issues. Could providing those consumers with exclusive 2nd screen content to the HBO program have been a nice apology or surprise and delight bonus? Perhaps.  What about Pace Gallery, where Jay Z did his 6-hour performance art piece? Surely a 2nd screen experience highlighting the gallery or the history of performance art would have made sense.

As many above noted, there is a lot of material to work with and perhaps we’ll see it come to life at a future date. In the meantime, we’ll watch tonight and wonder what might have been.

Digital Measurement Is About To Flip TV On Its Head

According to the Wall Street Journal (as reported by Adweek), Nielsen will be rolling out Nielsen Digital Program Ratings  “which will measure audiences for TV content viewed online. A+E, ABC, AOL, CBS, The CW, Discovery Communications, FOX, NBC and Univision have all signed on to participate in this test, which will begin in May and run through July.” And, according to Eric Solomon, senior vice president for Global Digital Audience Measurement at Nielsen, the company plans to cover mobile devices in future releases.

Adweek notes: “Nielsen Digital Program Ratings will track views primarily on the networks’ own desktop websites, with additional coverage for mobile devices planned for the future. The Digital Program Ratings will provide overnight data such as the number of unique viewers, stream counts and reach by age and gender.”

Nielsen may have been slow to adjust to the shifts in consumer behavior brought about by DVRs, Social Networks, mobile and online viewing, but they are now catching up. They’ve rolled out Online Campaign Ratings “for brands that want to more effectively measure digital campaigns;” in February they started to measure broadband viewership; and they’ve introduced a Twitter Ratings System via their acquisition of SocialGuide.

I think it’s entirely possible that the television* industry is going to experience a new reality not unlike that which the music industry experienced when it started to update its measurement methods. First, Soundscan brought a level of accuracy to the industry that was woefully missing.  Now take a look at what Billboard charts track now: On-Demand Songs, Digital Songs, Steaming Songs and Ringtones just to name a few. That’s how Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” becomes the Number 1 song in the country without major label distribution.

How will this ability to more accurately track viewership, across multiple platforms, affect content? If I were a programmer I’d be looking to create snack-size programming. I’d experiment with 15 and maybe even 10 minute shows. A really innovative programmer might take a page from the independent comics I loved as a kid: A 40-page main story and then an 8-page teaser for a new character that was being developed.

Think about that for a second. What if you extended a 30-minute sitcom to 35-40 minutes, then aired a 10-15 minute ‘mini-show.’ Let that mini-show develop over four or five weeks, see what kind of viewership it’s gaining on mobile devices and then roll it out in the fall as a full-fledged show. That has to be better than the current strategy most networks use.

I think you could also see ‘mobile first’ content that may be supplemental content to a main show. If you’ve got 10 minutes to kill, would you watch a little vignette that features your favorite secondary character from a hit show as the star of their own 10-minute piece? Of course you would! And networks could probably get interesting directors and guest stars for these mini-shows as well. Once they see the audience is there, they’ll be able to sell brands on sponsoring this content via product integration or hosting it as part of a 2nd Screen play.

Brad Barket/Getty Images for Hulu

Brad Barket/Getty Images for Hulu

There are probably a dozen more possible innovations in format that we’ll see as measurement becomes more precise and covers more platforms, but the net result could be an explosion in original content customized for various screens and featuring new angles on your favorite shows. That’s a future I can get behind. For more on what’s happening on the digital programming front, read this piece on Hulu’s plans from The New York Times.


*Television is becoming an increasingly inappropriate term to use. But “video content” connotes a certain sterility which I don’t much care for. What term should we use to refer to all the types of shows, from all the different distributors, on all the different platforms? Perhaps it is all ‘programming?’

Hey Advertisers, What’s Your Post 30-Second Spot Plan?


If this is the future, you'd better have a plan that includes something more than 30-second spots.

If this is the future, you’d better have a plan that includes something more than 30-second spots.

The 30-second commercial is not dead, despite what Trevor Beattie thinks. But, here’s something to consider, I could easily consume 4+ hours of content, anytime and just about anywhere, night after night, and not see one 30-second spot. Game of Thrones on Demand via HBO or HBO Go, followed by two episodes of binge watching some old series on Netflix, then I’ll play an hour of Call of Duty on the Xbox 360, followed by catching an out of market West Coast Major League Baseball game online.  That’s not trying to get by on scraps, that’s all top tier entertainment.

Read the Netflix Long Term View  and you’ll get a glimpse into how that company sees the future. It’s a fascinating piece, and shows how they, along with HBO and others, are likely to be capturing the lion’s share of attention, certainly from the upscale market. So, if you are a brand like Land Rover or Virgin Atlantic or Waldorf or Revlon or Dell or Crystal Cruises what do you do? We’re not talking about simple DVR commercial skipping, we’re talking about a future where some of the best, most watched and talked about content simply doesn’t have ads at all.

Last week I went to the Machinima Digital Upfront. If you don’t know Machinima that’s ok, unless you are trying to reach the global, male 18-34 demo, then it is a problem. Machinima racks up more than 2 billion views per month across it’s network (internationally, online and mobile devices). They do this with original programming that is tailor made for its audience. At the event they announced new partnerships that will get them into the massive EDM (electronic dance music) market, as well as a partnership with the director Ridley Scott.

On another front there is a discussion over who is going to own the App Battle that is going to be taking place on your phone, tablet, Smart TV / Internet TV / Connected TV and video game console. You can argue who the winner is going to be – Alan Wolk of KIT Digital thinks it will be the MVPDs who have the advantage. I think brands have agreat opportunity, but the truth is, arguing whether we’ll be using a Comcast app or a Google app or a Nike app isn’t the point, the point is we’ll be launching video content from all sorts of providers and producers and that won’t feature a traditional 30-second spot.

So, what’s your post 30-second spot plan? Product integration directly into the content? In-app sponsorship? Create your own app that enhances the viewing experience around content relevant to your brand? Create your own content? Create your own content channel that hosts video from a wide range of producers that aligns with your brand?

Those all sound like pretty compelling options, but “option” may be a misnomer. I think your “TV strategy” needs to be a lot more diverse than simply deciding between broadcast and/or cable. It’s going to involve a sophisticated plan based on your audience and their viewing behaviors. It will require new social analytics like the ones developed by Bluefins Labs, which was recently bought by Twitter. And it’s going to demand a partner who can help you manage a complex web of partnerships and collaborations with content producers, distributors and tech vendors you may not have even heard of five years ago… because they didn’t exist.

Yes, for the foreseeable future the 30-second spot still has a place front and center in your plans. But right now the smartest brands are preparing for a future where YouTube, HBO and Netflix are the equivalent of ABC, CBS and NBC 40 years ago.

Weekend Reading: The Oscars, Netflix and House of Cards

For the video entertainment fans out there, two pieces I wrote that were published this week:



From Host to Hashtag, a look at the 2013 Oscars


First, on PSFK I wrote about the Oscars. I touch on Seth MacFarlane’s effort as host, what some brands did, social media in general, and being a real-time content creator.


Netflix is betting big on binge-viewing.

Netflix is betting big on binge-viewing.

For FastCoCreate, I took a deep dive look at Netflix and their original content play with House of Cards.

For Brands, Now Is The Time To Make A 2nd Screen Play


I want to focus on an insight that came out of the 2nd Screen Society‘s CES 2nd Screen Summit, where I was a moderator on one of their panels last week. Over 400 professionals from the tech, brand, agency and content provider industries were in attendance, providing a variety of opinions on a number of topics.

One of the more intriguing issues I was focused on was: Who will win the 2nd Screen app battle? In 2013 I expect that 2nd Screen engagement will start to become a money-maker (for some) as sponsorship opportunities, e-commerce and other channels start to gain traction. As a result, the fight to own the 2nd screen platform will heat up and right now there is no clear answer as to whom will make the apps that people will download.  Several of the people I spoke with believe that consumers will be downloading literally dozen of apps for the different content they watch. I struggle to see that possibility coming to fruition outside of a small niche of bleeding edge adopters. Having to download, organize and use an app for every show I watch would lead to the creation of a huge amount of little used apps as well as consumer confusion.

But who will develop and publish the apps we’ll use is hard to figure as well. Here’s just a sampling of the types of companies that could lay claim:

Show specific apps: The CSI franchise, Mad MenGame of ThronesAmerican Idol… the list is virtually endless. Because fans can be intensely loyal to their favorite shows, you could certainly see this making sense. But again, do I want a different app for every show I watch?

Network specific apps: ESPN, NBC, HBO, Fx, USA, MSNBC… again, plenty of players at this level. The benefit here for the network is obvious: if you love just one of their shows, you’ll get the app and they can run promos for their other shows, driving greater tune-in.

MVPD specific apps: Comcast, Verizon, AT&T Uverse, DirecTV… these are the people bringing you all the content you consume on your primary (and increasingly secondary) sceen. With their app, you’d probably get PPV and VOD promotions as well as other incentives not to switch to another provider.

Alan Wolk, Global Lead Analyst at KIT Digital felt the MVPDs had the edge here. They know the most about you, your household and they have in many cases additional data about you (via Internet and phone usage).

But what about some other players? Could the GetGluesShazams and IntoNowsdevelop a deep enough and broad enough suite of utilities and content integration? I suppose so, but again, once the monetization of 2nd screen gets cracked, I don’t know if the shows, networks or providers are going to let that happen.

Could tech players like Microsoft, Google, Apple or Amazon make a play here? I think they could. Each has some inherent advantages and certainly have their consumer adherents.

Finally, what about brands with great consumer affinity? Could brand-driven lifestyle apps be the gateway to 2nd screen experiences? Brands have the know-how, the fans and are often the ones most willing to take creative risks. They’re also increasingly getting into the content game themselves.

Here’s my best guess: Yes, an elite group of stand-alone show apps will survive. Big shows like The Voice – as well as sports and awards shows – and those with intense, niche audiences (Sons or Anarchy) will lead the way. But the vast majority of shows aren’t “app worthy.”  The concept of “broadcast networks” probably doesn’t even make sense to people under the age of 15, so I don’t see that working. I could see the MVPDs winning here, by the sheer force of their dominant posistion – they’ll just make the apps and put the cost on your monthly bill.

But the problem with all these is that shows come and go. Or our allegiance to them wanes. Or they switch networks. And people certainly don’t have deep feelings for most networks; and if they feel anything about Comcast or Verizon or Dish Network, it’s probably antipathy. Likewise, nobody talks about their undying devotion to Viggle or the other third party 2nd screen apps.

But if you’re a sports fan, a Gatorade app that you open with every sporting event you watch could be very compelling. A Pepperidge Farm or Dannon app you open with every reality show you watch makes a lot of sense. You can imagine other brands and content types that might work well together.

Brands continue to more closely resemble media companies, they have huge, loyal fan bases of people who identify the brand with their chosen lifestyle. 2nd Screen apps allow brands the opportunity to engage fans in a compelling and measurable way. If have questions about 2nd Screen apps, please send me a note and we can set up a time to discuss your goals and how this sort of activation can work for you.