Tuning out of broadcast TV
Content providers will have to reinvent themselves as viewers turn to digital entertainment options
You've heard of William Hung, the most famous American Idol reject, but have you seen Gary Brolsma?
Brolsma shot to fame after posting a video clip of himself on the internet doing the 'Numa Numa' dance to a Romanian pop song. His clip has drawn more than two million hits and spawned hosts of admiring imitators, which puts him in the ranks of that Darth Vader kid, Ghyslain Raza.
The 19-year-old American in many ways represents the sweeping shift taking place in the entertainment industry.
Hung is broadcast television - so old paradigm, so last year. Brolsma is new paradigm - digital entertainment - an age in which anyone with access to the internet can find 15 minutes of fame.
But Brolsma's celebrity is not important. What is important is that audiences are actually tuning in. This could have profound implications for broadcast TV. Television already competes with the internet for viewers. The coming era of 'internet everywhere, any time on any device' will multiply choices for viewers. To compete, content creators will need to make their wares available over multiple platforms or else go extinct.
'As choice becomes extensive and time remains limited, attention becomes a scarce resource,' said Saul Berman, media and entertainment partner at IBM Business Consulting Services.
'In a digital environment, consumers will want to be more interactive with their content. They expect to be able to participate in the content creation process, to customise content and have a value-pricing arrangement based on when they want to receive the content, how they want to view it and what they want to do with it.'
IBM is predicting a 'pervasive media' environment by 2010 as fixed and wireless broadband access proliferates.
Audiences who today sit on the sofa watching TV will not be there tomorrow, forcing media companies to open up their archives and make old content available on any device at flexible prices. New programming, such as the latest episode of TVB's Minutes to Fame, will also have to be made available through multiple devices.
'There will still be seven days in a week and 24 hours a day, but we will have a rolling abundance of all the media and content available to us all the time and from all different places,' Mr Berman said.
But it is not just the broadcasters that have to worry. Ad-skipping technologies such as TiVo are forcing marketers to think about their future.
'The world is going digital,' said Kent Wertime, Asia-Pacific president of OgilvyOne worldwide. 'The broadcast model is still the dominant advertising model ... as marketers still have to build awareness of their brands. But in real life just having awareness is not enough. Marketers have to get close to the consumer and deliver content specifically requested by consumers.'
In the past marketers based their campaigns around TV commercials, extending their pitches to other advertising channels such as the internet or radio. Now, advertisers are creating dedicated marketing campaigns for specific media. For example, consumers frequently use the internet to research purchases for high-end products such as cars or homes before making a decision. To reach these consumers, advertisers must create exclusive marketing campaigns to attract these audiences.
Last year, American Express launched a series of internet-only 'webisodes' featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Superman on its website.
The campaign attracted nearly 2.4 million visitors over a seven-day period, and many viewers ended up applying for an American Express card.
'Asia will see a lot of new forms of content getting into their home,' Mr Wertime said. 'Traditional media are increasingly looking at how they can become digital.'