Commentary

Where is the Living Room?

Empty-Livingroom-

That was the prescient question asked by Mitch Oscar, EVP of Televisual Applications, MPG at yesterday's lively panel on convergence at OMMA Global. Following Gian Fulgoni's keynote and outline of the great promise for video advertising online, Gian joined a panel on "The Living Room Wars: Convergence or Chaos" that included Oscar, Anthony Soohoo of CBS Interactive, Bill Niemeyer of The Diffusion Group, and Ginny Musante from Microsoft Interactive Entertainment. Mitch's question was on point. "Where is the living room," he asked. "I have one but I rarely visit it." What he meant was that the video experience we say is "converging" in some living room somewhere is also on the move and highly personalized. It is happening for each of us a bit differently on game consoles in the kid's room, on connected devices anywhere and on individual desktops. "Are we talking about segmentation of everyone having personal experiences?" He asked?

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Soohoo joined in. "We look at it in a different light. What is the living room? Our view is that last year was the first year that video went portable." Likening the arrival of the iPad to the rise of transistor radio, he said that it is the removal of video delivery from the living room that is the big game changer. Connected devices will change the way we think about making video content.

Soohoo's idea sounds right but I would love to see a panel sometime soon on how portability can and should cause video programmers to rethink content after 60 years of thinking inside the living room box. It is arguable whether the Internet itself and desktop screens have successfully created new forms of video aside from the checkered history of Webisodics. Perhaps portability will bring new programming in the same way that portable radio spawned a new concept of the radio day part.

Responding to questions about the recent deal CBS cut to put classic TV on Netflix, Soohoo says that the network is looking to see how consumers respond to having TV content in multiple different places. He warns there is the risk of consumer confusion with TV being "everywhere" but "nowhere," in that the user doesn't really know where to go for what they want. By starting with older TV that is not active in other channels, the network is taking a "stairstep" approach to "to see what the consumer does with the video" before deciding where to go next. "The audience engine is CBS TV and around it we spend a lot of time discussing what is and isn't cannibalistic."

As moderator Laura Martin of Needham & Company pointed out, however, almost everyone on the panel presumed that TV broadcast content would remain the anchor tenant of video. When it came to discussing scale and CPM parity between TV and online video, Gian suggested that increasingly online video assets will be tied to on-air media buys to achieve both. "I don't think CPMs will ever converge," said Soohoo. Broadcast has the scale advertisers need, although online will deliver back unprecedented levels of data and insight on audiences.  He does not expect to see online video achieve the kind of spend TV does. Niemeyer wondered, however, who really would control the advertising as interfaces like Google TV's and perhaps an Apple-ized TV set created overlay experiences. Soohoo defended his network hegemony of course, arguing that complementary experiences like Apple TV seemed more likely to capture consumers than the overly ambitious Google TV.

Ginny Musante of Microsoft, not surprisingly, felt that in addition to content, software and end user experience would be the things it takes to win this war. She promised TV that will be more personal and social and suggested that we keep our eye on this gesture-based interface Microsoft introduced with the new Xbox Kinect device. What could be better than "raising your hand" or "raising your voice" to play a video, she asked?

I don't know about that. First, when did remote controls seem like some kind of heavy lifting that begged for a better solution? And there may be a good reason to keep that remote in one person's hand. What happens when three or four pairs of hands battle for the Kinect's attention to decide what plays next? Well, there is a "living room war" waiting to happen. Wherever or whatever that "living room" may be.
1 comment about "Where is the Living Room? ".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 2, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.

    My wife emerged from the bathroom this morning to show me a video she was watching on YouTube on her Blackberry that was sent to her via Facebook. Anybody who just read that sentence (and understood it) who still presumes "that TV broadcast content would remain the anchor tenant of video" needs to climb down from their ivory tower - or at least stop talking at seminars unitl they understand what's really happening out here. The video she was watching? A nicely edited video piece about a Great Dane that had adopted an oprhan deer and was raising it like a really big puppy...not a bit of "TV broadcast content" to be found. To quote the band Missing Persons (from the 80s) "...something will change, then you won't know."

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