Blog post by Leah Kurta, i2 media research limited

What we watch has the power to shape who we are today and inspire who we become tomorrow.


That was the message from Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock who led the feature session at the Digital TV Group’s New Horizons 2019 Summit. In what was an open and collaborative day, Dr Pocock’s message underlined the importance of the TV industry maintaining its positive influence on society by harnessing new technologies to creatively innovate and evolve.


Prof Jonny Freeman, Leah Kurta and Polly Borden from i2 media research were among the speakers on the day of fast-paced talks, lively panel discussions and expert insights. Presenting our research, conducted with the DTG and its members, we highlighted how personalisation, 5G and new content discovery methods are transforming the TV landscape.


As the industry works to effectively exploit these new technologies, we have consulted with experts to understand the opportunities and challenges which exist, and how viewing habits are expected to change as a result of new technology adoption.


At the summit we delivered an interactive session in the format of a game show, asking delegates to vote on whether they felt these new technologies were likely to create a utopian or dystopian future for consumers and industry.


Here is a short round-up of what we found and the key insights from of our session.

(When the video of our presentation is available, we’ll link to it here - meanwhile make sure you don’t miss the photos of our talk at the bottom of this page!)


The road to tech utopia is paved with 5G


Anticipation of 5G is widespread within the TV industry. 5G offers exciting opportunities for consumers to enjoy ubiquitous content, at any time. Linear TV will be less prevalent in the future, with innovative new formats enabled by the low latency, high density infrastructure. Carl Hibbert of Futuresource Consulting echoed our insights on expected new formats, highlighting Esports as a content format to introduce immersive live event TV to viewers. This format would enable audiences to adopt the player’s view, actively exploring the game within a live immersive environment. Yet whilst some of the creative potential of 5G is understood, the full scope of new formats, requires collaboration with creative producers across industries from gaming, content production to social media and immersive.


If 5G delivers on its promises, it should also enable efficiencies for TV production, such as the ability to live edit files by multiple individuals in distributed locations; saving time and money. This will no doubt be a major benefit for remote TV production and smaller production houses, enabling them to spend budgets on new creative formats rather than on the production process.


Whilst the potential impact of 5G on TV is not yet fully mapped, industry figures do not foresee a magic TV use case to drive forward infrastructure developments. Instead, experts predicted that the transport, gaming and IoT industries will pave the way to ubiquitous connectivity. Whoever drives the rollout, it looks likely that 5G will help us towards a tech utopia with the potential benefits to the industry outweighing the risks.


Tailored TV is just a data-point (or two) away


But can the same be said for personalised TV? Anthony Berkeley VP EMEA and APAC Business Development at Velocix posed that content and advertising should be as individual as a fingerprint. Reaching this ambitious goal requires sophisticated analysis of meta-data. Data-sharing in an increasingly regulated landscape poses commercial risks to industry and privacy risks to consumers. Current models of personalisation typically make predictions for content and advertising based on analysing users’ demographic info and their prior viewing and search behaviour. For many consumers recommendation tools may feel like something of a blunt instrument, missing the mark by recommending increasingly similar content or products which they have already purchased.


But the future of personalisation is likely to take a more holistic view; as Alison Davis of IBM highlighted, emotional inferences based on viewed content are becoming feasible. With ESPN and The New York times reportedly trialling emotional targeting of ads, the ability to tailor in a way which feels intuitive to the consumer is becoming ever more likely. However, our research suggested that the industry wants to adopt new personalisation techniques with caution. Consumer trust and ethical processes need to remain front and centre to ensure users do not feel aggressively targeted.


An idea generated from our consultation which could enable innovation whilst maintaining user trust is the creation and adoption of a Unified User ID. A data-bank owned and controlled by the user which supports sharing-data across platforms, with options to disable if preferred.


How do we reach discovery democracy?


In his keynote Yih-Choung Teh of Ofcom emphasised how content discovery and consumption are changing. Discovery via YouTube is increasing among children and over a third of TV content is consumed on mobile among 16-25s. New means of discovery, whether via voice activation or personalised recommendations offer benefits to users in terms of accessibility and overall experience. Users no longer need to struggle with text entry via a TV remote control. Voice control also offers greater accessibility, especially for people with visual impairment, and recommendations reduce the cognitive effort of choosing from thousands of possible options. Yet a fragmented landscape of Subscription Video On Demand services all vying for users is still predicted to remain, at least in the near future and this will pose challenges for PSBs. Ensuring that users can find quality content in a landscape which supports multiple streaming services and user-generated content is more challenging for broadcasters. Is a world where anyone can create and stream content leading to a discovery democracy, or one where quality content is drowned out in a sea of noise?


As media platforms begin to converge, offering a way to access TV, games, social media and smart assistants all in one place, the industry suggested we need to imagine a world beyond the screen. Echoed in DTG’s long-term strategy, the aim is to work towards a converged media future with market preparation and planning for this in progress.


Back in the summit auditorium, our audience poll suggested the industry is confident that new discovery methods and media convergence will bring about a positive future for TV. Going beyond the screen may well be its greatest evolution yet.



Leah Kurta is Research Psychologist at i2 media research providing behavioural and consumer insights which inform technology and media development.