Is there a road, a path, dare I say it, an information highway to discoverability? With a multitude of channels and platforms, how can producers and broadcasters make sure that audiences can find their program and that audience members can find the programs they want? The CRTC is trying to figure this out with their Discoverability Summit to be held next May in Toronto. The first of two lead up events happened yesterday in Vancouver (the second, in French in Montreal, happens December 3, 2015). “En Route to the Discoverability Summit: Content in the Age of Abundance” was live streamed for those who couldn’t get out to Vancouver or hadn’t known about it. I livestreamed it and I’m going to share my overall thoughts with you.
Tony Chapman, marketing expert and frequent speaker, gave the keynote. As you would expect from a marketing guy, the talk was all about the power of brands and a shift from brands going through broadcasters to the consumers, to going directly. Gary Maavara of Corus asked Chapman for specific advice for broadcasters. He said Corus should delete one of their U.S. programs, take the money and commission three programs from teams of Canadian producers and brands. The brands would then distribute the programs globally. To me, that sounds like the brands are the owners and the producers are service producers. That would not be good for the independent production sector. I don’t see the upside for broadcasters in doing that either, unless they had a share in the global revenues. And I’m not sure what that would mean for the content, if it became a glorified product sales tool. There are good examples of branded content (i.e. “Carmilla” and Kotex) but being limited to product promotion does tend to stifle creativity.
That conversation set the theme for the session as the roundtable (Sara Diamond of OCAD, Tessa Sproule of Vubble, Ling Lin from YouTube Canada, Nathan Wiszniak of Spotify, Ashkan Karbasfrooshan of WatchMojo and Moyra Rodger of Magnify Digital) also spent a lot of time talking about the disintermediation of the content supply chain (to use marketing-speak). The new paradigm is apparently the content producer (either funded by brands or a self-funded YouTube creator) reaching the consumer directly.
However, there were no answers to the question of the day, which is how will consumers find the content that they want in this new universe? It was clear that everyone is struggling with this problem but there were no new solutions presented (sorry but ‘transmedia’ and ‘gamification’ are not new ideas, particularly when the terms are misused). I’ve been saying to anyone who will listen that I want a site or an app that will tell me where to find the programs that I want, whether they are on broadcast or iTunes or Shomi or CraveTV or Netflix. I am tired of bingeing a show on one platform only to find myself a season behind and not know where to find the next season. Apparently there’s a word for what I’m looking for – universal search. We have all agreed that it is needed but no one has yet figured out how to do it.
I found it very odd that the CRTC would host a session that said that the future of content was going to bypass the broadcasters. Based on the responses from Bell Media in the Q and A I think they were too. They see themselves and their brand as a necessary filter or guide in the very crowded content universe and until I get my universal search app I think that’s going to be true.
We should hear details on the next stage in this process, the Discoverability Summit, in the coming weeks. We’ve been promised a unique and international event. Stay tuned.