On 18 and 19 February, AIB – the Association for International Broadcasting – hosted its first #iamabroadcaster Global Media Summit. The two-day-long conference, held at London’s Royal Institute of British Architects, was a global event, featuring speakers, panellists and delegates from over a dozen different countries, across five continents.
#iamabroadcaster featured seventeen conference sessions, balanced with ample networking and fine dining courtesy of RIBA, covering topics from the pros & cons of outsourcing, brands as content-makers, the search for new business models and new ways of storytelling in the digital age.
One of the key takeaways of the conference was the need – an urgent one – for broadcasters to expand their vision beyond the traditional broadcast space, and that new space is not just a technological and social space – but a physical space as well.
Africa is set to become the go to market for the 21st century. Still hampered by infrastructure challenges and local political uncertainties, the continent is growing in technical and business competence, tech development and hunger for media and information, promises explosive growth in the next decade. The continent’s potential was repeatedly referred to throughout the conference as an incubator, or a laboratory, for the next incarnation of the global media industry.
John Momoh, CEO of Nigeria’s Channels TV – one of the continent’s consistently top-rated networks – addressed the conference with some remarkable stats on Africa and its future. It is estimated that by 2020, Africa’s collective GDP will be $2.6 trillion with an estimated 600 million internet users. Momoh didn’t see the final switch to digital TV taking place in Africa for another five years, however. Often lacking the “last mile” in connectivity in rural regions, African media is dominated by mobile phone usage, with a higher percentage of “advanced” mobile use than other developing regions like South Asia. Momoh said of Africa’s mobile future, “Imagine what will happen to mobile television when there are more than 300 million users of smart phones and tablets.”
Leveraging this mobile use has already been the core strategy of Radar, whose founder, Libby Powell, spoke about the charity’s training of people from marginalised communities in SMS-based journalism. Powell showed footage of Radar journalists, some with extremely challenging physical handicaps, who have become respected journalistic voices locally. One of Radar’s mobile reporters was a principal early source for news in Sierra Leone on last year’s Ebola outbreak.
Tabitha Elwes of Prospero Strategy, in a thorough analysis of Netflix’s current positioning and how it acquired it, was enough to send a chill down most broadcasters spines. Netflix, a company with very little overhead compared to incumbent networks, has made a point of spending money on new content at a level that is impossible for the traditional broadcasters to match. It’s been said that the Cold War was won by America’s simply spending at a level the Soviet Union simply couldn’t compete with – Netflix might be adopting a similar strategy, but with a spend on premium content instead of arms. Elwes underlined in her address that the OTT market has proved far more volatile than the traditional space, and what goes up, can just as quickly come down. She noted that Netflix’s biggest streaming content competitor, Amazon, is still lagging behind the Netflix juggernaut. “But,” she said, “they’re Amazon. They’ll figure it out.”
#iamabroadcaster also featured a special video appearance by director Richard Curtis, calling for participation and partnership in his global Radio Everyone project. Radio Everyone will feature a 7-day online stream, beginning the week of 28 September, supporting and increasing awareness of the the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
Throughout the conference, delegates were treated to a series of short vox pop collections, conducted by TIMA (The International Media Associates), asking young people in London, Paris, Washington DC and Teheran about their media consumption habits. To the amusement – and dismay? – of many delegates, appointments with the TV set were of extremely low priority in virtually every response. Universally, it seems, video content – call it “television” if you like – is consumed on computers, phones and tablets, at the time and place of the viewer’s choosing.
TIMA’s special onstage Q&A with a group of twenty-something media viewers confirmed that TV watching and linear broadcast are a secondary, or tertiary, viewing experience. Some of the young people on the panel didn’t even own a TV and rated buying one a low priority.
But rather than being a cause for despair, #iamabroadcaster showed that the media industry has blossomed from a single stalk into a bouquet of possibilities for reaching audiences. The theme of “opportunity” reappeared again and again, with a new future on offer to any broadcaster willing to reach out and get it.
The AIB website will offer complete coverage of the #iamabroadcaster Summit, in the coming weeks, including audio and video of the conference sessions both here at and at our YouTube page.
A selection of quotes from some of the #iamabroadcaster sessions:
“People have got very good filters for bullshit. Authenticity is becoming more important in content” – Tom Roope, Creative Director of The Rumpus Room
“Just adding wider color gamut and high dynamic range would substantially improve HD” – Michael McEwen, Director General of North American Broadcasters Association
“We’ve been shocked by how broadcasters have given away their streaming rights” – Lippe Oosterhof, CEO of Livestation
“I recently moved into a new flat and immediately wanted internet access. I didn’t even think about getting a tv” – participant in Young Person’s panel by TIMA
“The price point Netflix is willing to pay for original content has blown incumbent broadcasters out of the water” – Tabitha Elwes, Partner at Prospero Strategy
“I’ve been to countless conferences with men in their 50’s…and they continue to talk about traditional growth models” – Henrik Eklund, Founder & CEO of Newstag
“When we talk about changing media habits we usually talk about technology, but we need to also talk about relationships and story” – Holly Goodier, Director of Marketing and Audiences, Future media, BBC