Sunday, June 08, 2014

BroadbandTVcon 2014 Fits Right Into Silicon Valley

I opened up a brand new chapter in Alfidi Capital history by checking out BroadbandTVcon this month.  I only had time to attend the first day but there was enough content to spark my interest in the sector.  I took my traditional corporate badge photo prior to the first keynote, but it came out less than perfect.  Tough luck.  I was still there.

The morning keynoter from HuffPost Live could easily have a second career as a comedian or motivational speaker, although maybe there isn't much difference.  Media executives are all about panache.  HuffPost's discovery that most web article commenters engage each other instead of the article content makes sense anecdotally.  Low-information people log on to media sites to become stars themselves rather become more well-informed.  That's why HuffPost's elevation of their engagement screen to "above-the-fold" positioning in the UI drove their traffic up.  They have discovered some interest in deep dive formats beyond short-form broadcasts, but I am not surprised that such "analysis" comes from amateurs who offer only emotional hooks for the audience.  It is obvious that mobile adoption is driving content towards short-form and low-information content.  I have seen the future of webcast media, and it is downscale.  I like HuffPost's revelation that humans don't share what they search, but rather they share their "aspirational selves."  They search naughty images but share cute cats.  Our superegos are such hypocrites; advertisers meet our id-level desires as well.  I would do video broadcasting myself, but I need strong metrics.  I need monetization metrics that track subject matter (by keyword), length, page views, social media shares, page placement, live vs. recorded contrasts, and video / text mix per article.

Panels are always fun and I assembled a whole bunch of lessons from the random executives on hand.  Cable TV's value proposition is declining and rising percentages of subscribers show interest in cord-cutting.  People won't pay premiums for reduced value forever.  I have long believed that a la carte subscription channels solve an untapped pain point for dissatisfied cable customers.  I now believe that social / mobile broadcasters must deliver news and first-run shows to tap even more pain points in"time-shifted" broadcasts.  Netflix's success with "House of Cards" shows us the way.  The ad people here at BroadbandTVcon thought that ads in video-on-demand (VOD) offer huge upsides in monetization and targeting.  I cannot believe how dumb cable broadcasters are for thinking that bundled channel packages enable content discovery among customers.  Those idiots have never used web searches, or social media, or maybe even email.  I'm certain that the next decade will bring the destruction of the cable TV business model that has existed since the late 1960s.  Say goodbye to the multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD).  Cable TV will end up like VCR, a quaint tech that had a window of opportunity in the pre-digital age.

Get ready for Alfidi Capital's ultimate curveball prediction on broadband monetization.  The basic monetization metric in broadband will mirror mobile e-commerce:   LTV of a viewer compared to their acquisition cost.  Measuring both will make some traditional audience scoring methods useless.  Broadcasters will  have to migrate to the RTB ad networks on the Web for tracking data.   You heard it here first.

If you want to know who's really watching what on which devices, don't ask the traditional broadcasters just yet.  They have not used programmatic marketing equations until now.  Their interest in RTB data will metastasize when some broadcaster acquires an RTB network to do more than just master their algorithm.  They want to know the CPMs showing where dynamic ad insertion into VOD pays off the most.  Nielsen does track online campaign ratings (OCRs) but I'm not going to assume broadcasters know how to price their offerings until they plug RTB data into programmatic solutions.  The lack of NTSC-type standards for dynamic ad insertion into mobile devices means any broadcaster generating the most attractive traffic from RTBs will absolutely own standards definition.

The disguised sales pitches from various sponsors required me to read between the lines for more universal lessons.  Monetization strategies for VOD come in different flavors:  subscription (SVOD), transaction (TVOD), and advertising (AVOD).  That breakdown reminds me of the mobile game sector's discovery that interstitial ads work better than banner ads.  I suspect the most successful mobile broadcasters will use RTB data predictions of optimal CPM to manage their content streams.  Over-the-top (OTT) content is more than just the junk mail offers from broadband providers that I immediately recycle.  It's the business model that will program all those VOD ad types.

Smartphone users must be frustrated when they discover that their smartphone will only work as a universal remote for TV if they have a household subscription for all services - phone, Internet, TV - from the same broadband provider.  Even with universal standards, service providers erect walled gardens to prevent consumers from bundling competitors' services.  The downsides aren't just for consumers.  Broadband companies can't run predictive analytics if they can't see what customers are watching or surfing on competitors' networks.  These companies will have difficulty predicting the ad inventory they'll be able to deliver in their fourth quarter, which drives about half their annual ad revenue.  The upside for entrepreneurs is that walled gardens to defeat transcoding (video file conversion from produced formats to playback formats) generate pain points that entrepreneurs can solve.

I asked one speaker whether the big social media companies are serious about defeating fraudulent accounts and paid "liking" that rips off advertisers.  The answer I got is that they will have to adapt prevailing broadcast standards identifying non-human traffic that advertisers don't want to reach.  ComScore's tech is one representation of those broadcast standards.  I still think Facebook and Yelp will be slow to fully implement comScore and Nielsen audits as long as they are under pressure to generate earnings that justify their inflated P/Es.  Zuck and others want the gravy train to run as long as possible.  Social media companies do use auditing data to estimate the target rating points (TRPs) they can generate from gross rating points (GRPs).  Both social media companies and broadband providers know that Big Data offers a big analytical leap over the previous use of small samples and panel data to measure audience size.  The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) is driving the train on Big Data metric adoption in mobile / social / broadband integration.  Multiplatform users are the drivers of most of the digital audience's consumption, in true Pareto 80 / 20 fashion.  This means omnichannel ad buys (radio / TV / Internet) require metrics for reach, frequency, impression, GRP, and TRP.  This stuff matters to advertisers.  It is transparent to broadband subscribers.

Television isn't like the cable-vs-satellite choices for the lower-class families on my block when I was growing up in the 1980s.  Broadcasting has become atomized to match the delivery channels of multiple mobile platforms.  Audiences for both long-form and short-form TV have fragmented down to the individual viewer.  You make your own network now.  The BroadbandTVcon customization of television fits the spirit of Silicon Valley.