So, the Mayans got it wrong. I may be taking a chance but it looks like the end of 2012 does not mean the end of the world. Phew. The Mayans can still teach us a lot however, not least how hard it is to make predictions on what will happen in the future. It is after all that time of year where the media industry collectively gazes into its crystal ball to see what important trends will emerge next year.
The demise of the Mayans also shows us how quickly once great civilizations can disappear, almost overnight. History can be viewed as a long list of glorious empire usurped by glorious empire. This is true in business too, with the usurper 99% of the time equipped with technological advantage and foresight. And it is these forces of change that will eventually bring geeks control of the universe, them or robots.
The biggest disruptive force in media today is digital and it’s in the process of finishing off many a ‘paper print’ industry. It has forced media brands online to survive and as a result massively increased the availability of content. And, as Clay Shirky puts it “digital is becoming the mode of carriage for all media”.
Digital, through cheap, internet connected digital devices and software is having the same democratising affect as the first printing presses. More fundamentally for the ‘glorious traditional TV broadcaster and production empires’ is the proliferation of cheaply produced video content. As the barriers to entry drop so their competition set is exploding.
As Daniel Leff, Venture Partner at Globespan Capital Partners puts it: ‘We are in the early stages of a video creation, distribution, consumption, content bundling and pricing paradigm shift that will lead to fundamental and transformational shifts in the TV ecosystem’. The rate of change will ratchet up in 2013 as net connected TV ownership reaches a ‘critical mass’ and wider ownership of mobile connected devices changes consumption habits.
With access to good content, unique content recommendation algorithms, and ability to crunch and make sense of vast amounts of data (quantative and social), internet and digital first companies - Google, Apple, Microsoft (Xbox), Amazon (through Lovefilm), Netflix, etc are best placed to eat the traditional broadcasters advertising lunch. Google isn’t just betting they’ll be best at finding content viewers want to watch but they’re actually investing in their own original content too. Content remains king.
Then there are start-ups, like the Nimble TV, Vidora or Maker Studios, that could end up affecting the most fundamental change. These companies are busy working on a technological advantage based on a unique perspective on consumer TV consumption.
Of course broadcasters aren’t blind to this and are making provision through their own online media players, IPTV service Youview, and second screen apps such as Sky’s stake in Zeebox or Channel 4’s Million Pound Drop play along app. But while big broadcasters and producers remain fixated on overnight ratings as the key measure of success they will be usurped, or worse still, end up a Mayan.