The traditional business model that broadcast and cable providers have been able to sustain for years is becoming threatened. It has given way to a more tumultuous time with new competitors challenging their authority, and alternative digital outlets beyond the binary options of Over-the-Air Broadcast or Pay TV.
Where once a cable provider was the only game in town, viewers can directly bypass them via an OTT device like the Roku or Apple TV and create their ideal on-demand experience. For the first time in this industry, the power now shifts to the hand of the viewer. They are much harder to pin down and even harder to hold onto. They value personalization, quality of service, and ubiquitous, multi-device viewing, and can easily drop a provider who fails to pass the test on any of those fronts.
“Digital Darwinism” is a fate that threatens most organizations in almost every industry. Innovation, digital services, accessibility, reliability, consumer friendly pricing, and—most important of all—compelling and relevant content are what will define the winners from the losers in this technology arms race and many incumbent media providers are already falling behind. Innovation is now occurring at a much faster clip with the arrival of new digital entrants unbound by legacy systems and advances in consumer technology with open platforms. Incumbents are challenged by an ingrained infrastructure that is ill-equipped to provide the type of digital services viewers now expect. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and YouTube have been operating with a digital foundation firmly in place. They can easily outmaneuver larger, traditional media providers as a result.
So what can incumbent providers do to deliver digital services at this late stage with the infrastructure they currently have? It’s a not simple solution, involving big changes on their part. Traditionally, the C-Suite at broadcasters have had their attention divided between production, media supply chain, and distribution. One group of executives would be geared on issues while the other would be focused on broadcast technology, engineering and media production resources. This separation is inhibiting real innovation. The answer lies in consolidating technical capabilities in a manner that allows for agile media product development and support to meet consumer demands. While this type of paradigm has been the norm in studio production – it has not been the same with software and systems development.
Accenture has helped a number of media companies in their digital evolution and have distilled some best practices for creating a modern IT platform:
- Be Ready to Fail - Arriving at an innovative digital service requires a lot of trial and error in order to figure out what will or won’t work. In the new digital age, there is much more room to experiment and try new things as long they are leading to the goal of a better experience. This is completely atypical to the worldview of traditional media providers where a second of outage could do irrevocable damage to their standing in the market. With the legacy burden on the shoulders of traditional providers, broad experimentation is fundamentally necessary. To get there, they need to adopt a very different cultural mindset where failure is just a springboard to later success. Achieve buy-in from your executive leadership, give your employee the tools to experiment, and bring in new talent that are willing to take risks for higher rewards.
- Collaboration vs. Integration – IT Infrastructure was built along in-house silos which at the time were ideal for the way people consumed media from one provider, through only one medium. Digital services require knocking down those walls for an open ecosystem that allows viewers, content, partners and providers to move across a number of mediums. When evaluating your current infrastructure, look at options that facilitate collaboration and integration between these parties – allowing innovation to be built through an enabled ecosystem around the product.
- Being Agile vs. Doing Agile - The belief that a shark must constantly be moving to stay alive is now relevant for media and entertainment providers. They must be able to make fast business decision in light of the changing expectations of the audience. Achieving rapid agility requires velocity in funding models, business engagement and delivery techniques, supported with analytics and corporate governance models for measurement and direction.
- Achieving Different Levels of Speed – Being able to rapidly deliver products and experiences is important but not everything needs to go from zero to 60 right out the gate. Identify areas of your business where an increased pace is necessary and other areas where a more moderated approach would be best for managing risks – supported by a strong integration strategy. This will preserve your IT Strategy from getting too far ahead of itself.
- Multi-Speed IT Architectures – The same measured approach is applicable to your IT systems as well. You can’t throw out an entire legacy system and start from scratch but what you can do is decouple systems of record and systems of engagement via open service architectures. This initial step will help manage the ability to balance high-opportunity changes and high-risk changes in parallel.
Following all these steps will get traditional broadcasters and cable companies to master multi-speed IT which in turn will lead to new innovations, growth and high performance. Accenture research clearly show that viewers still trust and prefer incumbent television providers over new competitors—as long as these incumbents are able to able to deliver a rich, digital experience that responds and reacts to consumer needs, their future will remain secured.
Gavin Mann is the global broadcast industry lead for Accenture's media and entertainment practice.