Broadcast battle royale: viewers in control


If you’re a content creator, owner or broadcaster, the power that you wield over viewers is nowhere near what it was five, or even two years ago.

That was one of the clear messages delivered during the recent Video Matters panel moderated by MinerLabs Managing Director James Miner. “We are a digital first region,” proclaimed Miner, suggesting that 53% of all video consumed over the Internet in Asia is now at prime time.

Look no further than the recent arrival of Netflix in Australia to witness the impact of this dramatic shift of viewer behaviour to digital platforms. According to Miner, total broadband internet traffic increased 30 per cent within a week of the launch of the on-demand video service.

Video Matters moderator James Miner with panelists Michelle Landy, Malik Ducard, Amy Finnerty, Alex Light, and Antoine Nazaret. Photo Courtesy Branded Asia.

“What is broadcast today?” said panelist Alex Light, Head of Content for Vice Australia, in reference to Netflix’s immediate rise and partnerships between TV networks and independent creators. “What this means for the commercial networks is they can’t not afford to take risks anymore.”

That may mean further recognition of a collective of YouTube creators who, in many ways, are responsible for the shift in power from traditional broadcast to more on demand and interactive content models.

“I think viewers are increasingly wanting content anytime, anywhere, across any device, any platform and in any language. I think viewers also want — in fact demand — social interaction around content,” said panelist Michelle Landy, Chief Operating Officer for FreemantleMedia Asia.

“Forty-five percent of people are utilising second screens while watching television. They want to extend the experience with other fans, (they) want behind-the-scenes and exclusive content.”

Landy referenced the recent Asia’s Got Talent grand finale in Singapore, the first pan-regional version available across cable, free-to-air channels and digital platforms. They enlisted YouTuber Dee Kosh as their ‘digital host’ for conducting interviews with contestants and talent.

Increasingly, YouTubers like Kosh are cementing the connection between viewer and content. Take for instance UK-based YouTube content creator Joseph Garrett aka Stampy Cat, who produces educational, story driven content using the Minecraft game engine, and in 2014 delivered one of the world’s most watched YouTube channels.

“We’ve kind of dubbed him as the Mister Rogers for this generation,” said panelist Malik Ducard, Global Head of Family and Learning for YouTube.

At last count, Stampy’s YouTube channel had accumulated close to 6 million subscribers and over 3.5 billion views since launching in July 2011. After each episode a map of the Minecraft world from the episode is made available for download, providing viewers an extended immersive experience.

YouTube has since established a partnership with Stampy to create a new show called Wonder Quest in partnership with Maker Studios where every episode ties into educational curriculum so when kids watch the show “they don’t feel like they are learning anything but they are,” said Ducard.

“Going back to (the discussion of) this generation who don’t see borders, this generation also doesn’t see borders between creator and viewer. The creator is the viewer,” said Ducard.

It’s that recognition of the viewer that has propelled the likes of YouTube creator PewDiePie to close to 37 million subscribers for his quirky, video game-oriented channel, and over 9 billion video views since April 2010. The magnitude of his following suggests a borderless ‘fan love’ that has never really be seen before.

“That intimacy with the audience is so important and being consistent allows the talent to again experiment and create content for all kinds of platforms,” said Amy Finnerty, EVP of Talent for Maker Studios, which represents the enormously popular PewDiePie.

Likewise, Dailymotion is encouraging its content creators to follow their audience, said Antoine Nazaret, APAC Head of Content for the platform. It’s no longer about going to viewers with a message of “here’s my channel, go see my content,” said Nazaret; it’s now about the battle for attention.

“It’s a great time for viewers where, in terms of content, supply is way bigger than demand. They have great content coming from classical media, original programming, co-programming — every model. They don’t care where it is coming from. The key point is how do you grab the attention, how do you grab the engagement.”

Don Anderson is Managing Director, Singapore of We Are Social and Chair of the Asia Content Marketing Association.