TV is from Mars, the Internet is from Venus

After a day at Un-festival, attendees reported back to the main festival about the discussions and demonstrations. Suw moderated the panel.

Paul Cleghorn: Tape it off the Internet (TIOTI)

Chris Jackson: freelance broadcast tech and strategy consultant,

Rosie Brown: TV producer (didn’t quite catch all that Rosie does)

Hannu Rajaniemi, with ThinkTank Mathematics

Ian Forrester: BBC Backstage

Suw kicked off the discuss by asking Paul about Tape it off the Internet.

Paul Cleghorn: TIOTI uses a traditional EPG feed for core meta-data (from Tribune), but they cross reference this information with places where people can download these shows. They are looking to make this (information about the programmes) extendable by allowing users to edit it. People can add to the limited programme listings.

Suw: You are pulling in a lot of sources of data. This isn’t just licenced data.

Paul: We’re going into various commercial services and TV websites. We connect that up with general information about the TV show. We’re hoping that to structure that into an open data source.

Paul talked yesterday about creating their own micro-format for television data.

Chris Jackson: You can turn it on or you can choose actively to see a show. You had to do quite a lot of searching. Now we have many other opportunities. Who should own the data? The broadcasters? The broadcaster or the content creator should put this out. The BBC has put out some data. It would be good if there was something like a wikipedia.

Suw: What are the benefits to programme makers?

Chris Jackson: Television has always been open.It’s important to keep it open. That is the best chance for them to get an audience. Most broadcasters don’t allow you to use that information unless you pay them or their agents. There are tremendous beneifts about getting people to watch your show.

Suw: What about the social tools around TV scheduling?

Paul: When it comes to broadcasters mixing it up with the community, you have people doing fan sites. People want to do this. Broadcasters might not. But you see the power of communities around programmes.

(He gave the example of Lost.)

Hannu: There is a huge opportunity to create recommendation engines.

Chris: There are people who like the Amazon system of system. But there are also great systems to build to see what your friends are watching. It’s an easy way to watch what your friends are watching.

(Last year at IBC, I saw a mockup by a major set-top box maker that showed a proof of concept allowing people to navigate through related material being broadcast at that moment or in the near future, material recorded on the hard disc of the set top box and also see what their friends are watching. This is an idea that will be part of mainstream technology in the near future.)

Suw: I want to talk about Zattoo. They are rebroadcasting live broadcast streams online. They are broadcasting live streams over the internet. It’s more interesting for what they can’t do than what they do. We are seeing a chilling effect by the licencing machine. Rosie, do you agree?

Rosie:We all know that there are a lot of people out there who are breaking the rules.

Ian: The quesitons to Zattoo were very telling. Can you time shift? No. Well, there are a lot of services that allow you to time shift.

Chris: There are quite a few contradictions with licencing. With a little playing, you could archive all of primetime video broadcast for a month on less than a $1000 worth of hard drive. With the iPlayer, you are limited. When you record over the air, you have a lot fewer restrictions than if you use the broadcasters’ download player.

Suw: You can see it as a threat or an opportunity. How do we communicate from the technology community to the broadcasting community that this is not a threat but an opportunity.

Ian: That’s why we’re sitting here. I would like to sit down for an hour with broadcasters.Her’s the legal way, here’s the illegal way. But how do you communicate the opportunity without talking to people?

Rosie: The broadcast community is a creative opportunities. They are probably not interested in the technology. But there are stories that can be told in new ways that are so exciting. If you aren’t reaching out and grabbing with this both hands, then you are mad.

Suw: In the podcast, people talked about how immersive, but Zattoo said that people want to watch video while they are doing other things. It’s very easy to get caught up that there is one way that people watch TV. There is a broader perspective than that.

Chris: I think that games are in between TV and the computer. You don’t want to come home after a long day at work and play on computer.

Suw: This brings us to the alternate reality games of Licorice Film called Meigeist. There were blogs, videos on YouTube. They branched out from online into SMS. The characters would ring some of the players. There were events where players could meet actors in character.

Rosie: What fascinated me about that was that people didn’t need to get involved but they could. It was designed to work on the internet, video over the internet, and other platforms. It was designed to do all of those things. It was not TV taken onto the internet.

Hannu: We’re bringing new levels of location awareness into mobile games, experiences with lost bring lots of interactivity. It is not just TV repackaged into other forms. If TV does have a future, it about increasing levels of interaction.

They briefly discussed the nature of the shared experience of television and then quickly turned to the reduced costs of experimentation.

Rosie: We don’t have to wait for 6m pounds and see what happens in a year. We can do something by next year. You can take continual feedback. You don’t have to take big risks.

Ian: I recently talked to someone who spent 650,000 pounds 125,000 pounds on a trailer, and put it up on the internet and wondered why no one was watching. That was a huge risk to take. CORRECTION from Ian: It was 125,000 pounds 🙂 650,000 would just be stupid 🙂 (What do people normally pay for a TV or film trailer?)

Paul: For a long time TV was the most efficient way to deliver an audience to advertisers. Now, you can do it much more efficiently on the internet.

Chris: I think there needs to be a bit of a disclaimer. Great TV content still costs a lot.

Suw: We are used to think about thinking of an audience in terms of quantity, not in terms of quality.

(She talked about the blog Treonaut that focused on the Palm Treo attracted a lot of people interested in the smart phone, and Palm and third party companies developing software, peripherals and accessories for the Treo knew to advertise there to reach Treo users.)

Hannu: To bring the nature of mathematics and social networks, there are key nodes in the community. There are key hubs in any community that drive the whole community forward.

Ian: There is this trend of giving bloggers a product. People who write that blog are the centre of this huge community.

Suw: What was the one highlight?

Ian: Hard. TIOTI. Following TIOTI for a while. To see how far it comes, to see legal and illegal content in the same place is amazing.

Paul: It’s not illegal in some countries.

Paul: The highlight for me was Trusted Places and the amateur videos.

Chris: I was interested in the range of expertise.

Rosie: I was struck by the gulf between the broadcast industry and the technology people. I was hoping that events like it could bridge the chasm. I was excited about the level of engagement. People didn’t just sit there. I think that every project there got moved on. It was so fast and so exciting.

From audience: There are two parallel culture. The higher you up in TV organisations, fewer geeks. People who barely can do email. TV is a lot more competitive. Internet is a lot more collaborative. You’re going to have to go to them. It could lead to a new era of cyber-docs (documentaries) or cyber-dramas. There is an embarrassment about their lack of knowledge.

They are at the heart of 360 degree commissioning. There needs to be a convergence.

Ian: This is the very first time that we ever did this event. It is our first step. Our thoughts about next year.

Deborah Forrest with Studio Scotland: Looking around to see if any channel controllers are her. I hope not. I was Rights Lab in London recently. We had Bebo, Google and AOL, and the very last session, controllers. Didn’t have a Scooby(clue).

If we had a quarter million hits at sites at one time, the hosting, downloading versus streaming. Commercial aspect, we hate to bring it into this. But how do you pay for it? Streaming versus hosting. Some of programmes, some exposes, when exposed to larger audience, there would be a lot of reaction. What is the implication of a whole load of hits at one time?

Paul: This is a hard sell. But once something is broadcast, it is on the intenet. Maybe you should put it up there.

We are keen that people get paid. We’re not a bunch of pirates.

Audience: Once ship the bits. the physics of that work very nicely. Counterintuitive unless you live in that world.

Kojo, design director at ITN: The problems we are facing are culture. There is a technical culture you are coming from. TV coming from creative culture. You guys are trying to get the broadcasters attention. You communicate in a very technical way. It might be frightening. They are not technically minded. You were talking about business models. They are in business of making programmes and in the business of making money.

I have Two things say: 1) Next year, involve the broadcasters. 2) Add a production thing for this. It would be helpful to have demonstrations so that we can see what you are talking about.

Brian Butterworth, I take issue, saying geeks aren’t creative. We are really creative.

Rosie: That’s why we’re changing the world.

Paul Barossa, man in the audience: I run a music production company but have a background in psychology. The meaning of communication is the response you get. You have to look at another angle. You have to look at way that you are communicating the message.

Mike Butcher: I went to the TV Un-festival. Word that dare not speak its name: Facebook. Geeky and trivial but indicative of social networking going mainstream. When my mom asks me what it is about, I know that it is something different in ways that maybe blogging isn’t. Should broadcasters create their own networks or plug into networks?

Chris: Facebook takes things one step more. When you sign up apps, it tells you friends who have signed up before for that app.

The Gulf: Cultural, technical, political

That was about the end of the discussion. But Suw and I have witnessed the cultural chasm that both the Un-festival participants perceived as well as the festival participants at other conferences. We saw it at the Guardian Changing Media when it seemed that the executives were talking about media in a completely different way than we experienced it using a mix of traditional media and the internet. We saw it in how the media executives talked about brand in a way that was completely foreign, alien and alienating to us.

I don’t think that the gap can be put down to the differences in a technical culture versus a creative culture. I do think that there is something in the difference between the ‘sit back’ culture of television and the ‘sit forward’ culture of the internet.

In the end, I think one of the things that came out of the festival session was the lack of knowledge of the internet at senior levels of television companies, and more than that, I keep going back to something that Steve Yelvington said about newspaper companies that the people with the most internet experience have the least political capital in their organisations. Much of this is cultural, but it is also political both in terms of within the industry but also within the organisations. A friend of mine once said of the major broadcaster that he worked for: “There are managers who don’t want to create the future, they just want to control it.”

It took 30 years of circulation declines for US newspapers before those declines seriously threatened their business. It will take more pain before major broadcasters feel the need for change. As was said during the session, television has been the most efficient way to deliver eyeballs to advertisers, but now the internet is challenging that. It’s best for broadcasters to experiment now – especially with the cost of experimentation decreasing. It is far better to change while you have the resources to manage that change rather than delay and have change forced upon you.

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