MAD Perspectives Blog

HBO Playing Catch UP

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 27, 2014

October is being hailed as a milestone month for TV due to the announcements from HBO and CBS regarding their direct-to-consume streaming services. It is generally agreed that the motivation was money (isn't' it always?) and a desire to align with the needs of their respective audiences. However, not much has been written about the need to stay relevant; or, the benefit of actually having a direct connection with their audience.

The evolution of televised content is storied. In fact, it's time for someone to tell the story of Cable and Pay TV (a la Ted Turner and John Malone), in the style of Mad Men regaling the exploits of ad men during advertising's golden age or AMC's lesser known, but equally compelling series, Halt & Catch Fire which dramatizes the birth of the personal computer revolution. The use of satellites to deliver content to cable head-ends forever changed our TV viewing experience. Thanks to HBO and Ted Turner, we were able to access premium movie content and 24 hour news in our homes. 

Even with HBO's creation of original content in its early days, it was primarily known for delivering marquee sports events (e.g., 1975's "Thrilla in Manila between Muhammad Ali" and Joe Frazier) and Hollywood movies. It's notable original content emerged during the 1990s with The Larry Sanders Show, then followed by Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City and so on to today's Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. Broadcast networks were forced to take note when HBO garnered award nominations and ultimately began winning the lion's share of the annual awards for quality content.

HBO set the stage for quality drama and comedic series. They established a high standard for cable networks, many of which simply syndicated broadcast television content. Struggling USA Networks succeeded in a turnaround resulting from producing character-centric original programming such as Monk, Burn Notice and White collar. Other networks have subsequently followed suit, syndicating content for daytime hours while offering original programming during primetime.

However, it was Netflix who set the stage for the current upheaval. HBO will always be known for a Pay-TV business model enhanced by producing original content to attract subscribers. But, Netflix initiated the use of subscriber data to capitalize upon audience search and consumption patterns to produce content to fulfill their desires. This is the benefit of a streaming service. The direct connection to consumers that Netflix and Amazon has not only allowed fans to consumer content based on their schedule, they have also enabled the concept of binge viewing. No longer must an audience wait for the weekly broadcast of Homeland or The Good Wife. They can enjoy an entire season over a weekend, if they choose.

HBO and CBS will certainly appreciate bumps in their revenue streams, but they will also gain much greater insight into audience behavior. Their ability to capture and analyze fan reaction and resulting behavior will enhance their ability create content that viewers want to watch. Certainly, they have already been monitoring social networks to gain insight into the real-time emotions of their audience. Of course they seek superior original content that aligns with market trends for all things fantasy, sci-fi or vampire oriented (although don't we have enough blood suckers on-air already?). But, that is not enough.

Much of Netflix's success comes from their well-documented obsession with data. This is where HBO must play catch up, solely because they have been missing one important dimension of data - the insight that comes from having a direct streaming relationship with subscribers. Understanding how subscribers discover the content they wish to view and correlating that data based on previous content consumed, genre, actors, time of day, month or other demographics, deliver incremental value to content producers. Content strategies, scheduling, pricing, talent - they may all be impacted by the data collected. And, in return they may instigate further data. HBO is certainly not suffering from a lack of quality programming. To maintain relevance in a world where consumption patterns are changing dramatically, HBO must play catch up in offering a streaming option, if only to capture the relevant data.

What's your perspective?

 



Trends Proving True in 2014

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 14, 2014

I love this info graphic as it was created earlier this year and uses data to support its definition of the trends I've seen in 2014. I've been writing about them and their application for the media & entertainment and telco industries. It's a nice mid-year reminder that the trends are also the realities for clients as they invest to improve their storytelling capabilities.



What's your perspective?



The Marriage of Data and Storytelling

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding the story in the data. This relationship between data and storytelling continues to evolve as increasing amounts of data are available to us. Domo released an enlightening info graphic that exclaims that Twitter users tweet 277,00 times and that Apple users download 48,000 app severy minute of every day. These are just few examples shared in the infographic, which reflects that data never sleeps. With its chronic insomnia, data provides an unending source of stories to entice, educate, elucidate, engage or enrage readers. 

Even as big data is on the cusp of entering the trough of disillusionment phase of Gartner's Hype Cycle, data will continue to be the source of validation for all levels of business strategy and the stories we tell to explain those strategies. Our stories take the form of quarterly earnings, product announcements, R&D proposals, go-to-market programs and customer experience initiatives. The data, that we collect from internal and external sources, structure and unstructured, serves to support those stories. Data and story are intrinsically bound until death do they part.

Of course in any marriage there are supporting cast members. At this wedding, the maid of honor is social media. She provides context in the form of voluntary updates. She can be emotional, repetitive, succinct, and pragmatic. She adds color to the story and sometimes is the instigator of the story. On the other side of the aisle is mobility. He is the enabler of location based data, subscriber data and usage data. He provides a different kind of context to big data, delivering the insight that allows big data and storytelling to target their efforts even more specifically. By bringing these players together and consolidating the value each of them provides, we move closer to the using data prescriptively. Understanding the context of the data is, for now, the secret sauce. This allows our stories to not only share what and when something is happening, but why. We will be able to suggest better solutions for our customers because we will more fully understand the issues that are enablers versus those that are inhibitors to healthy relationships.

Stories have been a key element of all business, from those that introduce a new norm (Ford), found a business segment (HP, IBM), challenge the norm (Apple, Google) or provide new ways to connect (Bell Labs, Facebook). All stories have a common foundation, data - about the market, the product and the opportunity. Data can exist without story, but its value would not be appreciated. What's your story?

What's your perspective?




Mobile at the Intersection!

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 23, 2014


Mobile is changing the face of business as we know it. It sits at the intersection of cloud, social and big data. While much focus in the mobile phone market is about devices and apps for the consumer, I would argue that Microsoft's decision to finally release it's Office suite as apps for both iPhone and IPad is a true barometer reflecting the increasing use of these devices for business purposes. Why is mobile so important? Aside from the flexibility that it provides users, mobile is driving use of cloud based services as the device itself does not function in a typical client/server fashion. These devices are the route to success for social networks as proven by Facebook's continued investment and focus on mobile. They are changing the shape of industries from healthcare to media to financial services. 

How? Healthcare is perhaps at the forefront of the M2M conversation with the ability for devices to share critical patient data with other devices. Or with the ability to simply encourage users to live healthier lives through wearables and apps capturing and tracking cardio activities or comparing healthy food options. Mobile solutions for healthcare also include patient appointment reminders and medication alerts. Doctors can provide virtual consultations and use software based diagnostic tools that incorporate a patient's medical history to make health recommendations. In the background this is all enabled by cloud, big data and social networking concepts.

The financial services sector has adopted mobile for banking, payments and brokerage transactions. Not only can we review account balances, we can deposit checks, transfer funds, research investments and perform transactions. And, the mobile payments industry (which perhaps is as much about e-commerce as it is financial transactions) is still maturing as companies like Square, Dwolla, Google Wallet simplify payments via your mobile device. The amount of data that is now available to financial institutions thanks to mobile banking allows banks to customize their marketing efforts, creating both efficiencies and new business opportunities.

The media and entertainment industry has been turned on its ear by mobile. Everything from cameras to media workflows to ad sales and advertising itself is going mobile. On the operational side, mobile solutions are lowering costs for broadcasters providing coverage of sport events like the FIFA World Cup. Mobile has also forced significant shifts in media workflows as multichannel consumption is now the norm, not an option. This means content producers must consider HOW they will enable content to be distributed and consumed on a wide variety of devices. Mobile allows social sharing of content, opinions. It is the second screen for entertainment. Media is social. It generates consumer data and content data - all of which is beneficial for operational and financial purposes. And, it is all increasingly happening in the cloud.

The industry at the heart of all? The industry without which none of this could happen. No, its not Apple or Google or any of the device or operating system providers. Its the telecommunications industry. they provide the bandwidth, be it 3G, LTE or WiFi, that allows our devices to connect to their networks and access the information, entertainment or people they desire. Not only does mobile "validate" the existence of communication service providers, it offers them new business opportunities. Companies like AT&T and Verizon, offer a variety of services to help businesses, large or small, develop and/or capitalize upon the use of mobile apps. They provide device management solutions to help businesses address the "Bring Your Own Device" desire for many employees. They provide data analytics services to visualize how, when and where users are accessing information.

That brings the final piece of the puzzle to the table. Data. Lots and lots of data. Data about the subscriber, where they are, what they do. Patterns can be illuminated. Browsing habits can reveal new opportunities. Data about devices and networks. How much data is being transported across networks. What type of data is it?  Structured? Unstructured? Is it related to entertainment, social media, sports, financial services, health, e-commerce, travel? It's no wonder that big data analytics vendors are squarely focused on mobility and the ecosystem that exists around it.

Our mobile devices are our most important accessories. How many times do we double check to make sure we have our devices with us when we are laving the house. They are our link to FINDING information -  about products, competitors, customer service, market trends, industry insights and more. They improve our productivity. They save business a lot of money through time saved. They help business invest in new markets and new solutions, through the use of time saved elsewhere. Mobile devices have changed the way we live and the way businesses will evolve.

What's your perspective?



Big Data Making the Connection

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 16, 2014

With all the buzz about big data, the primary assumption is that it will help companies better understand their customers. This is not wrong, but is is just one aspect of what big data can do. In his recent conversation at HP Discover, Brian Kraznich CEO of Intel, spoke about how big data can help us uncover "known unknowns and the unknown unknowns". For example, we know we can uncover data that will help us understand consumer preferences. It's just a matter of aggregating and analyzing the data from multiple sources. But, what about making the connection between various data points that reveals something we never imagined?

Industries from financial services to oil & gas to telecommunications & media are all using big data to improve their businesses. How big is Big Data?  It's big enough that there is now a data visualization award at this week's Cannes Lions event - the "Oscars" of the advertising industry.  It's important enough that data scientists are paid more than business analysts at financial services firms.

We've all read about Netflix's use of its subscriber data to influence its production of the hit series "House of Cards". However, Netflix is also using data to identify the impact of Quality of Experience (QoE) on the subscriber behavior. For example, what is the rebuffer rate? What is the bitrate? What is the network capacity? One benefit in correlating this data is that it allows Netflix to make smarter decisions about where and when to cache content, usually near the "edge" of the network, to better server their customers.

Netflix is not alone in its focus on the network. Cable operators and telecommunications providers have long been monitoring and measuring network performance. They capture data from across their networks in order to provide a better a subscriber experience, but also to reduce their operational costs. They have adopted big data analytics solutions to address concerns such as extracting data from call data records and comparing it to network alerts with the goal of  improving customer service. The analysis may reveal that a small number of network nodes are responsible for the majority of customer issues. The service provider can then pursue options such as providing online self-service tips, performing proactive network maintenance or performing network equipment upgrades. The results include reductions in the volume of calls to the call center as well as reduced on-site visits, improved customer service margins and happier customers.

A benefit for all service providers is the ability of big data analytics to unify systems for network monitoring, management and troubleshooting. With a variety of hardware and software in the network and at the subscriber premises,  aggregating disparate data is a challenge. Big data solutions enable capture, aggregation and analysis to:

     - measure network usage

     - reduce network equipment costs

     - perform fraud analysis

     - uncover bandwidth issues

Getting ahead of the curve on these issues will allow cable operators, telecommunications providers, wireless carriers and OTT Players to manage their networks more efficiently, which ultimately allows them to serve their subscribers more effectively. Big data provides the insight to prepare them for the increasing demands on the network to provide connectivity, deliver high bandwidth video and enable interactivity.

What's your perspective?



Finding the Story in the Data

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 09, 2014

Batting averages. Market share. Global warming. Presidential front-runner. What do all of these statements have in common? They are statements based on data. They are the beginning of a story. Whether it is a journalist reporting or an analyst writing or a brand positioning, the basis of the story is in the data. It's little wonder that big data analytics has become the catchphrase for every marketer (myself included!).

We've always been data driven. The only difference now, is that we have MORE data. It has always been able to find the data to support any type of debate. However, now individuals are voluntarily sharing their thoughts and opinions on the internet and social networks. It is the power of this unstructured data, especially when combined with existing structured data from existing systems, that is attractive to brands. They have the opportunity to tailor a story to meet specific, self-defined customer needs. But the challenge lies in how to sift through all that data.

Enter - big data analytics. Analytics is now big business. Every IT company has jumped on the bandwagon. IBM and its Watson supercomputer are positioned to provide personalized advice to doctors, financial analysts or online shippers. While HP Vertica is sifting subscriber data at telecommunications companies around the globe and analyzing social data feeds for NASCAR.  Not to be outdone, Teradata is providing greater customer insight to the hospitality industry and food suppliers.  Each of these vendors is providing the 'secret sauce' to help their customers connect with their customers by telling the most relevant story. And, it all comes from the data.

A report from Columbia's TOW Center for Digital Journalism, speaks to data-driven journalism. But, hasn't journalism always been data driven? Yes, but instead of having staff researchers manually scour files and reports, or spend hours online searching for the right data, there are an increasing number of tools to help them uncover the data to create or support the story.  They are not alone. The term data scientist has gained great cache in the past few years. Whether it is for advertising firms or for financial services, the value of data has never been higher. 

One only needs to look at the history of US presidential elections.  Remember the predictions Dewey defeating Truman in the 1948 US Presidential election? Newspapers had determined that they had their story and went to print with "Dewey Defeats Truman" on the front page. Perhaps access to more data would have prevented that now famous error.  Today's pollsters have many more tools available to them today as proven by Nate Silver's eerily accurate predictions in the 2012 US Presidential race.

Brands are learning how to tell their stories with a deeper understanding of their customer base. Dove has hit home runs with their ads reflecting real women rather than models. Telecommunications vendors are modifying their marketing outreach to reflect the knowledge they have about subscriber consumption. Advertising conglomerates, perhaps the kings of storytelling, have invested in analytics to improve ROI for their clients. Big Data Analytics is not a passing fad, it is a logical step on the journey for meaningful, measurable communication between individuals and businesses. Have you found your story in the data?

What's your perspective?




Big Data - Changing the Business of Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, April 21, 2014

Every industry is focused on data, yet the broadcast industry has perhaps been the most obvious in its use of data to drive audience. From Nielsen black boxes to the use of social media to capturing subscriber data from set-top boxes, content owners and distributors aggregate, analyze and assess data. Their goal is attracting an audience relevant to their advertisers as this is their source of revenue. The Guardian refers to this increasing focus on data as Moneyball TV.  Examples ,regarding industry's love affair with data, are everywhere.

  • The new era of data driven content started with Netflix and their analysis subscriber data to justify the production so its hit series House of Cards. But data is being used to drive more than content, it is the basis for delivering new experiences to an easily distracted audience. There is perhaps no greater influencer in the broadcast industry than sports. New technology is typically developed with sporting events in mind and then adapted for other uses. And, sports broadcasters and fans alike love data. Have you ever had a conversation about your favorite team that does not include a significant data point? Both the NBA and NASCAR have invested in combining live viewing experiences with incremental online data, or is it the other way around?

NASCAR has created a Fan Media Engagement Center, using HP's Interactive Media Command Center, to synthesize social and online data in real-time to create greater brand engagement with its fans. The NBA has created the Video Box Score, a destination site combining its comprehensive statistical database with videos of EVERYTHING that happens in a game. The relevant videos behind the statistics are available online to fans, giving them both context and a more engagement experience when reviewing game data.

Less exciting perhaps, but equally important is Time Warner Cable's aggregation of data from public sources and online media combined with their own detailed customer profiles. The resulting insight allows TWC to deliver targeted multi-channel advertising campaigns.

At last week's NAB Show, in Las Vegas, big data was being discussed by vendors across the media supply chain from storage vendors such as Quantum, Hitachi Data Systems and EMC-Isilon (all touting their storage system capabilities) to RSG Media (capturing data by managing rights and royalties across the content lifecycle) or Aspera, an IBM Company (managing the delivery of billions of data sets. The hunger for relevant data never dies. The media industry, like others, can be overwhelmed with data. The key is to clearly define needs and find the tools to extract the most relevant data points which when correlated and analyzed provide meaningful knowledge. 

This desire for deeper insight about customers, content, processes, and revenues is driving the need for technology to gather and analyze data and the tweaking of business models to take advantage of it.

What's your perspective?



Real-time Takes on New Meaning

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The sense of immediacy that occurs at live events is now pervasive online. We expect to find information immediately. We connect to our friends via social networks with an expectation of instant response. Brands and marketers have been focused on understanding the impact of real-time data for the past few years. The broadcast industry has also been ramping up its capabilities for real-time. Where once upon a time we could wait until the evening news to review the days events, that is now unacceptable.  Social media has forever changed this paradigm. Now, broadcasters are incorporating real-time capabilities across their operations, in the form of breaking news news incorporating user-generated content, real-time voting, real-time audience engagement or real-time advertising.

There was significant focus on real-time at the NAB show last week in Las Vegas. The adoption of IT solutions such as Cloud and Big Data are in one part due to content producer and broadcaster need for real-time solutions. These solutions will help them become more efficient and advance their capabilities for audience engagement. How is real-time related to these big trends?  Let's consider a few examples.

     - Avid announced its Avid Everywhere. Recognizing the demand and need for geographically dispersed teams, while taking advantage of the best talent available, Avid Everywhere provides new ProTools capabilities in the cloud enable connectivity and collaboration with remote team members in REAL-TIME or offline.

     - Never.no, a leader in Social TV technologies, showcased new products Story and Spots. While cloud-based Story was the "big story" with its ability to integrate real-time posts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Vine into live broadcasts (think chat shows or talent contests), I found Spot to be quite interesting. Social Spots provides the audience with the ability to submit its pictures to be inserted into a pre-defined advertising spot. What may have been a anonymous ad now becomes immediate and relatable due to the real-time insertion of real people.

     - Decentrix, provider of Media Business Intelligence Solutions, introduced programmatic ad buying for broadcasters. Their solution not only collects static data from traditional sources, but aggregates and correlates data from real-time sources to define the true value of ad inventory.

     - AMD's FirePro workstation graphics cards provide performance enabling creative talent to develop and edit 4K content without typical latency concerns. Their technological focus on speed and responsiveness enables the next generation of ultra-high speed visualization environments.

These solutions impact the technology and business of broadcast. They improve operational efficiency of workflows. They invite greater audience engagement through audience participation or enhanced content development. They allow broadcasters to identify opportunities to capitalize upon their own assets. Isn't this what any business desires?

The focus on real-time is the result of the world we now live in where immediate access to information is the norm. The adoption of smartphones and the availability of content via 4G LTE networks has influenced our psyche. As a result, our expectations in the workplace or at home are for solutions that support our need for instant gratification. As an industry whose fortunes are intricately dependent on its audience, the ability to provide real-time content, whatever form it takes (news, advertising, engagement, dialogue, etc.) will continue to influence the creation and advancement of enabling solutions. I expect the discussion around real-time to become as dominant as those around cloud and big data.

What's your perspective?



What's Trending at NAB2014?

Peggy Dau - Monday, April 07, 2014

I'm en route to NAB 2014 in Las Vegas. Since I'm not a vendor I can enjoy a less frenetic NAB experience.  For the uninitiated, The National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas is "Where Content Comes to Live" - to borrow their tag line. Anyone involved in the creation, management, monetization, distribution and consumption of professional content attends. It's a LOUD, BRIGHT industry event. It's also an opportunity to understand the nuts and bolts behind the content that we enjoy at the movies, on broadcast or cable TV, or on the Internet (e.g., Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and others).

While the broadcast industry still utilizes a lot of proprietary solutions to capture, produce and manage content, it is increasingly adopting IT solutions.  As an IT gal, given my past history at Hewlett-Packard, I'm always interested in seeing how the big IT trends impact this industry. As I arrive in Las Vegas, I know there will be a lot of discussion about 4K or UltraHD content. This is an industry specific conversation that impacts the consumer marketplace in the shape of TVs, the telecom industry due to bandwidth required for distribution and the IT industry due to demands on server and storage products. But, 4K is hot topic unique to this industry.

What about Big Data? What about Cloud? What about Social Media? Yes, they all impact this industry and are increasingly shaping the future of this industry. 

  1. Media companies are investing in platforms to gain greater insight into audience desires. Why? To create the content that will attract an audience that attracts advertisers. 
  2. Cloud solutions are evolving for live production as well as post-production. Why? To provide greater flexibility, manage operational costs and improve time to market. 
  3. Social and Second Screen solutions are integrated into existing platforms and workflows. Why? To increase audience engagement and optimize the consumer experience…and create an incremental advertising revenue stream.
I'm interested to see how solutions i've seen in the past have continued to evolve (e.g., Never.no, Forbidden Technologies, Aframe). I'm curious to see the rebranding of several broadcast stalwarts (e.g., Harris/Imagine Communications, Grass Valley/Miranda). I'm looking forward to uncovering new solutions related to advertising, licensing and rights management as will as multi-channel content management & distribution. I'm happy to see former colleagues and meet new ones. 

It's NAB 2014!

What's your perspective?



Big Data Uncovering Audience

Peggy Dau - Monday, March 24, 2014

When thinking about big data, it's easy to get lost in the statistics and forget that this data actually represents people. It is an amalgamation of demographics, sentiment, issues, and interests. Big data is the combination of structured data captured by systems and unstructured data found online. When all this data is aggregated and analyzed, the goal is to gain a better understanding of customers, collectively or individually. Is it any wonder that the media & entertainment industry is hungry for data?

The symbiotic relationship that exists across the media & entertainment industry reflects the interdependencies each segment has on the other. Broadcasting cannot exist with advertising. Advertising cannot exist with broadcast or publishing. Studios and their theme parks reinforce key brands. All of them are focused on audience, which means they need data - and lots of it. Using TV as the example to prove the point, the underlying value of the TV audience is to enhance the value of ad inventory. In fact, the advertising industry's investment in big data is significant.

GroupM, part of WPP, announced the creation of a new unit to focus on data driven audience buying. They want to achieve sophisticated audience targeting by analyzing the highly granular data that is now available about what the TV audience is doing on and off TV. audience behavior on screens other than the TV now provides greater insight into audience sentiment and needs.  In addition, WPP has a pan-company practice called the Data Alliance that is responsible for helping brands and their agency partners connect diverse information sources.

However, big data is not just about audience as related to TV and advertising. Shazam, the mobile app that identifies the music and media playing around you, is using the data about what songs or media users upload, correlating that data with critics reviews (positive or negative) to make predictions about which artists are up and coming or what styles of music are appealing to consumers. The music industry is acknowledging the power of big data with three recent announcements that reflect the desire of the music labels to identify future artists - and subsequently new revenue.

Other participants in the media industry such as cable networks, satellite operators, communication service providers, publishing firms collect and analyze data to:

  • Improve media business insight into subscriber/viewer behaviors and preferences
  • Increase subscriber/viewer acquisition and loyalty
  • Exploit revenue opportunities across multiple distribution channels
  • Improve management of royalties, copyrights and content security
The bottom line is that big data, for media, is all about uncovering the audience. Investing in ongoing, deeper insight into audience behavior is critical to defining new revenue models and continued success. Without these revenue streams, the industry cannot continue to invest to meet the demands of its audience. It's a bit of a catch-22, but there is obvious commitment, from all segments across the industry, in collecting big data, applying relevant analytics and acting upon resulting business intelligence to influence content development, marketing, scheduling and distribution. And it all starts with the audience.

What's your perspective?