Kevin MacLellan: Technology is the great instigator of media

Kevin MacLellan: Technology is the great instigator of media

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Success in a connected world depends on creativity, innovation and execution, says Kevin MacLellan, speaking at the RTS London Conference.

I see technology as the great instigator of media – it is the pebble disturbing the surface of the pond. Decades of technological developments have enabled new ages of media. More recently, the [near ubiquity] of broadband has been a major agent.…  

Two-way communication with audiences has led to advanced methods of search and discovery, news and review, video serving, data collection and programmatic ad targeting.… 

The establishment of a massive, connected audience is a boon for those whose businesses benefit from two-way engagement with the audience, but it’s also a potential threat to those whose businesses have traditionally depended on influencing and, let’s be honest, to some extent controlling consumer behaviour. 

Technology may be the great instigator of change but consumer behaviour is most certainly the accelerator of change. Whether consumers reject or embrace new products or programmes is the key to their success. 

The question is to what extent can we influence consumers’ behaviour in an on‑demand world?… The consumer is more in control – but, with an avalanche of content, we have the ability to be the pathfinders to guide that behaviour.… 

Shifting consumer behaviour has necessitated a fundamental change in the business models and platforms and networks, globally. Fixed-line players are focusing on triple- and quad-play and satellite operators are focusing on exclusive and original content. 

Online platforms are morphing into virtual MVPDs [multichannel video programming distributors]. Broadcast networks respond with more originals, more sports, more news, more live entertainment, frankly more everything.… 

There is no doubt that content creators have benefited most from these rapid changes. Producers and artists have seen a massive increase in commissions for shows, [which] has resulted in the largest increase in UK TV production ever.… 

We’ve also seen significant shifts in consumer tastes as a result of on‑demand viewing. Shorter, more bingeable, edgier, more promotable, more serialised programmes are all the rage.… The days of 22-episode procedurals and light‑hearted sitcoms filling the airwaves may be behind us. Viewers… demand higher quality and, ultimately, more expensive shows [and] we, as an industry, need to figure out how to pay for all this higher-­quality programming.… 

I’m certainly not claiming that our current models are not threatened. I just don’t see them collapsing as quickly as some believe.… As an industry, we must evolve funding models to include new streams of revenue such as subscription, sponsored program­mes and micro‑­transactions.… 

The instigators of change are many, and every change creates a ripple effect on every part of the ecosystem.… But I think the key to success is maintaining our focus on three primary growth drivers: creativity, innovation and execution. It may sound oversimplified but these three components are common to every successful television programme, network, platform, app or online site in the world.

This is an edited version of the introduction by Kevin MacLellan, Chairman, Global Distribution and International, NBCUniversal.