Is the Media Industry Ready to Embrace the Possibilities that New Technology Offers?

Technology is evolving constantly and has changed how media is consumed, opening a new market to the media and entertainment industry.

A few years ago, consumers used to watch whatever was on TV. Then more TV channels appeared, cable packages, TiVo, and finally on-demand services [i]via Internet. Netflix and Hulu are a good example of companies that were able to answer new consumer needs by offering Video On Demand on virtually any device (TVs, computers, phones, tablets, etc.) instead of just limiting themselves to the web or traditional TV and box set-up distribution models.

But letting users watch what they want, when they want doesn’t seem to be enough. Consumers want to be more deeply involved and interact with the content. To do so, media needs to create a bidirectional relationship with their viewers and take advantage of the new opportunities technology offers.

The Game industry has begun to address this a few years ago with the appearance of achievements and Easter eggs that reward players who are deeply involved with the game. New consoles capabilities such as the Wii and Xbox Kinect also offer new immersive experiences where players use their body to enjoy the full capabilities of the game.

But what’s happening in the media industry? Well, things are going slowly but surely.

These last few years, we’ve seen new methods of advertising movies using viral campaigns. One of the most popular is Prometheus. 20th Century Fox created a whole corporate identity on the Internet, with a website for investors, a talk by the president of the company for TedTalk 2023[ii] and even a recruitment center[iii].

Another popular campaign that went even further is The Dark Knight Rises, for which they graffitied streets in different cities of the world revealing more information[iv] about the movie or events[v] happening between the second and the third movies.

These campaigns reached an incredible level of exposure, showing that consumers want to be more involved and expand their experience beyond just seeing the movie. However, not all media companies have the same marketing budget, so what else can be done for them to engage more with their audience? Live shows are already using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to engage with their users, but is that enough? The way people watch TV is changing and is no longer limited to TV screens as more and more videos are being watched on tablets and phones. According to the latest Nielsen survey[vi] of connected device owners, almost half of smartphone and tablet owners said they use their devices as second screens while watching TV and 35% of people of them looked up information online about the program they were watching. To take advantage of this behavior, more shows and films are proposing 2nd screen experiences. Disney, for example, released an iPad app to sync to the Blu-ray™ version of TRON: Legacy to “control the journey and change the way you’re watching it.” Users can explore and zoom in and out as well as rotate 3D images to feel like they are really influencing the movie.

Daily Burn, a health and fitness company, is aware of the relevance of the 2nd screen and offers its subscribers a companion experience[vii] (100% web based) that allows them to see their progress, the number of burnt calories, etc. while working out and watching their trainers perform the exercises on the big screen. Just scan a QR code with your tablet or phone and you will have the information updated in real time!

Microsoft is also seeing this change in the consumer’s expectations regarding media and is proposing several technological solutions to create multiscreen experiences that offer multiple entertainment options to the user. Thanks to SmartGlass, users can play a video on the TV and launch the SmartGlass App in their phone or tablet. This is the case for ESPN or Games of Throne on HBO. If you’ve seen Games of Thrones, you’ll know that it is hard to keep up with all the characters. SmartGlass offers plenty of context about what you’re watching which makes it easier to follow without distracting you from the viewing experience.

With the upcoming Xbox One, Microsoft is betting on Media and new experiences, and wants to position it as a complete entertainment solution. Apart from SmartGlass, they are proposing exclusive features that will give both gamers and viewers an unparalleled experience. For launch, the Machinima application[viii] will provide unique curated content to be viewed side-by-side on the same screen as the game being played. The application already knows what the user is playing and provides walk-throughs, help, reviews and more.

If the technology is here and some companies are already using it to enhance their product, what’s the bottleneck? Content!

All those features sound great but without media partners providing new content and curated videos in a smart way, users will not be engaged.

So, to the question, is the media world ready to embrace all the possibilities that new technology offers? I would answer: almost but there is still work to do.




Ingrid Babel is the Director of Business Development at Plain Concepts Corp, a software company specialized in creating engaging custom solutions for all kind of business. She got her engineer degree in 2006 from a French “Grande Ecole”, moved to Spain to earn her PhD from the University of Madrid and then moved to Seattle to work for Plain Concepts. Since then, she worked in projects with several media companies as well as Microsoft and Nokia.