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Non-traditional distribution: a revolution from above and below

October 8, 2015

Brian Morris   

Blog contributor

The megatrend for the broadcasting industry right now is non-traditional distribution. Changes in consumer behaviour, owed to more powerful mobile devices and more ubiquitous access to connectivity, are forcing the hands of broadcasters to innovate further and find new ways of delivering content to the viewing public.

The consumer-driven challenges facing broadcasters are two-fold. From a technology perspective, TV is no longer the main output for broadcast content – with people viewing their programmes on PCs, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and games consoles.

Broadcasters, therefore, are focusing on delivering content in multiple ways – whether that’s across a satellite or IP network or to a 4K TV as opposed to a smartphone screen. While 4K/HDR are trending technologies that are at the forefront of broadcasters’ minds, the path to mainstream adoption remains unclear.

Therefore, the priority for broadcasters is not necessarily what resolution content is delivered in. It’s the breakdown of the linear distribution model of traditional television, where the whole family crowds around the television at 8pm on a Saturday for fear of missing primetime shows, which has given broadcasters new headaches.

The phenomenon of on-demand services such as TV catch-up and Netflix means that consumers are customising their own viewing schedules around their daily lives. One such example of this is the concept of ‘bingeing’, whereby consumers will hoard shows airing at different times to watch at a later date or become immersed in a full season of Game of Thrones, which they watch in one sitting.

A further complexity is that while the Internet gives consumers more freedom over what time they watch their favourite shows, instant, real-time communications platforms, particularly social media, have contributed to a culture where there is more pressure to watch popular shows at the time of their original airing.

If you’re planning to watch Game of Thrones the day after it has aired, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and any WhatsApp group you participate in are strictly out of bounds if you want to avoid spoilers. The incredible power of live micro-blogging and real-time reaction to TV presents another distribution challenge – piracy.

As I wrote about earlier this year, piracy has become a major issue for broadcasters, with the final episode of Game of Thrones season five being illegally downloaded 1.5 million times before it had even aired. So, not only are broadcasters looking to harness the power of non-traditional distribution methods to get their content to the consumer, they also face a battle to decrease illegal broadcasting.

When asked if non-traditional distribution constitutes an evolution or a revolution, I would have to say that it is a revolution – a dramatic and wide-reaching change in behaviour and operation.

Furthermore, it is a revolution from above and below. Market forces such as better access to mobile devices, connectivity, online services and applications has given broadcasters a broader toolkit with which to get content in front of viewers.

On the other hand, consumers are driving innovation from broadcasters by consuming whatever content, whenever and wherever they want. Whether that’s a lazy Sunday Netflix binge in front of their smart TV or laptop, or catching up with Game of Thrones while commuting, using their smartphone or tablet.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how the non-traditional distribution revolution has sparked innovation from from an operational perspective, as broadcasters look to produce content that sets them apart while delivering it to their viewers in a unique and affordable way.

Learn more about Tata Communications’ Media Ecosystem in the video below