Broadcasters need direct viewer relationships

Elisabeth Murdoch warned television executives that “traditional” players ignore new digital platforms “at their peril” and that a direct relationship with the viewer is essential to ensure survival, at the keynote speech of this year’s Edinburgh TV Festival.

elisabeth murdoch
Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival

Murdoch also stressed that the industry had to move on from measurement based on the traditional impressions-based model, when speaking at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival.

Murdoch pointed to the “explosive emergence” of the “made-for-online” video category as a real game changer, more so even than Hulu, NetFlix and Youview, in the annual James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

She said: “platforms like Youtube and Big Frame are now commanding audiences of up to 120 million subscribers to their channels and are “not just channel brands, like MTV and Nickelodeon, but networks like Viacom”.

She added: “Youtube is beginning to behave like a market leader: believe at your own risk that their platform is based on homemade videos of cats in washing machines or dog called Fenton. Youtube is providing hundreds of millions of dollars in financial stimulus to its network partners and using their 800 million unique monthly home page views to curate and promote content.”

She pointed out that brands and talent are using Youtube to create “direct to consumer relationships.”

“Digital platforms can translate audience trust into transactional relationships incredibly efficiently and without the middle men.”

She urged the traditional media owners not to be outflanked by new models, as the record labels were, but to create direct-to-audience channels and said: “Let’s not be entombed by what we once defined as a television screen.”

She said: “We seem to have got the emphasis wrong between building a community and selling a commodity. The imperative to build community has massive implications to how we approach the television business. We all know that the traditional eyeballs based advertiser model is ultimately not sustainable.

“Commercial broadcasters must figure out how to have a real one to one relationship with each and every one of their viewers – if they don’t, they are destined to become increasing marginalised and dependent on the occasional national live event.”

Murdoch also said that an obsession with data “to enhance smart ad sales” was not enough and the true goal was to deepen the relationship with the audience to allow “a more interactive and transactional relationship with the viewer”.

Alongside this a change in measurement is needed and she pointed to YouTube’s cost per view model for advertisers called TruView, which only charges clients when the ad is watched to completion and the audience can choose to skip after five seconds. “The uptake is astonishing and the audience is empowered.”

She added that meeting these challenges will take collaboration among producers, broadcasters, advertisers and second screen services.

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