The Brave New Content World: 8 Challenges for TV Content Production Businesses

Never ever before has the world been a better place for TV content production than in these days. Never ever before has it probably been more difficult and risky to become successful with TV content. While we can witness the heydays of TV, we also see so many production companies struggle to find their success – and not to speak of all the too many would-be-producers. In this brave new world of TV content any producer faces a set of challenges. It is also only the bravest and daring ones who are going to be successful.

Challenge 1: Distribution

The distribution landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. In the past the outlets for TV content where TV channels only; later Video tapes and DVD emerged. Then came the digital revolution, came broadband and came Internet giants like Facebook. Today a viewer has tons of different ways to watch TV or a TV show. From cable and DTH as a base commodity, audiences consume TV via OTT, VOD service, Webstreaming portals, on their mobile and so forth. This complex distribution environment poses a challenge for producers: shall you focus on selling your production onto a TV channel only? Should you risk launching your own webstreaming service and maybe even rely on advertising income only? What about all the proper licensing rights – is catch up, storage on NPVR etc. covered…. The complexity is often hard to handle and can be quite overwhelming.

Challenge 2: Niches

The variety of distribution outlets created also the opportunity for many niche communities to flourish. Now every genre seems to have its own TV services. Every theme is addressed via a specific digital outlet. Digital tribes around such themes are being nurtured and managed often by players that are not typical TV buyers. For instance, a publishing house of hiking maps might have grown its portal into the place to go for all topics related to Hiking. They might now want to add video content and could be a good client for anyone who produces such content. Finding and matching the needs of audience, gatekeepers and producers in this niche world is often difficult – especially as it is a completely different business model or involves players who have other background and expertise.

Challenge 3: Globalization

The way how distribution works these days has also impacted how content can now reach to far away places all around the globe. A TV show was usually produced for local audiences and markets only. No one would have dared to sell his show in a foreign market, let alone bringing the show format only there. But content is global now. We used to have Hollywood only; and now many markets around the world watch telenovelas from Latin America; or enjoy movies produced in Bollywood or Nollywood… and any new “–wood” can emerge any time in Eastern Europe or Asia. One has to be prepared – even only in the back of his mind – to go international; to maybe also try selling his format in foreign markets; to be ready to dub a show or have the transcript ready for such localization. Content travels these days – faster than we think.

Challenge 4: Viewing Habits

Again distribution technology and the new TV outlets played a major role in this challenge. People watch now TV differently. The classic Saturday evening TV show is history. People consume TV whenever they feel like. They might watch it alone, they might watch in on their tablet in their bed or while riding on a bus to work. Even more challenging: binge watching is a different new way of TV consumption. Hence, TV content is also now released differently. Platforms like Netflix have demonstrated the impact and success with releasing complete seasons of a TV series. Overall the TV consumption has increased. This is good news: More people watching more TV increases also the demand for TV content. The cake gets bigger everyday, but how people consume their slice or bite of the cake has become more diverse.

 Challenge 5: Everyone is a producer

Technology has not only changed the distribution landscape, it made it easier for everyone to become a producer. No family event, no holiday or anything else you wish: you can now record it and publish it on the internet. Mobile phones are high end cameras, digital portals like Facebook allow for live broadcasts from everyone. The content noise is like a tsunami. You as a producer must find a way to stand out. You must demonstrate that you offer more creative, high-quality content. This means investment in equipment, people and the creative process. When everyone can cook, only the best can become Chefs. That is hard work and dedication – and often also requires deep pockets of financing your productions.

Challenge 6: Social Media

In today’s world social media has become a common place. Even the remotest little bakery shop has its Facebook presence. People twitter, snapchat, whatsapp etc about what they watch on TV. It is instant and it can create hype or doom for your production. A good TV production will be ready to address this: every production needs its social media presence; the more sophisticated ones build the social media activities into the creative process and make it a part of their production.

Challenge 7: Interactivity

If you think in traditional way of TV production, you will think in terms of broadcasting. A one-way communication from one sender to many recipients. Todays TV world is however, a multicast environment. Many senders reach out to many recipients – and this in a multi-way world. Today the recipients send feedback via social media or even interactive TV features. Audiences interact in many ways now with their TV shows: by simply participating in casting or voting shows; by more complex channels like social media comments or in the ‘dark’ when they discuss in dedicated forums about your show. It is not uncommon now that a production reacts to these messages and adapts a show based on feedback from the audiences. Some shows are even so daring in that they let the audience decide on how the show evolves. And the future has some more challenges in store: virtual reality is at the doorstep and will promise to be the ultimate interactive TV experience.

Challenge 8: Risk

While certainly all previous challenges are a risk in itself, the risk of doing business in general has become bigger in TV production. TV Channels or other buyers might require you to produce full-blown pilots. You must pre-finance such pilots and are alone with the risk of failure. TV shows can be launched and then stopped on short notice. TV channels do plan their program slate in advance, but are also more willing these days to change everything in mid-season. Only companies that are willing to take more risk than others, who have the resources and culture to face such risk are more likely to produce that next bit hit. It means naturally that the power of production gravitates for some time to larger production houses who can absorb a flop financially more easily and risk to produce various pilots. But it is also in the nature of larger organizations to become more risk-averse as they grow in size. This is the opportunity for new, daring, small entrepreneurs. Production has become one of the most entrepreneurial-spirited industries. You see some successful production now that come from smaller players, from non-traditional players; from people who believe in their dream and go for it.

In summary, TV production is nothing for the faint-hearted these days. A successful production company needs daring people who face this challenging new world. It requires often huge funding budget and a lot of patience to get return of investment. It must most of all have very creative, brilliant and dedicated people. Are you now ready to face the challenges and will surprise as all with the next big TV hit?

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