Cabsat News

Panel puts television in spotlight at CABSAT Congress

Amanda Turnbull, Raffaele Annecchino, Geet Lulla and Ghassan Murat at CABSAT’s Content Congress.

Experts at CABSAT last week rejected the notion that TV will be the next victim of the digital revolution, insisting that ever-advancing technologies are “changing the relationships” people have with television – but certainly not destroying them.

Speaking at the annual exhibition’s Content Congress, held at Dubai World Trade Centre recently, the event hosted industry leaders from across the entire broadcast spectrum: from media conglomerates including Viacom and Discovery Networks, to station VPs and managers, content directors, producers and satellite providers.

The series of power-panels dissected a range of subjects, including whether or not TV is failing in the modern era, changing viewer behaviours, social media integration into broadcast television, and keeping up with Generation Z’s digital natives. Ultimately, they were tasked with discussing if and how television will evolve in the face of continual, ongoing landscape disruption.

Their response was a unanimous rejection of TV’s alleged ailing influence, insisting that a faith in quality content partnered with a multi-platform, multi-function approach was key to the future of the box, where a marriage of digital and satellite will allow broadcasters and stations to provide a 360-degree offering.

Geet Lulla, Managing Director, India, Middle East and Southeast Asia at digital entertainment specialists Gracenote, was speaking on the show’s four-person opening panel entitled “TV – a failing behemoth?”

He said: “They say TV is dead? Well, I say long live television! Television has ‘died’ many times before, starting off with terrestrial broadcasting in the move to cable: it still exists now. We’re now in the digital era, where cable and satellite both still exist too.

“The consumer has far more choice now. The consumer can watch cable TV or their mobile phone. They can watch what they want to watch where they want to watch it, and when. That’s great for the consumer. For the industry, what has changed is the ability for digital to track who is watching what kind of content, for how much time, on what device, and in what geographical location. That feedback is driving a content explosion. It’s the customization of this content that will allow the consumers to get what they want, and that’s the key difference. Yes, a certain form of television will die, but a new form of television is being born as we speak, and it’s tremendously exciting.”

Amanda Turnbull, Vice President and General Manager at Discovery Networks Middle East and Africa, explained the role of modern broadcasting within that new landscape. She said: “When we talk about how we are going to futureproof television, I think it’s important that what the viewers come to do is more than just watch.

“We are moving into this space of ‘watch-and-use’. An example of this is with our cooking programme, Fatafeat, where our next development is to rebuild our app. There, you’ll be able to watch Fatafeat content, but you’ll also be able to get a cookery lesson, or order a takeout if you want to be lazy! It’s about changing this impetus, while retaining faith in fantastic content.”

This view was echoed by Raffaele Annecchino, President & Managing Director, Southern & Western Europe and MEA, Viacom International Media Networks, who explained: “The consumption of content is increasing across the different platforms. The critical point is to produce the best content.

“Technology is changing our relationship with viewers. It opens new opportunities for business models; now we can distribute and monetize our content in many different ways. We need to become more and more 360. The strategy of a truly multi-platform content provider is to have a 360 approach where you diversify and differentiate the opportunities to monetize your content.”

Ghassan Murat, Managing Director of the MENA-region for Eutelsat and the fourth expert on the panel, underlined each of those points, saying: “There will be no one platform that will eat-up all the other platforms. For me, we are going to multi-platform evolution, where every platform serves a need and a segment.”

Conference agenda at this year’s CABSAT not only put the spotlight on changes in television, its programming and direction, but also the new, ever-adapting behaviours and desires of viewers.

Generation Z, the post-Millennial demographic, form a large segment of today’s broadcast audience – and demand a truly multi-platform approach. Bhanu Chaddha, Head of Business Planning, Emerging Media, MBC Group, opined that it is these “experts in content creation” who should be listened to when creating content across these platforms.

“Their attention span is only of eight seconds – they are constantly changing platforms and their engagement is reflective of what they expect from content and also services that deliver this content,” said Chaddha.

Kaswara Al-Khatib, Chairman and CEO of UTURN Entertainment, took this way of thinking even further, stating: “Their thumb is your enemy, so it is important to create content that is engaging, entertaining and relatable. At the same time, this generation loves to see experimentation; they’re appreciative of anything that has entrepreneurial spirit.”

Playing a critical role in delivering industry-shaping dialogues, CABSAT, the Middle East’s leading broadcast media event, in its 25th edition, brought together creative visionaries on one platform guiding the region’s industry through the next revolution in the Entertainment and Media industry.

The show united the discussions around the new tech-driven media landscape with an estimated 13,000 regional and international experts, more than 250 exhibitors and over 450 brands, all of whom are part of an entertainment media industry predicted to reach US$2.4 trillion in revenues by 2021.