Where are we going?

It says a lot about human nature and our exceptionally complicated history
Shaun Ebelthite
Shaun Ebelthite

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It says a lot about human nature and our exceptionally complicated history that the first two TV broadcasts generally considered to be powerful enough to reach outer space are Adolf Hitler’s opening of the 1936 Olympic Games, broadcast to Hamburg and Berlin simultaneously … and the first Mickey Mouse feature films – in Technicolor, no less.

So quaint were our achievements of the 1930s in terms of broadcasting that they seem almost absurd in comparison to the degree of technological excellence and rapid innovation seen in the industry today, and yet the broadcast of the 1936 Olympics represented cutting edge technology at the time.

And before we become too proud of our modern achievements, it’s worth noting that our first radio signals haven’t even covered one five hundredth of the distance to the edge of the Milky Way. To put that in perspective, if you wanted to send a signal from Dubai to London, it wouldn’t have even left the perimeter of the city yet.

The rapidly changing nature of the modern industry is impressive, though. YouTube is an OTT platform that makes distribution of content accessible to almost anyone. Every minute, 300 hours of new content is uploaded to YouTube alone.

“The only people that take risks are YouTube producers, because they have a far lower cost base than TV producers,” Nick Grande, managing director of Channel Sculptor in Dubai told the audience at our Broadcast Forum 2015.

The focus of that forum was the value of content and where it is going. Because of the increased competition from OTT video content, many predict that the value of linear TV, in terms of advertising, will decrease and one need look no further than Saudi Arabia to see that OTT content, when done well, has the potential to be extremely popular.

The comedy channel EyshElly on YouTube, the most popular in Saudi Arabia, has 2.3-million subscribers, just under 10% of the population. It’s encouraging then to see other Middle East content producers taking advantage of these new broadcast mediums.

The lifestyle channel Dubai On Demand by Ti22 Films is one such example. According to CEO Reim El Houni its business model, which plans to broadcast the show only on YouTube, will give it greater engagement with the audience and this is perhaps the future of broadcasting.

Linear TV isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but these new distribution channels provide for unrivalled engagement with audiences. This is the power of social media and the reason it’s becoming such an important part of broadcasting.

“Too many brands treat social media as a one way, broadcast channel, rather than a two-way dialogue through which emotional storytelling can be transferred,” laments the award-winning branding consultant, advertising creative director, and social media specialist Simon Mainwaring. What the Broadcast Forum 2015 seemed to show was that this is where the value of content lies in the future, in two-way conversations between viewers and broadcasters and content producers.

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