Who owns the direct relationship with fans?
In the past, the gatekeepers of the living room have been broadcasters, pay TV operators and more recently telcos. But perhaps that's all about to change since CE manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Sharp, Philips, Apple, Google and others have decided to kick the gates wide open with Over the Top (OTT) opportunities which push through new opportunities via SDKs and APIs that allow for open standards and third party development.
All3Media, with technology partners easel.tv and Paywizard, have created the first producer-to-fan direct VOD application, called A3M - Best of British TV - which will be launched this week in the UK and in the United States in April and it's the first UK indie to create such a platform, which will enable viewers to bypass services such as LoveFilm and Netflix as well as broadcasters. The app will unleash 230 hours of its catalogue TV shows including Skins, The Only Way Is Essex, Midsomer Murders, Derren Brown and Peep Show on internet-ready Samsung and LG televisions from its over 20 independent production houses.
"The new All3Media app will allow us to experiment with different payment models, to continue to get closer to our viewers and to experiment offering our content in a range of territories. It is estimated that there will be 500m connected TVs in the world in 2015 so now seems like a good time to experiment and learn about consumer behaviour,” said Andy Taylor, All3Media’s commercial director in a press release.
All content will be available on a pay-per-view basis, though All3 commercial director Andy Taylor said the firm planned to experiment with pricing options over time. Per-episode costs were yet to be confirmed.
Taylor said that depending on how well the apps performed, it may also look to expand in more countries and on different connected TV, mobile and games system platforms in the future.
However, he said that the development was all about “experimentation and innovation” and the firm had “no revenue target” in mind.
“If we think there’s something interesting happening, we will look at other territories and we’ll also look at other platforms like iPad and iPhone. Platforms and devices where we can develop an app and once we’ve developed for that platform, it is global, and you can go live in as many territories as you want,” said Taylor.
In the music industry direct-to-fan relationships have played a huge role in it's evolution since the enormous impact that scarcity reduction has had on recorded music caused by the Internet.
The Direct-to-Fan model bypasses the major record label model that historically controlled radio, venue, and distribution channels, and lets the artist (or the team that supports that musician) create interest in their music directly with their fans, identify those fans, market directly to and develop relationships with those fans, sell directly to and monetize those relationships, and use those relationships to expand their fan base.
The main problem with this model moving to the TV realm - is the fact that most 'Fans' have no idea who write and produce what they watch. They know who delivers it... what channel it comes on. But in TV land - brand recognition for the creatives who drive forward the vision and write the scripts are usually lost in a blaze of closing credits, while the living room gatekeepers have traditionally been the brand front for consumers.
Endemol and Freemantle are moving towards creating new formats that integrate and 'own' the second screen as a way to create more engagement directly with viewers. Perhaps we will see more production companies testing the VOD waters when it comes to offering up content direct and building new levels of brand recognition with the fans themselves.
When it comes down to who deserves to own the relationship with fans. I say those who create the entertainment certainly do - and it's been a long time in coming.
Will see direct relationships between production companies with brands and agencies in this new realm?