2 Trends That Impact Broadcasters & Brands
First, 3 seemingly unrelated bits of info:
1. Games channel Twitch now reaches more viewers on pc than CNN does on television, Macquarie research reports.
2. HQTrivia, a live trivia quiz played on mobile, gathers 2,1 million players.
3. People between 14-25 prefer to watch tv on a laptop, smartphone or tablet, rather than a TV screen.
You’ve guessed it, I’m going to come up with a link between the 3.
What they have in common is… drumroll… interactivity.
Twitch is interactive by nature: even if most people just leisurely tune in to watch other people play computer games, there is always a chat pane where you can have your say on the action.
HQ Trivia lives by interactivity as the entire audience is the contestant: no audience interaction, no game.
The third item? When you watch TV on any device with a keyboard, you’re much more likely to engage with an interactive element in the show, simply because it’s easy.
The 2 trends I see emerging centre around this interactivity.
Trend 1: More Interactive Touch Points Per Show
There is an evolution taking place: going from low touch interactivity, over multi touch, to 'total touch', or complete interactivity.
The Voice has 1 interactive moment, when people watching at home cast their vote. These shows are traditional TV programmes, with an interactive element thrown in.
Most streams on Twitch follow the same format: traditional one-way communication, from the broadcaster to the audience. However, unlike regular TV, there’s always a chat pane where you can engage with the player and with the other people who are watching. Certain streams on Twitch actively request more interactivity from the viewer, like when a cook lets the audience decide if broccoli or cauliflower will be used in the recipe.
In Escape Room, a new interactive live format where viewers help a celebrity in the studio with hints, the number of interactive moments is higher as people are invited to continuously help the protagonist escape. The same goes for online auctions and livestream fundraising formats: they promote frequent interactivity.
What separates these multi touch interactive formats from the ‘total touch’ formats I’ll get into next, is that they don’t entirely depend on everybody’s interaction. A viewer can still just sit back and watch the action.
The formats at the most interactive end of the spectrum are built around interaction. When you have taken the trouble to download a live quiz app, and you are ready at the exact time the quiz is on, you’re not going to sit back and watch. You’re going to play!
This trend shows that the higher the number of interactive touches producers build into their show, the more engaged their viewers are going to be.
Trend 2: Ultra-low latency makes realtime interactivity possible
Together with the growing trend towards formats that live by interactive moments, the need for speed increases. Time to get a little bit technical!
What is latency?
Latency is the time it takes between the moment the action is captured on camera, and the moment you see it on your screen.
When we look at the graph, we can map the formats mentioned above on the described latency continuum.
On the left, we have The Voice. When the presenter in declares that the voting lines are open, it doesn’t matter if there is a minute or more lag between when the words leave her lips and when you see her ask the question on your screen. Neither does it matter if your vote takes a while to travel to the studio. There is plenty of time between closing the votes and declaring the winner.
For online auctions it’s already an entirely different story. When the hammer goes down, it’s supposed to go down for everybody at the same time. Imagine if your final offer didn’t reach the auctioneer because of lag…
Interactivity and latency
The technical challenges for heavily interactive formats like live quizzes are giving a lot of engineers serious headaches. Not only do you need the infrastructure to accommodate a high number of concurrent viewers on your stream, you have to build a system that allows for near real-time interaction between sender and receiver. To cut the standard latency for TV, which is between 20 and 60 seconds, to half a second or less so that it feels realtime, is no easy feat.
Not easy doesn't mean impossible though, and I'm very proud of the team at Zender reaching very low latency for our trivia quiz app format. Read more about the subject in Zender CTO Patrick Dubois’ expert post on The Current State of Ultra Low Latency Video Streaming.
To wrap up these trends: as it happens often, the birth of innovative content correlates with new developments in infrastructure. Creativity and technology are intertwined. For broadcasters and brands that manage to combine the new technology with truly beautiful formats, 2018 has much in store.
Now, let's create, let's innovate together.