By Razmig Hovaghimian
When we think of “Future of TV,” the real question here is “What is the ‘future of content,” especially as TV channels continue to grow in staggering numbers, while prime time ratings decline each year.
It is safe to say that people will always want to watch content, and this phenomenon has not changed. In fact, content viewership is increasing each year, and there are now more than 1 billion people watching TV series and movies online.
The issue is not if there are enough people interested in the content, it is how to find them. For content owners to reach the same amount of audience they could have reached ten years ago, they now have to find their audience where, how, and in the language the fans want to watch their content in.
From my days at NBC Universal, I could see that top shows from a few years ago were getting only half the ratings of comparable top shows 10 years prior.
The shows were just as good, but the U.S. TV viewing audience was spread too thin from all the options they had available to them.
To find growth, NBC Universal and other studios had to look at international distribution. Now that the major international markets are maturing, the studios are starting to look at a broader set of international markets, and are more aggressively pursuing online distribution.
This is precisely what we are facilitating with ViKi, creating a platform for content owners from the U.S. and abroad, to find and monetize new markets.
Netflix and Hulu have taken the lead in the United States, and have proven that online viewership is additive.
But Hollywood content is only 15 percent of the global content produced and consumed each year worldwide. There is so much great content outside of Hollywood that does not get the chance to find its full potential. We aim to open this other 85 percent to the rest of the world. We feel there is significant value untapped for content producers and distributors, and that a platform and centralized destination for fans to discover new content would expand the market significantly — we are proving it as we speak.
At same time, such a platform gives content owners the opportunity to learn which new markets they can distribute their content to offline as well. Online and offline are becoming very synergistic and non-cannibalizing to each other. Neither one can be ignored. We’ve seen shows that had average ratings on TV, find much, much larger audience online outside its borders, in many countries exceeding TV ratings.
For a particular Korean drama, the more interesting finding for us was that more than 70 percent of the audience that watched the drama were not even Asian; and they watched the drama in more than 40 languages. In the U.S. studio world, online is also helping offline. For example, catch-up TV alone is boosting TV ratings, and a recent Nielsen study found that more than 50 percent of TV viewers watched TV series online first, then sought them out offline afterwards.
Essentially, content is still king, but for it to reach its full potential, it needs to find its fans wherever they are, and in the medium they want to consume the content in.
Razmig Hovaghimian is co-founder and CEO of ViKi, an Internet video site.