Panel: rights issues could hold back future TV services

Content rights issues could be the stumbling block for future TV services, that is according to panel members at yesterdays Red Bee Media-organised debate, Tomorrow Calling.

At the event, panelists representing Google, FremantleMedia, Cisco, Virgin Media, Balderton Capital and Red Bee were asked how the TV landscape would change between now and 2020.While most agreed that connectivity and increasing broadband speeds would have a profound effect, Virgin Media’s director of consumer platforms and devices Ian Mecklenburgh said content rights issues had yet to catch-up with the rate of technological development. “It’s an issue of the future that no one has resolved yet,” he said.

FremantleMedia’s senior executive vice-president FMX and worldwide Claire Tavernier agreed, adding that advances in technology meant it would become easier for people to access content illegally. “It will take years because it’s not just about the legal framework [of content rights] but the business model that goes with it,” she said. Cisco’s director of strategic initiatives John Bishop argued that various technologies, including finger printing and watermarking, would help to ensure content could be delivered to many devices across multiple markets. “Reach will become the most important thing once you’ve got premium content. You need to mark it and protect it across the entire chain,” he said.

Much of the debate focused on the role connected TVs will play in the future, with Tavernier saying that smart TVs would become ubiquitous but adding that “it will take another 10 years for consumers to plug them in”. Cisco’s Bishop said advances in IP connectivity would improve the quality of TV services across all devices, meaning that the TV will not longer be seen as the main screen. “There will be no separation between the TV experience on TVs and other devices,” he said.

The potential for TV services to be consumed equally across multiple devices within and outside the homes could have a profound effect on the way we watch TV, according to Tavernier. She said that “big event TV” would remain popular but become less frequent as people get used to watching content at their preferred time.  Drama, for example, is being increasingly timeshifted because people don’t feel the need to watch it collectively, she said. “Tentpole” events will become less frequent but more global in scale, she added. “Look at social media. People need something to talk about,” she said. “It could be the Obama inauguration or the World Cup. People need stories.”

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