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Event Review: DTG Summit – Transforming TV


18-DTGLast week I attended the DTG summit at the Royal School of Medicine. This article is a review of the event, looking at the key themes discussed. For those who don’t know, the DTG is the Digital Television Group, an industry association for anyone involved in the delivery of digital TV in the UK, including broadcasters, operators, television equipment manufacturers and technology vendors. The DTG sees itself as the centre for collaboration amongst its 125 members. I sat on its steering board for four years. The DTG summit brings its members together to discuss trends, consider direction and to celebrate success stories. This year’s theme was “Transforming TV”.

The summit included keynotes from across the industry and debate filled panels. Speakers included Matthew Postgate from The BBC, Steve Unger from Ofcom, James Gibbons from Discovery Communications, Matt Stagg from BT Sport and Ed Vaizey MP, amongst others.

Key Themes

Across the diverse keynotes and panel sessions a number of key themes emerged.

Collaboration and Cooperation

For me, the most important theme was the need for the UK creative industries, the broadcasters and operators, to cooperate and collaborate, to face together the threat posed by the West coast tech giants (the FAANGs). Long term globalisation requires UK broadcaster to work together to achieve scale.

This message was strongly delivered by both Steve Unger (Group Director & Board Member, Ofcom) and Matthew Postgate  (Chief Technology & Product Officer, BBC).

Steve Unger made reference to the rumoured deal between ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and maybe NBCUniversalto create a new content platform. Something he referred to as Kangaroo 2.  For those who don’t know or can’t remember, Kangaroo was a joint venture between BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 to set up a common VOD platform. The platform was prevented from launching by the UK Competition Commission in February 2009. A decision that Steve Unger implied was a mistake. Ed Vasey also commented on how regulators are not good at looking forwards.

The platform was sold to Arqiva who launched the service under the brand SeeSawin February 2010. However, it failed to gain the traction as the content providers focused on their own direct to consumer offerings, closing in October 2011.

Steve also mentioned that UK broadcasters may need to collaborate with the major global player, treating them as frenemies, in order to achieve the required scale. It is not really the tech giants that are an issue, more the realities of globalisation.

The Importance of Voice

The next main theme I picked up on was the importance of voice for the future of TV user experiences. Numerous presenters made reference to this new key technology. Voice has a promise of making access to vast content libraries simpler and more personalized. The main issue is, once again, with the dominance that the Tech giants, who have clear leadership with the technology.

Today service providers have a real issue, as related by David Sidebottom (Principal Analyst, Futuresource Consulting). Up until five years ago operators, like Sky, were leading customers expectations, in the last five years customer expectation have exceed and driven operators capabilities. Voice is an example of this.

Futuresource stated that there are 72 million in home device with voice capability worldwide today, which they predict is set to grow to over a billion by 2021.

The majority of the conference audience agreed that voice would impact how consumers access content in the next 5 year.  72% agreed that Amazon and Google will be dominant providers of voice, search and recommendation services in the UK Market in the next 5 years.

The importance of voice to TV user experiences is something I will come back to in future articles.

Algorithms and Prominence

Voice is an example of the tech giants using vast amounts of data and computing power to improve the user experience. The data they have and the algorithms they use are effecting viewers’ access to content. Increasingly it is the algorithm that drive the prominence of content within a user experience, a concern raised by Faz Aftab (Commercial Director, Online, ITV). This is concerning for UK public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV, etc.) who have regulated prominence for linear TV services, but not for on-demand services. As viewing shifts to on-demand and becomes more algorithm dependent how can their prominence be protected?

If you say, “show me comedy” to a voice driven TV device, who decides what is returned, what has prominence?

Faz also raised concerns about sponsored discovery. The Ad words equivalent for recommendations and a natural next step if discovery is controlled by the Tech Giants.

This is not just about pure on-demand interfaces. All systems have, what John Simmons, (Media Platform Architect at Microsoft) called a screen zero. The first screen that a consumer sees when using an interface. Controlling screen zero means owning the customer relationship. Steve Unger explained that Ofcom doesn’t currently have the power over screen zero on smart TVs.

Diversity and Group Think

While the presenters and audience were not that diverse, there was a very good panel on diversity in the industry. The panel landed the message that diversity is not just morally right, it is also really good for business. For example, diversity can ensure you create products and services for your target audience. It can also prevent group think, helping solve problems in innovated ways.


The Best of the Rest

  • Keep an eye of augmented reality (AR) – VR is currently struggling, mainly due to the cost and discomfort of headsets. However AR, driven by the smart phones we already all have, has more applicability in the short term. Check out the work done by Rewind. An interesting comment from Paul Lee (Global Head of Technology, Media & Telecoms Research, Deloitte), was AR usage is likely to be trivial not cerebral and let’s face it, but that fit quite well with the majority of the media industry.
  • We don’t really know what 5G is going to be – People assume that 5G is simply bigger and better than 4G, with its very ambitious objectives, but the technology is different. It is worth noting, as Matt Stagg (Director of Mobile Strategy, BT Sport) did, that we have mobile video working with 4G and it is not being held back waiting for 5G. His interest is getting wider adoption of 4G/LTE Broadcast.
  • Super fans – a theme I picked up from previous conferences is the importance and value of super fans. A brand built on servicing super fans has less to fear from Netflix and the Tech Giants.
  • Limited mention of UHD, HDR – another theme from a previous conferences is the lack of references to UHD and HDR. Once again, I have to ask, is this because they are taken as a given or are just not that relevant? One interesting comment was that eSports were raising viewers expectation of frame rates, as computer games are typically played at higher frame rates that traditional TV.


Like many I have a feeling we are in an industry on verge of a tipping point, of a massive amount of change both to viewer behaviour and who owns the customer relationship with those viewers. When we tip over the edge there will be a lot of change, most of it in favour of the big tech giants, the FAANGs. We sit on that tipping point, but the change may not actually occur for five years on more. After all, despite all the threat that Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google might pose none of them have really got their act together to properly challenge the established world order, here in the UK. But what I do see is that this threat and the need to address it is accepted across the industry. We all just need to agree on what should be done.


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