+ HDTV will gain appeal for the mass market, propelling the digitisation process forward
In 2010, HDTV will make significant gains in the mass market. High-definition TVs are already almost everywhere – there were about 19 million HD-capable devices in German households by the end of 2009. But HD content isn’t yet simple to access: it is available primarily on Blu-rays (which are increasingly turning into take-home items), as an add-on package with Sky (very expensive, since it’s not sold singly), and via IPTV (but far from offered by all IPTV providers). This situation will have to change in 2010.
After several start-up attempts, including the HD trial during the 2009 IAAF World Championships, the Olympic Winter Games 2010 are set to mark the launch of regular HDTV service from ARD and ZDF, making it the new standard for television. The service not only brings better picture quality to more viewers, but will also serve as an impulse for digitisation, especially in cable, which remains predominantly analogue. The first signs are present: starting in December 2009, Kabel BW has given all new digital customers HD receivers as standard.
Adopting RTL and ProSiebenSat.1’s encryption strategies, HDTV has been sold to viewers on the HD+ satellite platform as a premium service since the end of 2009. In the process, HDTV could give pay TV a badly-needed push. If not HDTV, what else will generate willingness to pay among German customers beyond for the Bundesliga?
New opportunities will be capitalised on in 2010, and HDTV will be marketed with the aim of quickly and effectively making HD digital TV available to a large audience. The industry should not repeat the mistake of the music and film industries with user-unfriendly restrictions to recording and time shifting. In 2010, Germany could finally free itself of its label as one of Europe’s straggling television markets.
+ Content overload will make navigation systems more important – and the market ripe for EPGs
Just like Google made the internet searchable and, consequently, usable, intelligent search engines are needed to guide future users through the jungle of audiovisual media. In a TV landscape with more than 2,500 channels and over 50 video-on-demand services, German TV viewers can no longer look through everything offered. Adding to the selection are catch-up TV services as well as shows and films that can be viewed after broadcast through time shifting. The selection will only increase in 2010.
In addition to online catch-up- offers, catch-up content on the television will also grow in popularity. IPTV provider Alice offers its customers ARD’s daily show on demand. Catch-up TV will also become available on other TV platforms. Kabel Deutschland and Kabel BW have announced the launches of their video-on-demand services for 2010. On top of that, hybrid TV allows viewers to watch online content like internet TV, footage from video platforms like YouTube, and films saved on the home computer on the television.
A lucrative market will arise for electronic programme guides (EPGs), which have been given little attention to date. The EPG is now more than a digital programme guide and is on its way to becoming an all-inclusive entertainment guide. Whether on the television, in the internet, or with a cell phone, the EPG of the future locates content from both TV and internet that is of interest for users and offers an automatic recommendation system in the form of personal TV channels or personalised programme tips. Programme recommendations from friends or users with similar interests on sites like Twitter and Facebook will also be displayed in the EPG of the future. The EPG is gaining importance and potential among market players as a transaction and advertisement platform.
In Germany, it has mainly been the IPTV providers offering comprehensive EPGs, which are capable of more than just a display of TV programmes. New EPGs are expected for 2010, especially in the cable segment. The introduction of HD+ on satellite has created a stimulus for further EPG development.
At the end of 2008, only 13 percent of German TV households were equipped with EPGs. Goldmedia forecasts that this value will rise to 59 percent by 2014. There are currently over 30 online EPGs in Germany. This number confirms that a strong need for navigation support is already present. Now it is up to market players to bring entertainment guides to the television as well.
+ Will scripted reality shows be the big hits for TV 2010?
Major TV programme innovations are not expected for 2010 in Germany. The ad crisis isn’t over yet, sharply curbing willingness to take risks. Also, viewers are looking for familiarity. This makes it difficult for new types of programmes to win over the public. This was Sat. 1’s particularly painful experience in 2009.
The current success of the RTL afternoon programme will influence 2010’s television programmes. The station is drawing in phenomenal ratings with its scripted reality television shows. In these fake reality shows, everything is even more dramatic than in the life-help entertainment formats (like Super Nanny) of recent years: the protagonists are even more indebted, even more naive, and in even worse circumstances. The mechanism of “social downward comparison” explains the success of these programmes. Viewers feel good while watching the shows because they see that others are doing much worse than they. But what’s good for the afternoon ratings could have a negative influence on primetime. The families that are helped by Supper Nanny and debt counsellor Peter Zwegat are suddenly not in bad enough shape. The shows could lose market share.
How does the competition react? ProSieben will certainly try to profit from the scripted reality trend in 2010, testing out new, scripted shows in their afternoon programme. Sat.1 is refining the station’s brand and seems disinterested in following the trend further for the time being. Its legal TV series, Lenßen & Partner, was just suspended. It’s much more likely that Sat 1. will try out a genre that is the object of renewed discussion among programme makers: the good old game show.
+ “Freemium” everywhere – a change of direction for marketing of digital content?!
All content that can be made digital is available for free sooner or later. Chris Anderson focused on this business model “Freemium” in his book, “Free: Future of a Radical Price.” The paradigm for digital content of every kind has long been: “Offer the user a free basic product and hope that he or she will pay for additional premium services.”
Along these lines, many media providers’ lack of success in searching for a true online business model will soon lead them to rethink the situation. Why should users pay for something that they can get for free ? In 2010, there should be a change of direction for the marketing of digital content – otherwise, the industry runs the risk of entrenching piracy among users as a matter of course. It might even be possible to make money from piracy, e.g., through a fee-based service that allows easy access to (illegal) digital content, at the same time legalising the access. Even if users’ willingness to pay for the content itself continues to decrease, they may still be willing to pay for user friendliness and convenience.
The freemium principle is also increasingly setting precedent outside the online world. A French provider “Free”, has successively increased its offerings for years now (at a constant charge of 29.99 euros). Started as an exclusively-online provider, Free integrated larger download bandwidths, voice over IP, and IPTV and, in doing so, steadily expanded the number of programmes included. One German company centered around this model is HanseNet. This signals that a growing number of providers get customers on board with free services, increasing their likelihood to sign up for premium services later.