Discoverability Summit: More Qs than As on day one

From academics to industry executives, the CRTC opened its exploration into Canadian content with a top-level discussion of modern issues.

By Regan Reid and Val Maloney

The 2016 Discoverability Summit, presented by the CRTC and NFB, opened with a dramatic, flashy video designed to drive home the (explicitly stated) message: the future is now.

As the video seemingly hurtled through space, a disembodied voice told the conference attendees that the age of abundance has turned the film and TV industries upside down. How did we get here, the voice asked. And more importantly, “How do we move from discoverability to discovered?”

That’s an important question, and one the industry certainly needs answers to. But for a conference designed to Copied from Playback - digitalmedia-shutterstock-1deliver – or at least explore – answers to that specific question, it got off to a confusing start.

While the opening keynote, “The Age of Abundance: How We Got Here”, was meant to encourage attendees to “think outside the box,” it was almost entirely devoted to exploring the past. Dana Lee, associate professor and manager at Ryerson University’s Media Production Program, explained the history of content delivery, from cave drawings to the pony express to the telegraph to pay TV and argued that, throughout history, new methods of delivering content have always caused disruption to existing industries.

Lee gave many examples of this, including the creation of the VCR. The film and TV industry thought VHS would ruin the industry, Lee said. “You’re allowing people to make free copies of our content to watch, when they want to watch it, where they want to watch it, instead of us telling them what to watch and when to watch?’… This will destroy the movie and TV industries,’ they said.”

Lee’s message was this: the internet is just another one of these disruptive technologies. Lee suggested that the delivery side of the industry should focus on customer service and providing viewers customized content menus, although he did not delve into details on what these might look like. Lee did deliver on the promise of the session’s agenda, though, which explicitly said the audience may be left with more questions than answers.

Following the morning keynote, a panel covered the state of evidence-based data and analytics in the Canadian market. Execs from Numeris, CBC/Radio-Canada and media/tech expert Felix Cisneros went over the current state of TV and digital metrics in Canada.

Neil McEneaney, president and CEO at Numeris, focused several times on return-path data for set-top boxes being the answer to the TV industry’s need for more granular analytics. He discussed the CRTC’s working group, and said that if the current test with three BDUs goes well then a consumer test, likely in the Toronto market, will go live.

Mark Allen, senior director of research and analysis at CBC, highlighted the need to look at younger demographics, noting MTM’s “TV my way” group, which prefers watching TV content on laptops or mobile devices.

Talking about the most-popular demo, millennials, a marketing panel featuring Kaaren Whitney-Vernon, CEO, shift2, Carolina Jung, director of business development at Cadreon and co-chair of the data and analytics committee at IAB Canada, and moderator Eli Batalion, the co-creator of web series YidLife Crisis and head of eMerge Enterprises, closed the day.

Whitney-Vernon said the industry needs to be creating better branded content to get in front of younger Canadians.

“I’m tired of the viral video, it has a moment and then is gone,” she said. “[We] need something that keeps going over time, and those types of things take time. Brands need to stop thinking about themselves and think about the audiences instead.”

The Discoverability Summit continues today at the Thompson Hotel in Toronto.