All the major players from the Broadcast and Media industries recently gathered to discuss the future at the annual RTS convention in Cambridge. Located in the prestigious King’s College, some of the most senior managers in the largest companies delivered speeches around current topics within the UK’s media market.
The subject of change and uncertainty became an undercurrent to many of the conversations. BBC’s Director-General Tony Hall opened his speech discussing JK Galbraith’s economic work The Age of Uncertainty, in which Galbraith argues that as the economic and political certainties from the past collapse, the result is uncertainty and unpredictability. Similarly, as the UK is at a pivotal moment in history, the media industry’s conventions and traditions are now being broken citing the BBC’s hit Fleabag as a show which audiences have embraced because it emulates the uncertain narrative that is currently in the public eye.
There was a lot of talk about the late entrants into the SVOD market – namely, Disney+, Hulu and Apple TV. This “second wave of disruption” will impact the Netflix and Amazon titans, as they struggle to offer the same range of shows as other players remove their content. It is thought that Britbox has a high chance of standing out within a diluted market due to the unique and high quality content which comes out of the UK with its distinctive “Brit” values, purpose and morals. However it still remains to be seen how successful it will be whilst the US majors continue to deliver huge-budget shows with high production values.
The Right Honourable Nicky Morgan, DCMS Secretary of State highlighted that government and regulators must support the broadcast market adapt to change in the global market. The previous regulations are not necessarily suitable or relevant for the new ways in which people create and consume content (it’s all very analogue). This includes the Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, as the audience protections suit linear TV more so then SVOD services. An additional area where regulation may need to be updated is the PSB multiplex licenses which underpin the Freeview platform. These expire in 2022 and Morgan cites this as a high priority for her to review.
What we took away from the RTS convention in Cambridge is that there is a lot of uncertainty in the media landscape currently, and only time will tell who the winners and losers will be. However, as consumers continue to move away from the constraints of linear TV, the opportunities for the UK production sector are huge despite social and political ambiguity.