Once again I was fortunate to attend the CES show in Las Vegas. While there were many cool gadgets and some very impressive UltraHD monitors, the most relevant developments (at least for C-SPAN) continued to focus on helping consumers navigate through the wide variety of content that will (and in may cases has) converged on their television screen. While I didn’t see any great breakthroughs with respect to television navigation, there were several examples of incremental improvements that built on some of the systems we saw last year.
As the emphasis continues on bringing multiple content sources to the single screen (cable, web, streaming), the lack of simple and personal navigation interfaces have caused some observers to conclude that TV is broken and only Apple can fix it. Some see it as reason alone not to even consider buying the new TVs. Others saw small steps of progress at the CES. I agree that navigation is still a huge challenge and despite the lack of breakthroughs, there is definitely some forward progress.
Setting aside some of the more gimmicky ideas (gesture and voice recognition), Cox seems to be on to something with a new, simple interface for developing a personal profile at the guide level, while adding personalized recommendations to the interface.
As I posted last year, this new world of “mixed” content bring challenges for traditional linear networks. Distribution success doesn’t stop at gaining carriage and counting on “channel flipping” (and some marketing) to gain viewers and users. The traditional grid — while certainly still available — is on a decline as the primary means of navigation. And, as we know from the research (and anecdotally) real-time viewing of linear television is on the decline as a percentage of consumption.
To compete in this new world, distribution success also means “data success”. For a news-oriented programmer like C-SPAN, it’s helpful to look at the three main “parts” of this equation:
- Collection of data during the production process
- “Massaging” data internally for distribution
- Gaining access to navigation platforms and matching data to the platform
Each of these are very large challenges! And it may go without saying, but any internal process to manage data must be informed by developments in these consumer-focused navigation systems, and it is especially important to understand that as viewers each of us is already operating in “our own world” when it comes to data-driven consumption. No “one” way represents a large portion of the marketplace (with the possible exception of grid-based navigation, at least for a while) And, at the risk of pressing this point too far, we need to be especially aware of our own experience-based and generational biases.
The challenge,then is twofold. The industry must develop intuitive interfaces for consumers, and programmers — like C-SPAN — must prepare to operate in a data-driven world that will replace the serendipity of the program grid.