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It’s MIPTV Week at Cannes & TV Tech Expert San Sharma debates the Future of TV

It might be another two months before the advertising community descends on Cannes, but this week the Croisette was awash with TV executives in linen suits grappling with some of the same issues their counterparts face – how mobile and social is disrupting their industry.

Speaking at the MIPTV event Eric Scherer, the director of future media at the French broadcaster France Televisions, told delegates that it was time the industry embarked on a mobile-first strategy.

Pointing out that younger viewers were no longer interested in what’s on the big screens in their living rooms and citing the rise of YouTube and video content on Facebook, he said that viewing had shifted inexorably from the TV screen to the mobile.

Of course, it’s not just television – and communications as a whole – that is facing up to the disruption being wreaked by the growth of mobile and social. However the shift in power that the TV industry has to face is probably more profound than in other cases.

Broadcasters, much like many other established organisations, have been authoritarian in the way they have sought to distribute their content, but are now being faced with this power shifting into the hands of consumers. They have also been slow in embracing new platforms and apps and creating exclusive content for mobile- given that their relative success (and advertising revenue) is dependent on the delivery of TV ratings, it’s not that surprising.

But with so many new apps springing up (witness the rise of Instagram, Snapchat and more recently Periscope) a new generation has grown up that wants to see content on their terms – where and when they want. Broadcasters must react accordingly.

Rather than be fearful of mobile, broadcasters should seize the opportunities that data presents them with and use it to empower them. While the days when a family of viewers would huddle around a TV screen for their daily fix of TV are on the wane, the demand for quality content (for which the broadcasters are arguably best placed to supply) has never been higher.

Equally the data that they can derive from the favoured programme genres, actors and even directors can allow them to tailor commissions accordingly rather than create content and hope that there is an audience for it. Equally, the creation of personalised and tailored content for viewers could engender greater loyalty (and maybe become a way of securing micro-payments to replace the advertising revenue lost from the spot traded days of old).

The move by TV companies from a mass-market to a more precision-based distribution model is one that appears irreversible. But the reality of how they monetise their services is one that will be tested over the coming months – other industries will be watching to see how they manage it.