Bruce Friend, President of Ipsos OTX MediaCT (Media, Content and Technology), has had an illustrious career spanning over 30 years. And his background, often at start-ups within larger corporations, reflects the immense growth in the cable industry from its inception. Bruce started in the ad agency world, but soon moved to pay cable for a new start-up called HBO. He then moved to a new Hispanic broadcasting network called Telemundo, and from there to new basic cable networks at MTV Networks International and Nickelodeon. Ultimately, after a 2+ year stint at Sony Pictures, Bruce made a strategic decision to move to the research supplier side of the business. In this fascinating interview Bruce talks about a range of subjects including the new company formed from Ipsos' acquisition of OTX, internet television, ethnography, research quality and some predictions for the next five years.
There are five videos that cover the following topics:
Subject Length (in minutes)
Research Changes (6:54)
OTX and Ipsos (6:34)
Virtual Ethnography (6:54)
Future, Projects and Innovations (6:58)
Below is a short excerpt of some of the video interview. Direct links to the full interview videos can be found at WeislerMedia blog.
CW: You say that the next generation of television sets will be able to directly plug from the internet into the big screen. How do you think this will impact media consumption? And specifically - what are the challenges to broadcasting and cable when viewers can view directly from the internet?
BF: You know, I have always been a firm believer from my early days at HBO that content is king. So it is still, and always will be, about consumers wanting their content. However, someone has to pay for it. So the business models, regardless of how they change, will ultimately have to support that. Does this mean people will have to pay for it in different ways going forward? In some cases, yes – though I don't think anyone knows exactly yet what that will look like. What I do believe is that advertising-supported content will continue to thrive. And I think the broadcast networks and ad-supported cable networks will survive and even thrive in some shape or form. It is really more a question of how the business model will evolve to support this. When all is said and done, people want good, high quality content, and they know one way or another that they are going to have to pay for that content. I think the idea of TV or video "everywhere" is important, because people are willing to pay for content once but then expect to be able to access it on any screen they want. That is important and has to get figured out, because consumers don't really want to pay for the same content multiple times across multiple media platforms. That's not fair in their eyes, and I think we can all understand that.
CW: How much ethnographic research do you do if any?
BF: We're doing more and more, especially of the type we call "virtual ethnography" work. That is, getting to the consumer and into the home through pc and mobile devices, and getting people to become advocates, if you will, for our clients brands and to give us insight. We have a number of people who create and monitor panels where we give consumers social networking tools so they can interact with us and provide us with insights and information through words, pictures and video. That has become very popular with our clients even on a longitudinal basis. We actually have a number of communities set up for some of our film studio and TV clients, where they are able to tap into this. As I said earlier, people want to be able to connect to their consumers on a daily basis. This allows clients to go in and say "Hey I want to put this one sheet ad up in front of people to get their response, and then get them to chat amongst each other. And, then maybe they can go out and find images that they think might be better." So we are getting a lot more consumer generated insights into the process than we ever had before, and are able to use technology to do that. Not having to get in the car or on a plane and having to fly and get into somebody's home is a big advantage for this type of work, especially when working across international markets. Also, people are a lot more comfortable, surprisingly, doing it this way instead of letting somebody, a stranger, in their home to look around. So we have been very aggressive in that area.
CW: Where do you see media consumption going in general in the next five years?
BF: I think it goes wherever the technology goes. If we've learned anything in the last 3 to 5 years it's just that. And this is where market research gets tricky. From all the research studies back in 1997 and 1998, when the internet was just becoming a mass market medium, everyone said "Why would I watch television on my pc screen when I have a perfectly good television screen to watch it on?" Back then they couldn't and didn't see the potential of being able to add more screens in the home and new rooms where there weren't TVs. They also couldn't grasp that the quality of the pc video experience would improve over time. Finally, they couldn't see that wireless pc mobility would create new occasions for them to watch media and consume video that they didn't have before. Today, you have TV screens going in cars. You have live full motion video billboards everywhere in Los Angeles and now expanding into other markets. I think people will still say to some degree "Well I'm not going to watch a full length movie on my phone." However, if you're stuck somewhere for two hours and you've got your phone and you can watch a movie and be entertained, because you've got some down time, you will do it. So it is a function of the occasion and the situation. Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked the people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse." So you have to be careful with market research in asking people what they want, since most people don't have the vision to know what they want until they have the chance to actually experience it. This is why I believe that research companies, who can effectively integrate attitudinal and behavioral data to tell the complete consumer story, will be the companies that succeed in the future. It is no longer enough to just look at one or the other in isolation to fully understand today's consumer.
Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, a research veteran, member of the Set Top Box Collaborative executive committee, the CTAM Research and Research Planning Committees and a CIMM consultant. She can be reached through her blogwww.WeislerMedia.blogspot.comor atWeislerMedia@yahoo.com.
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