Last week I went to the Smart TV Summit in San Francisco – socializing with some of the biggest leaders in connected television and multi-screen experiences. And, I walked away realizing second screen doesn’t matter if someone or something doesn’t intelligently connect you to the content you want.
While staying in SF, my hotel was just around the corner from the historic Shorenstein Hayes Nederlander Theater. Looking out the window Thursday night, I couldn’t help but think about the theater, connected home and the smart tv.
In 1905, Sam Shubert was killed in a railroad accident. Sam and his brothers Lee and J.J. operated theaters in Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Troy, Albany and in 1900 leased the Harold Square Theater in New York City. During the next 25 years, Sam’s brothers carried on his legacy assembling a vast network of theaters from New York City to Portland, Oregon. The Shubert Brothers, as they are now referred, owned, managed or operated close to a thousand theaters across the USA. In addition to controlling the majority of credible venues, the brothers were powerhouse producers, presenting some 500 plays and musical attractions.
The Shubert Brothers were infamous for their ability to understand what audiences want to see and presenting it in a venue in which they controlled the outcome. They were the truest definition of a “Producer,” able to match creativity, talent and demand with an end game of successful monetization. What’s most impressive is that all of this was done before Google Analytics, before Neilson and before phone-banks for consumer market research. Much has been said about The Shubert Brothers but their vertical integration of content creation, distribution, accessibility and controls were great for commercialization of creativity and provided a solid economy for entertainment consumption. What is amazing to me is that all of this progress and targeting of content on a local level was delivered and measured in a 1-to-1 manner where the reaction post-show from Main Street USA informed future Producer level decisions.
About the time of Lee and J.J. Shubert’s death in the mid-50s and 60s respectively, a new form of producer was in full-effect. Television producers were busy crafting content for distribution to homes across America. In this story, theaters were being replaced by living rooms and Producers clung to “channels” as a way of associating a target audience, time of day and a well-crafted message. Content was now being created, distributed 1-to-many and measurement happened in broad-strokes.
Fast forward fifty years to 2000 and the Producers of today find themselves with a malleable digital medium fertile for rapid creation, personalization and measurement unlike anything we have ever seen; or is it? With all this progression came more choices for the consumer, more interactivity and more fragmentation. Producers still relied on the “channels” of yesterday to be found by their target audience and online media buys in the form of banners, pre-roll and sponsorship exploded on the scene. That reliance on mass buys and one message is about to vanish.
To better understand where we are today, I suggest we look to The Shubert Brothers legacy. Except this time we no longer need the “channels” or theaters, the scale or the vertically integrated venues. We only need a connected device and to be thinking like The Shubert Brothers; understanding our target audience and ensuring we are relevant and findable.
Creatives have new challenges to overcome. Leveraging the smarts and abilities of platforms such as Google TV, Apple TV, WD TV and Roku enables content creators to find, deliver and measure their audience real-time in a 1-to-1 and 1-to-many manner. Never before has this level of targeting, distribution, creativity and interactivity been available to storytellers. (See figure 1) and that goes against the core of creativity. Creativity lives in grey and data lives in black and white.
In a lot of ways, the connected platforms, which allow for users to find and engagement with content real-time are the new Producers. The Platforms know that it is their job to help you find the content you want, when you want it and how you want it. No more channels. No more reliance on provider deals. Replace the names of J.J., Sam and Lee with Google, Apple and Amazon. Welcome the age of hybrid delivery and the renaissance of the new Shubert Brothers.