Creating a modern IT platform is essential for the survival of traditional media firms, says Sef Tuma.

For the first time in this industry the power has shifted to the hands of viewers. 

Where once a cable provider was the only game in town, viewers can directly bypass them via an OTT device like the Roku or Apple TV and create their ideal on demand experience. 

Viewers are much harder to pin down and even harder to hold onto. They value personalisation, quality of service, and ubiquitous, multi-device viewing, and can easily drop a provider who fails to pass the test on any of those fronts.

“Digital Darwinism” is a fate that threatens most organisations in almost every industry. Innovation, digital services, accessibility, reliability, consumer friendly pricing, and most important of all compelling and relevant content  are what will define the winners from the losers in this technology arms race and many incumbent media providers are already falling behind. 

Incumbents are challenged by an ingrained infrastructure that is ill-equipped to provide the type of digital services viewers now expect.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix and YouTube have been operating with a digital foundation firmly in place. They can easily outmaneuver larger, traditional media providers as a result.

So what can incumbent providers do to deliver digital services at this late stage with the infrastructure they currently have?

It’s a not simple solution, involving big changes on their part. Traditionally, the C-Suite at broadcasters have had their attention divided between production, media supply chain and distribution.

One group of executives would be geared on issues while the other would be focused on broadcast technology, engineering and media production resources.

This separation is inhibiting real innovation. The answer lies in consolidating technical capabilities in a manner which allows for agile media product development and support to meet consumer demands.  

While this type of paradigm has been the norm in studio production it has not been the same with software and systems development. 

Accenture has helped a number of media companies in their digital evolution and have distilled some best practices for creating a modern IT platform:

Be Ready to Fail

Arriving at an innovative digital service requires a lot of trial and error in order to figure out what will or won’t work.

In the new digital age,  there is much more room to experiment and try new things as long they are leading to the goal of a better experience. This is completely atypical to the worldview of traditional media providers where a second of outage could do irrevocable damage to their standing in the market.

Collaboration v Integration

IT Infrastructure was built along in-house silos which at the time were ideal for the way people consumed media from one provider, through only one medium.

Digital services require knocking down those walls for an open ecosystem that allows viewers, content, partners and providers to move across a number of mediums. 

Being Agile v Doing Agile

The belief that a shark must constantly be moving to stay alive is now relevant for media and entertainment providers.  They must be able to make fast business decision in light of the changing expectations of the audience. 

Achieving rapid agility requires velocity in funding models, business engagement and delivery techniques, supported with analytics and corporate governance models for measurement and direction.

Achieving Different Levels of Speed

Being able to rapidly deliver products and experiences is important but not everything needs to go from nought to 60 right out the gate.

Identify areas of your business where an increased pace is necessary and other areas where a more moderated approach would be best for managing risks – supported by a strong integration strategy. This will preserve your IT Strategy from getting too far ahead of itself.

Multi-Speed IT Architectures

The same measured approach is applicable to your IT systems as well.  You can’t throw out an entire legacy system and start from scratch but what you can do is decouple systems of record and systems of engagement via open service architectures. This initial step will help manage the ability to balance high-opportunity changes and high-risk changes in parallel.

Following all these steps will get traditional broadcasters and cable companies to master multi-speed IT which in turn will lead to new innovations, growth and high performance.

Our research shows that viewers still trust and prefer incumbent television providers over new competitors - as long as these incumbents are able to able to deliver a rich, digital experience that respond and react to consumer needs, their future will remain secured.

  • Sef Tuma is a managing director in Accenture’s Media and Entertainment Group