European broadcast innovation is more than holding its own, writes Oliver Botti.

The popular conception of the broadcast media industry in Europe is that of a one way street, with technological innovation seen as largely developed in the US and then exported to Europe.

Yet, this popular conception may be misleading. The development of more open standards (for instance HbbTV – Hybrid Broadcast Broadband convergence standard, which the BBC has recently backed), and of new revenue generation paradigms (such as interactive TV advertising in Germany), has opened the floodgates for European innovation to flourish, and indeed be of such a standard that Europe is now a hub of media innovation – although of a different type to the pure software and platform developments coming out of America.

So, it is important to clearly define the nature of this new wave of innovation coming out of Europe. 

There can be no doubt that the volume of purely technical innovation is still mainly taking place in the US, whose favoured route to the European market – thanks to a common language - is often through the UK. 

But that flood of innovation out of the US is, in itself, causing a problem: how to navigate and harness best-in-class technology for competitive advantage? 

There are so many seemingly ground-breaking software developments, that media companies are finding it hard to know which to adopt. There is a growing need to select and to combine standard software platforms, products and services into “tailored” solutions answering to novel and geographical/culture-related business needs and priorities.

This is where the new wave of European technical minds are creating solutions that are attracting the attention of the media giants. Audience analysis innovation is coming from Spain; Italy is majoring on multi-platform content management; ultra HD developments have the greatest awareness in Germany, and so on.

Many innovative developments particular to the European scene are home-grown – frequently combining commercial and academic collaborations, and working to European standards. These are likely to provide robust rivals counterpart to US-generated services such as Netflix. 

Take the example of one major European media company, which was seeking to improve its multi-platform delivery of linear and interactive content. 

The company is headquartered in Europe and operates across multiple countries, reaching audiences of over 50 million viewers. Its issue was not just a technical one, but also tightly bound in to the strategic commercial development of the company. The platform/device consumption patterns, along with propensity to pay per content category, were different for expansion audiences compared with the original customer base.  So this company found that it needed three things:  real (European) understanding of the company’s strategic direction (how, where, and with whom, to grow); the technical ability to sift through all the powerful recent tech innovations mainly coming out of the US; and the ability to weave those technical innovations together into a coherent solutions (because none offered this out-of-the-box). The result, developed in Europe, will have an impact on the whole media sector.

In short, media technology innovation is not travelling in just one direction from the US to Europe. This must be a good thing for the European media industry. The more intelligent and appropriate innovation is available, the better for European media players wanting to develop commercial competitive edge by delighting customers.

  • Oliver Botti is head of development and innovation at Fincons Group