A congruence of factors is creating an unprecedented opportunity for broadcasters, says Gavin Mann.

Explosive growth in the number and variety of connected screens, faster connections and audiences that are willing to pay more for high-quality access to content add up to a massive prize.

The key to capturing it? Understand what consumers want and develop the capabilities needed to deliver to their demands through agility, data and talent.

Accenture’s fourth annual Digital Consumer Survey found that 15% of UK respondents intended to purchase a connected TV within the next 12 months, while nearly all (98%) global respondents acknowledged owning a combination of devices today.

Data confirms that consumers are using these connected screens to obtain a sizeable portion of their entertainment online with 36% of UK consumers watch full-length movies or TV shows over the internet on a daily basis.

Faster connections help increase consumption.

By the end of 2013 subscriptions to fibre-optic broadband grew 13.9% worldwide, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) while the UK grew at 172% ranking 8th for fixed line broadband penetration worldwide.

And research found that consumers are willing to pay more for high-quality access to content.

In fact, 48% of consumers will pay more for faster connections, and 49% will pay extra for more flexible rights, according to Accenture’s survey.

Understanding what consumers want and developing the capabilities needed to deliver to their demands is key. 

Broadcasters need to rethink how they operate as they adapt to changing consumer needs.

Multiple file formats, multiple distribution networks and an ever increasing universe of devices are pushing broadcasters to reconsider the role of technology.

To remain competitive, broadcasters must become more agile.

The separate, siloed worlds of IT, engineering and R&D cannot provide the strategic agility needed to meet consumer demands for content. Nor will it provide broadcasters with the means to compete with “digital natives”, unencumbered by legacy systems.

At the same time a wealth of new usage data is being created by the proliferation of digital devices.

Instead of having to rely on consumer research and “overnights” to track this information, broadcasters can have the insights they need in real time–provided they develop the audience relationship and capabilities required to harness, manage and mine consumer data.

Where incumbent broadcasters can compete most effectively is by “marrying art and science”–combining editorial and commissioning skills fine-tuned over decades, with IT and analytics technologies. The objective must be to adopt a more analytical approach to consumer data and other sources so that content and new consumer propositions can be developed faster, and with a higher success rate.

Hand-in-hand with the advanced data and analytics technologies, broadcasters must invest in new skills.

As they reorganise in pursuit of this goal, putting technology at the heart of all functions, they will need to overcome some major talent challenges - tech talent as opposed to on screen talent.

Broadcasters are competing with the likes of Google and Facebook to attract digital engineers so should draw on what makes them unique–their ownership of content, from creation to distribution.

Properly articulated, this will be a persuasive proposition. 

The window of opportunity for the leading players to secure their position in this new ecosystem is narrowing and new propositions need to be deployed rapidly.  

Companies that hesitate now may spend years trying to catch up.

Gavin Mann is Accenture’s global broadcast industry lead