By Aiman Al Zyoud, CEO and founder, Charisma Group
There’s a lot of talk about how TV is dead, and in a way that’s true. Gone are the days when families huddled around the television, or when you raced home to make it on time for your favorite show. The digital revolution has rendered the television obsolete. We can now watch what we want, when we want. But while it is the end of an era, it’s really just the end of an outdated device: the television.
TV is still vital and real
It’s still what people are watching; what’s changed is where they’re watching it.
TV is no longer a big box fixed to the wall – that’s dead. TV is in your pocket, on your tablet. Soon, it’s going to be a VR device strapped to your face. What we’ve learned across the multimedia production industry is that the companies that are going to survive are those who embrace the production of content that travels. For content creators like us at Charisma Group, that means breaking out of old formats – old mindsets – and delivering content that is instant, talkable, snackable.
TV producers and digital distributors are point to continue and deepen our collaboration together. We need each other. Producers still have the ability to create content of unrivaled quality; the digital players harness the technology that enables us to deliver our content everywhere in multiple forms.
But, it’s not just technology
The multi-device phenomenon is old news. Good storytelling now is about guaranteeing quality content, 100% of the time. We need to cut through the fat and create quality content that marries TV production and digital distribution – to create “content to go”.
The opportunity is now, and storytelling is more fundamental than ever. Ten years ago, if you told me people would lock themselves in their bedroom and binge-watch 12 hours of Game of Thrones on their laptop while texting friends and sharing updates in real time to their social media… Nobody would have believed it. Today is all about interactivity – and the technology we have at our disposal is allowing us to redefine TV.
There are challenges of course
Like any uncharted territory, we’re still navigating the possibilities of monetizing digital content. Fears of the death of highly produced content exist, and some fear that the cultural revolution that has accompanied the digital revolution will allow polished content to die.
But I don’t think that’s the case. Look at Netflix. It’s strong and only getting stronger. They’re producing more and more programs every month. People want great stories, and they want them well-told. That is something only professionalized content creators can do. And Netflix is not an anomaly. Even those relatively late to the digital party, like HBO, are not only surviving but thriving. With a new model that focuses on quality over quantity, HBO is poised to enter a new era of prestige with its programming.
An interesting exception to this development is viewing activities devoted to family and friends.
Here in the Middle East,
Ramadan is still a time when people get together for Iftar and then huddle together to watch TV. Families do the same thing during Christmas. We still see it as well when friends get together to watch live sports events. The big-screen-living room dynamic still exists when we talk about communal viewing. But even then, people are streaming it from their computer or utilizing an on-demand service.
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the audience; the rest is just noise. Audiences care about what speaks to them. What the can relate to. And we need to build shows and tell stories that do the same. Adapting to the digital world is an ever-evolving process, but we’re all on board. There’s something eternal here, and that’s the art of the story. I’m incredibly confident in the future potential of the industry here in the Middle East. After all, Arabs have been telling stories longer than anyone.