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The keynote features the pivotal moments in recent history that led us to this Age of Abundance. How did we come to be bombarded by content? How did we get from “must see TV” to “there’s too much to see on TV”? Without dwelling too much on the past, the keynote sparks the conversation, raises key points and encourages you to think outside the box. While you may be left with more questions, providing no answers, this is the perfect start to the Discoverability Summit!
A new content distribution strategy is needed to improve audiovisual content discovery for consumers in the new digital environment. Traditional methods of media content distribution aren’t working in the age of the Internet, smartphones, and broadband applications. Similarly, traditional promotional and marketing techniques are losing their power. At the Discoverability Summit, filmmakers, producers, data analysts, and entrepreneurs get together to find new distribution strategies and improve discoverability for the video content consumer. Over history, original inventions mutated to serve a different, more successful purpose. This summit explores the different models for creation, discovery, and export of Canadian audiovisual content.
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB
Associate Professor and Manager, Media Production Program, Ryerson University
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CRTC
“Too rarely do filmmakers, division executives, data scientists, musicians, academics, writers, archivists, game developers, public servants, and entrepreneurs meet on common ground, with a shared initiative, seeking approaches to ensuring that in the algorithmic world audiences, both here in Canada and globally, can easily discover our content.”
“We said, ‘What a neat toy the internet is.’ Right? This whole internet thing will never be in competition for our listeners and viewers. It’s just for print. Insert pity here for the print people of course. Sure, people are putting up some low quality audio and some little, tiny low-resolution videos, but this whole internet thing will really never take off because the bandwidth will never be big enough for audio and video. Right? How’s that working out?”
“The traditional ways of discovering content aren’t enough any more…We really want to create that spark to ignite new thinking, new ideas, new approaches to audiovisual content discovery.”
“You will also have an opportunity to hear about the strategies some of our panelists used to find success in the international market, but also learn from what did not work.”
“The overwhelming majority [of millennials] do not watch content through a traditional television service provider. Their primary source of content is the Internet. [Their} first thing is to find out what’s on YouTube and go on from there to their smartphones. With broadband and a slew of apps at their disposal, consumers and citizens have the power of ‘now’ in their hands, the power to choose, when the whim strikes, to watch or listen to this or to that as they please. This is why discoverability is relevant.”
“Traditional promotional and marketing techniques are not entirely as effective as they once were. Don’t abandon them, but how do we build on them? What, then, can be done to bring content and viewers back together again?”
“Audiences can be so paralyzed by so many choices that they revert to the familiar. I think we can all agree with conviction that Canadian creative productions are remarkable and that our filmmakers and television creators are superbly talented, but that their work is not exactly familiar or familiar enough.”
Video Narrator: We live in a world of choice, content is available everywhere, on so many platforms…
(In this digital era, we are overwhelmed with content on a variety of platforms…)
Being able to find this content is a challenge… not just here, but around the world.
(The challenge is to find content in a digital environment that is constantly changing…)
…and more often than not, they’re doing it through access versus ownership.
(Users are now faster than TV…)
Users are now faster than TV…
The age of abundance turned our world upside-down…
(How did we get here?)
How did we get here?
The post-TV era, is made of disruption…
Millennials… are commanding change in the digital space.
(Forcing change in the digital space.)
What can analytics tell creators? In the digital era…
Find your content…
Find your content…
(Or let it find you?)
Or let it find you?
(Future is now…)
Future is now…
And now, how do we move from discoverability… To discovered?
Anne-Marie: We’re good. Alright. We’re good.
Welcome! Good morning. Welcome to the Discoverability Summit. I can’t believe there’s people on the couches! I thought for sure the couches would be like: “Uh, I’m not sitting on the couches.” So this couch is still open, guys!
(Hello everyone! Welcome to the Discoverability Summit. I am really happy to see several familiar faces in the room. My name is Anne-Marie Withenshaw for those who don’t recognize me.)
I’m Anne-Marie Withenshaw. It’s great to see so many familiar faces in the room this morning. We’re in for an amazing two days and I’m really excited to kick it off with you guys today. I want to welcome people watching us on the live stream via the discoverability.ca website. Hi guys!
(Welcome to those watching us on the live stream on discoverability.ca.)
For those of you in the room right here, I want to start off by mentioning that simultaneous interpretation is available throughout the event, if needed. Headsets are available at the entrance of every room.
(Interpretation services are available throughout the Summit), which means I won’t have to translate everything like I’m doing right now.
(Headphones are available at the entrance of every room and so you can follow any conference regardless of language.)
Now, some of you might have participated in the events in my home town of Montreal, or in Vancouver, in December, called “En Route to the Discoverability Summit”. Today and tomorrow is sort of going to be a continuation of the conversations that took place during the pre- events. But don’t worry, that was not a prerequisite to attend the Summit.
(We currently live in an age of abundance. Whereas consumers of television, I am sure that even you being part of the industry you live this problem or this situation where we are flooded by choice of content, audio-visual whether it be on television, SHOMI, Crave TV, the NFB, or TOU.TV, Netflix, YouTube. We are tired just naming the platforms, so imagine the level of content.)
Viewers are no longer wondering, “What’s on tonight?”, but “What should I watch?” You see that all the time. “Hey, do you have a new series for me? What should I watch? What should I look for tonight?” And so, the traditional ways of discovering content aren’t enough anymore. What we want to spark over the next two days is, we really want to create that spark to ignite new thinking, new ideas, new approaches to audiovisual content discovery. All of you guys have brilliant ideas on how to do that and so we are all very excited to hear what you have to say.
Today and tomorrow, you’ll get to hear a number of keynote speeches, you’ll be invited to participate in seven breakout sessions, you’ll have a choice of 20 sessions in total and you’ll get to hear from the greatest minds and experts in a variety of fields to tackle this fundamental change we are going through: of “discoverability”.
(And so, the goal is really to explore new ideas, to present you with new tools, new business models to identify the real solutions, really concrete, to implement discoverability for the viewers, and also, for creators to have their works seen.
In addition to the keynote speeches and breakout sessions, the co-hosts of the event, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO of the CRTC, and Claude Joli-Coeur, hello sirs by the way, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB, will take the microphone in a few minutes to welcome you.)
After that, during lunch you’ll be invited to the Hub in the lobby which is a digital playground where you get to learn and test about lots of products and companies. We have Moog Audio that are there, Metaverse, Flixel, Google Cardboard (super cool!), Marvel Media, Xbox. Also there’s the Hub Zone with Marc Saltzman, who is a tech expert. It’s a must to go stop down and see.
(We are also really happy that the Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, will be joining us this afternoon to say a few words.)
Throughout the event, you can take advantage of our relaxation corner in the Wildflower room, across from this room, right when you leave here. There’s food and drinks and that’s all where registration was happening this morning.
(I also wanted to mention… because it’s certain you’ll be on your phones…)
I don’t have a strange growth in my pocket. It’s actually just my phone, which is off. We have some rechargeable stations.
We have charging stations for your devices in different places on this floor.
Last but not least, don’t forget the social event tonight. You’ll get to continue your conversations of the day with the experts. It’ll be a really laid back setting with entertainment and food and beverages. It’s only a 5-10 minute walk from the hotel. You should also have received your event guide with: the agenda, the sessions, the keynotes. Everything is in that guide and more copies are available near the registration tables.
Now just a few more announcements. We’ll get all of the housekeeping out of the way before we start, and then we’ll really dig into the content.
(I’d like to thank our event sponsors.)
Canadian Media Fund and EyeOnCanada, Telefilm Canada, Rogers, Shaw, CBC, Radio-Canada, and Corus. They all contributed to make this event possible and make it unique. We thank them very much for it.
Finally, I want to invite everyone, both in the room and watching the live stream, to use “#discoverability” during the Summit, to join the conversation on social media. Highlights of their conversation will also be displayed, as you can see from the events in Montreal and Vancouver.
(The hashtag to use in French is #découvrabilité with the accents on both “e”.)
If you haven’t been on WiFi yet, your WiFi password is right behind your badge, so that’s great and easy to know. Now let’s get this thing started. Without further ado, I’d like to invite the co-hosts of the Discoverability Summit: Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO of the CRTC and Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada to join me on stage. Good Morning.
Jean-Pierre: (Thank you, Anne-Marie for starting us off with so much energy. I’m not sure but we were at the Youth Summit early last week and we exchanged on the fact that…)
Well, teenagers have a little less energy at 9:30 a.m. in the morning, so I’m hoping that this crowd will be a little more awake. Good morning everyone and welcome to the Discoverability Summit.
(Before starting, I wish to acknowledge that we are gathered here today on traditional First Nations territory. I wish to thank and honour their elders. I’d also like to acknowledge the presence of those who are following us online and I encourage you to use the hashtag #discoverability on social media platforms in order to take part of the online discussions.)
I want to acknowledge those who are watching us via livestream and I encourage you to use the discoverability hashtag to join on the online discussions on social media. It certainly is an honor to welcome all of you here today.
It’s been a long time and a short time coming. I think the people organizing it thought they didn’t have much time. I announced that we would do this in March 2015, a little over a year ago. It’s been quite the long gestation period, so I hope it’ll be a very exciting couple of days where we get to explore issues that are on the cutting edge of cultural creation and content. It’s been certainly a pleasure to work with the National Film Board in planning the event. We have an exciting program for you that will hopefully inspire you and spark ideas to improve the discoverability of audiovisual content.
(Why is discoverability so important? The answer is, at the same time, complex and simple. We live in an age of abundance. Content is everywhere. We can access this content anywhere, on various platforms. The viewer is more powerful than ever. Today, they are an active and autonomous aggregator, searching for leisure content throughout the world.
In the next two days, we will have the chance to discuss and listen. We will continue the conversations that we started during the preliminary events – “En Route to the Discoverability Summit.” In Montreal, we were able to take the pulse of the French market), while in Vancouver, we focused on the English-language market. (We now want to bring together these two markets), and see what lessons can be learned from each one.
You will also have an opportunity to hear about the strategies some of our panelists used to find success in the international market, but also learn from what did not work. As well, we are pleased to present a panel of international regulators and experts. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to our guests from Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Institute and to those from the U.S.’s Federal Communications Commission and as well as the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.
A moment ago, I said that audiences are no longer passive receivers of content. Millennials in particular, are at the leading edge as active trendsetters, curators and content creators. To find out more about their habits and behaviours, we held last week (as I mentioned earlier), a Youth edition to this Summit.
While this Summit was playfully described as the adult Summit, interesting discussions took place once those folks woke up around 10:00 a.m. With more than 100 very very insightful and energetic folks from, 15 to 17 years old that came in for the event, and they do have absolutely wonderful insight. We have a lot to learn from them. In fact, I described them as consultants for the day. They really stepped up. You’ll have a chance to hear what they said later this afternoon.
But I’ll give you a preview of what they said. The overwhelming majority do not watch content through a traditional television service provider. Their primary source of content is the Internet. Even the first things they turn on is to find out what’s on YouTube and going on there to their smartphones. With broadband and a slew of apps at their disposal, consumers and citizens have the power of “now” in their hands, the power to choose, when the whim strikes, to watch or listen to this or to that as they please. This is why discoverability is relevant, why it’s worth getting all of you together here today and tomorrow and why it’s essential.
(Over the course of the next two days, I invite you to discuss ideas and innovative approaches to face the challenge which brings discoverability. But more importantly, what impact does discoverability have on you, whether you’re a member of the industry, avide viewer, or both? How to bring the content to the viewer and, vice versa, how to bring the viewer to the content?)
Traditional promotional and marketing techniques are not entirely as effective as they once were. Don’t abandon them, but how do we build on them? What, then, can be done to bring content and viewers back together again?
In the search for answers, we have gathered experts from a wide variety of trades, ranging from television “#obvious”, to data architecture, as well as professionals from the social media and video games worlds, to cite only a few. It’s great to see many familiar faces in this room, but it’s also great to see very not familiar faces in this room because I think there is some issues that we need to explore from a variety of providers.
Believe me when I tell you, we have quite a rich array of expertise here today and tomorrow. I want to remind everyone that this is anything but a regulatory proceeding. You may have noticed that it doesn’t look like our hearing room in Gatineau.
This is the CRTC using its convening powers, in collaboration with the NFB (Canada’s public sector audiovisual Research & Development branch), to discuss the future surrounding discoverability, as well as potential solutions.
We have the honour of having someone special, as Anne-Marie mentioned earlier, at the Summit, in person, Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Canadian Heritage. She will be with us later today to join the discoverability discussion.
I can’t believe I don’t trip over the word discoverability and découvrabilité, as I did a year ago.
(The problem when we create neologisms is to learn them and say them quickly.)
I also want to acknowledge the presence of my CRTC Commissioner colleagues and some of our senior staff here.
Finally, I want to officially welcome all of you to the Summit. Discuss, watch, listen, share, take selfies and don’t forget to use the discoverability hashtag.(The hashtag is #discoverability and I wish you all a good Summit.)
Thank you very much. Claude…
Claude: (Thank you, Jean-Pierre.) Good morning. Welcome to this important conference. Thank you for joining us today for what I think is a unique opportunity for all of us to begin to shape the impact of our impressive work in new ways.
(It’s rare that so much talent from different horizons and representing such a large inventory of disciplines of the industry are gathered with one specific goal.)
Too rarely do: filmmakers, division executives, data scientists, musicians, academics, writers, archivists, game developers, public servants and entrepreneurs meet on common ground, with a shared initiative seeking approaches to ensuring that in the algorithmic world audiences, both here in Canada and globally, can easily discover our content. Discoverability though has to be to action. Being on the menu of choices doesn’t mean our efforts will have succeed. Audiences can be so paralyzed by so many choices, that they revert to the familiar. I think we can all agree with conviction that Canadian creative productions are remarkable and that our filmmakers and television creators are superbly talented, but that their work is not exactly familiar or familiar enough. Discoverability has long been a problem in this country, we just didn’t have a name for it. We live in a time when every company, every organization, every government is in the content business in a time when much of the content people consume is created by people they know personally. With that kind of competition, what can we do to make our content more findable or appealing?
(We live in a time where every enterprise, every organization, even every government, puts a primordial importance on content. A time when a large portion of content consumed by customers is created by someone they know personally. Faced with this kind of competition, what can we do to render our content more attractive, and easier to find?)
At the NFB, we create and distribute: documentaries, animation and interactive production. It is the newness of these, the interactive work, that has made us more discoverable here and beyond Canada’s border. We did it by making things that no one had before, on a scale and with a creative confidence that drew significant international attention. This success brought key major organizations from the New York Times to MIT to RT knocking on our door. They saw our work as valuable for their audiences and sought to collaborate with us.
Another big part of this shift is how people perceived and connected with the NFB. Also came from our huge collection of films which we put online starting in 2009. Thousands of titles, some decades old, that were newly discoverable for free. NFB.ca diversity of films, reached new audiences who had never heard of us before. But as an industry, we should not just give audiences what they want, driven by consumer preference data; we also need to need to take audiences where they have not been before. That will help distinguish Canadian content and that nurtures what minister Joly describes as an environment of innovation.
(As an industry, we should not restrict ourselves to being guided solely by consumer-preference data. It is also up to us to take the initiative, to lead audiences into territory that was until then unknown to them. This is what will help get more Canadian content out there, and promote the development of what Minister Joly has called the innovation ecosystem.)
In her recently announced consultations on Canadian content in a digital world, the Minister is seeking input on how to strengthen the: creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in a digital world. Ours is a sector where culture, technology, personal expression, citizenship and permanent growth are all vital elements of quality. In this context, we can see that discoverability has very significant implications for Canadians.
So what’s next? Well, perhaps the safest thing to do is not to play it safe. The new normal is that there is no normal. Do we act on these challenges as Canadians who meet in a globalized pool of content or will we be acted upon?
(Our audiences are not in the room today but they must remain at the center of our discussions. We must remember that it takes more than technology and amazing and relevant content to inspire them.)
Our audiences are not here in the room today with us but they must remain at the center of our discussions. What drives them is not just technology and amazing and relevant content, so we have two days to think about it, to take initiative, to shape the future, so let’s go to work. Thank you.
Anne-Marie: (Thank you, Mr. Joli-Coeur, Mr. Blais.)
Now we’re kicking off the day with our first keynote address. Dana Lee, Associate Professor and Manager of the Media Production Program at Ryerson University, is joining us for a 25-minute keynote featuring the pivotal moments in recent history that led us to this age of abundance.
Mr. Lee started his broadcast career in 1979 at City TV when it was still transmitting on channel 79. In ’84 he joined MuchMusic as its Supervisor of Operations, eventually specializing in live music and television. In ’94 he began teaching at Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media and his current research focus at Ryerson is online collaborative learning and teaching and using new technologies to develop e-learning materials and blended learning courses. Join me in welcoming Mr. Dana Lee.
Dana: Hello. It’s not working? Ah, there it goes, okay. Very good. Okay.
Thank you and good morning. (I don’t speak French), so I’m going to be in English. Some people are like: “Wow! It’s all coming back to me now.” Okay, thank you very much and good morning. I am here today to help you think about the bigger question of distribution and of course ultimately for you folks, discoverability. I’m probably going to leave you with more questions than answers, make you scratch your head a little bit, but here’s a bit of background especially for those of you who don’t think about the history of this content all that much.
Today I’m going to concentrate, let’s see if this works, yeah, no, oops, I’m moving ahead, try the other clicker? I’ve got nothing here, and this ladies and gentleman is all about how technology sometimes fails you. I can talk about wireless later on, too. How we got into wireless and how wireless sometimes doesn’t work. Should I sing a little song? Oh, there we go. Is that me? Nope, that’s not me, that’s you. Nope, I’m still not clicking. Maybe you can forward the slides for me? Yeah, Jared says yes. Okay.
So today I’m not going to concentrate on the content. You have two days to concentrate on the content. I’m going to talk a bit more about distribution methods, and because you’re going to talk about content for days and days, I’m not going to start that with you. To have meaningful conversations about content, we have to talk a little bit about how we get content: store, retrieve it, move it from one place to another. Next slide please.
Where’d it go? No. Next slide? Hello? And that is why my talk is about technology. Old school. I can proceed ahead. That’s too bad. I had some cool, funny pictures to show you. Alright. Try one more, we can go one more? Yes! Give it up for the slide.
Information and stories have been important to us all for almost practically forever. I guess it all started when we were still grunting at each other, sketching cave drawings. So, there’s a question of which came first, audio or pictures? I would actually say pictures came first perhaps, in terms of communicating with one another. Eventually we began forming words and sentences however haltingly to get our point across to each other. Communication in this way was used to provide a course of oral history. I heard an oral history could be passed down from one generation to the next. Next slide. Oh, it’s working. Great.
One day, someone used their voice to sing some grunts at each other and music was sort of born. From the very beginning we had to have this insatiable, or we had rather, the insatiable desire to talk to each other, communicate with each, in whatever form, whatever medium we though was appropriate at the moment, up to this point. Now these poor suckers, they spent their entire lives transcribing documents before they faded away into oblivion. Today we have a more elegant name for that. We call it making a back-up for the archives. That’s what they call it. This clearly was a pain in the butt, so we ended up with Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century, relieving the tedium of painstakingly transcribing things over and over and over again. I still do that sometimes.
This of course was followed by lithography, eventually the newfangled vinyl tech machine. Can you imagine standing or sitting in front of that machine all day for the pot bed boiling away and typing things up? That was all fine and well for the printed word, we’re going to move into modern media, but the only way to get that printed text to a far away place was by placing it in some form of physical transportation and carrying it someplace else. Not the most efficient means of communication.
Now we enter into the modern age. The telegraph changed all that. This is the first example of the digital encoding of information. We think this digitally encoding thing is relatively new. This is digital encoding. These are the letters of the message of what you want to send, encoded them in a special series of dots and dashes and you can send them information. If you had the magical code system, you could decode those symbols back into text. We talk about codecs today and all these different kinds of codecs encoders and decoders. This certainly fits this, that definition. The telegraph means write at a distance. Imagine the miracle of being able to send information from one place to another almost instantaneously by wires. This is a very new idea. This beats the Pony Express by a fair bit. News services loved this because the latest stories such as the big war in the day became available all across the country more or less immediately.
The early use of codec is all fine and well but you need specialized people to do the interpretation to move the messages around. It was not for our end consumer, unlike the media we have today, but that was okay because the newspapers at the time converted all these special codes into text that the consumers, the masses, could read and understand.
It was time to move away from a digital medium. I never thought of the telegraph as a digital medium. Back in [inaudible 00:28:19] and of course Alexander Graham Bell, who was fooling around with and eventually invented the telephone. This was the first modern medium that would eventually provide consumers a two-way communication among themselves. That’s a big change in terms of modern media phase. Understand that print was a one-way medium, what we would call a one-to-many medium with the possible exception of writing a letter to the editor that you may or may not get published in the next couple of weeks in the newspaper. This is a two-way thing. The telephone is really is in a sense the first social media. The fact that we can communicate with each other and gossip and share stories with each other.
So far, I concentrated very largely on sound. We’re not going to leave out pictures. That came of course with the invention of motion pictures, film. Film of course started with still photography and the ability to capture still images of a moment in time for all to see. Can you imagine what this was like? This must’ve been magical for those who weren’t fully cognisant of how film worked. Like, “Wait, that’s the Eiffel Tower in the picture?” and then a little bit later, “Wait, that’s me in front of the Eiffel Tower?” Selfies.
Motion pictures were simply an adaptation of the fact that we all have inside us what we call a persistence of vision. Could you click on that little video for me? It’s going to flicker a little bit. There we go. There’s persistence of vision is happening for you. If you flash an image on the screen and then take it away, the image will remain in our brains for up to a tenth of a second. You kind of leave it there. You kind of see that there’s an image going on. Now early motion picture technology, for example the zoetrope and various versions of it, were exploitations of that fact. Zoetropes get pretty boring after a few seconds of watching that, not a very interesting plot.
So eventually other people like Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers in France and so many other people, invented a system where by you could see longer forms of picture content in the theater. That was happening by the late 1800’s. Could you click on that video for me please? There’s no sound in these. I just want to show you this very quick clip from The Great Train Robbery, from Thomas Edison Studios in 1903 and you will notice that it has all the modern conventions of modern motion pictures. Fast moving action, more than a little bit of gratuitous violence, and most importantly believable special effects. There’s no way. My goodness, look at the fangs on that bear. So you see films really haven’t changed all that much.
Back to radio for a moment. When the silent films of Lumière and Mr. Burdine showed in theaters, this was a new venture on the horizon, called radio. Radio was one of the first cumulative, maybe not necessarily collaborative, inventions of the early 20th century. From Maxwell, and I’ve got a bunch of old pictures up here, from Maxwell to Hertz and Tesla to Fessenden, there’s Tesla and Fessenden, and Marconi and Armstrong and Fleming and De Forest. While these folks didn’t always agree with one another, and certainly they did not agree, they didn’t even agree who owned what patents at that time. Eventually radio did all come together and for what we know today, it flourished.
So now we’ve got films in theaters and radio is not something that people are now receiving in their homes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get pictures into the homes as well? It would be great. We know what that is. It’s called television. Literally tele-vision. Long distance imagery. It’s a great idea. This idea was developed by lots of people all over the world. Those of you who were told this story probably know a lot about it. Here’s a couple players. John Logi Baird in the United Kingdom, and of course Vladimir Zworykin and Philo T. Farnsworth, all happy, smiling people, in America. David Sarnoff, another great business people in America to do with television, realized the commercial importance and as president of RCA, demonstrated the practicality of television at the “E”, in New York World’s fair in 1939. RCA owned NBC, arguably the first television network in the United States, albeit small at the time.
This all came to a rough halt at the beginnings of the second World War. I suppose the good news is that all the research and development that had gone into television was used to help the war effort, and through the developments such as radio communication and radar. I’m going to grab a glass of water here.
After the war, everything went a bit nuts. The sale of televisions in the United States and Canada increased at a rapid rate, as you can see by this chart. You see charts like this all the time. By 1965, over 90% of households had at least one television set. That’s a pretty big take up. This chart happens to be for the United States. The stats are easier to get. Our chart in Canada was pretty much exactly the same, except because we have one tenth of the population, its one tenth of the number of television sets.
Up until 1952, speaking of all of that, the sale of television sets in the United States and Canada increased at a rapid rate. Up until 1952 I should say, there were no television stations in our country, even though some TV sets were clearly being sold. So all those sets were purchased predominantly by folks living near the Canada U.S. border and they’re antennas, there’s the antennas, were aimed at American transmitters. CBC, as most of you know, signed on in 1952, followed closely behind by CTV, Independence Stations, and the eventual expansion of networks both in the United States and in Canada.
Okay. That was real fast. Now history buffs in the crowd will realize I glossed over a whole bunch of stuff, and I get that. This is not supposed to be a detailed history lesson. It’s supposed to be an “Up-Talk” to get you going for two days of discoverability. What’s interesting though is the nature of that chart. It’s similar to the adoption curve of almost all of our media technologies. You’ve got the early adopters, followed by a large surge up in the middle and a flattening out as most everybody else picks up on the concept and basically adopt that new technology.
We in Canada, were fairly quickly adding television transmitters from sea to shining sea. To give you an idea of the effort involved in the coverage of Canada, by 1979 we had 980 new transmitters in operation. This is television. While in the U.S., with their 10 times the population, had only a little bit more, 1,045. Today in this country we have over 5,000 transmitters of one sort or another. That’s a lot of transmitters. We are in a big country. Despite this herculean effort, a lot of people have been and are still, or certainly historically will have lived outside the loop. Folks in northern Canada for example, have limited television. Radio, a little cheaper to set up, transmit and receive also is more limited, less choice available. It’s a big place.
Folks, this is a tough slog that we have in this country and we needed better ways of getting the word out. Cable TV helped pave that way. Starting around 1952, the invention of cable was to get over the air signals to more viewers. A lot of us lived in the areas of the country where the reception wasn’t too great either because we lived in a valley perhaps, or simply just being a long distance away from the nearest stations. Our early cable pioneers set up antennas up on high hills, just as you can see in this old picture. Picked up the distant stations a very small monthly fee to cover the cost of distribution and boom, deliver those signals to your home. They started off really small. By 1964 only 4% of Canadian households had cable TV. I almost can’t imagine that day.
Those of you of a certain age, like me, will remember this changing by the middle 1970’s. Cable started to take off in urban areas, not just rural open spaces, often because of the proliferation, say that word 5 times fast, of high rise buildings which make your rooftop antenna reception tend to suck and the rabbit ears if you were still using them on your TV set, were even worse. I remember as a young student at Ryerson, my friends telling me: “Come to my place. We have cable TV!” There’s laughter. Some of you remember that. We have cable. By 1975, cable TV was in 60% of Canadian households. That’s a big increase from 4%.
Meanwhile we were messing around with these satellite things. If you hurl a satellite thing into space at a distance of 36,000 kilometers, plus or minus and at a velocity of 11,000 kilometers per hour and position it at the equator, something really neat happens. As the Earth rotates, the satellite appears to us to be not moving. It’s just hanging up there in space. There are hundreds of these things, it’s called a geosynchronous satellite and there are hundreds of those up there now circling the globe. We send a signal to the satellite, it turns it around and beams it back down and we’ve covered an entire country with one beam necessary. It’s a wonderful thing. Some of you are familiar with this, some of you are not, so I’m going to bring you all up to speed. That beam comes down, obviously we transmit signals from TV station to TV station for our networks. Also, to all the cable companies to get all that wonderful content into our homes, and of course now we have direct broadcast satellites, so we have direct to home satellite TV.
Running parallel to all of this, of course to be completed, has been the deployment of television distribution systems, employing high speed infrastructure from the telephone companies. Of course, just to be fair, cable now offers telephone service as well. Everything’s starting to converge for the first time. This has been happening for a while, but this was the first time. Things are more complicated for our end consumer. They have this thing called choice.
Finally, the internet became a public enterprise in the early 1990’s. I had to find a picture. You see it says “dvr.net”, as far as I can tell. I try to give credit where credit is due on the pictures. I went to try and find where the source for this was and I ended up in one of those, you know, my browser blocked the site because it was spammy and weird. I thought typical, I try to find a cute picture on the internet and it’s like: “don’t go there, that’s a virus!” Anyway, side note. The internet is really only about 20 years ago. I know. Some of us may remember a time before the internet. Probably none of us remember a time before radio or a time before the telephone, or even a time before early television. That’s how new this internet thing is. Keep that in mind in your conversations over the next couple of days. This is still really really new and we’re going to continue to struggle with it for a while yet.
The way history goes is often an exercise in hand wringing. It goes something like this: first off, we had newspapers; then radio was invented and developed. It became widespread and newspaper publishers were claiming it would be the end of print media. Radio is immediate. Newspapers, not so much. It’s going to destroy us. The music industry, meanwhile, with this invention of radio was apoplectic about the invention of it, as they don’t see how it could possibly be used to increase sales of phonograph recordings. “I mean, they’re giving away the music for free. How could we possibly use radio to increase our sales? This will be the end of the music industry,” they said.
Motion pictures were safe for the moment, because nobody’s figured out how to put moving pictures into the home. Well that changes. They developed television and now the movie people are all in a huff. They say it’s going to destroy the theater business. To their credit, they continued to develop technology over the years to combat this. Things like color movies, special effects that can’t be done on TV, higher resolution film, better projectors, better quality sound, all that good stuff. The TV folks then of course invent all that as well and around and around we go.
Meanwhile off to the side, cable TV takes off and our audiences really for the first time, back then, start to become fragmented. Choice. More choice. Choice for the consumer will be the end of all of us. Our audiences are shrinking, more do, wait a second. We’re the ones that made all of the choice. Hmm okay. The VCR is invented, remember VCRs, and now the movie and television production companies are upset. They’re stealing our stuff. You’re allowing people to make free copies of our content to watch when they want to watch it, where they want to watch it, instead of us telling them what to watch and when to watch. We now flip that on its head. Of course we know consumers want that now. This was a new idea back then. This will destroy the movie and TV industries they said. How could we possibly make money? This is piracy!
Then they took a step back and said: “Hang on a second.” You remember the days of being able to rent movies and on DVDs and on VHS tapes. They made billions of these things, so the people had to rethink the content and rethink the technology to, you know, get it out to people. How do we get that content out? How do people find out?
Meanwhile somebody said: “I have another idea, let’s start making even more content. We’ll make more television cable channels. Heck, we can even get the consumer to pay for these channels. What do we call them? I know, pay TV.” So that’s what we did and that’s how we’ll get our lost revenues back. That’s how we’ll get our viewers back. So with the best of intentions, we start to scramble. All of us do this. Mind you, this scrambling takes a few decades. It doesn’t happen overnight. Okay, we’ve been doing this for a long time, but there’s a little bit of a tension in the air. It’s been building up over the decades. Can you feel it? Oh yes, the internet. Do you remember that?
“What a neat toy the internet is,” we said. Right? This whole internet thing will never be in competition for our listeners and viewers. It’s just for print. Insert pity here for the print people of course. Sure people are putting up some low quality audio and some little, tiny low-resolution videos, but this whole internet thing will really never take off because the bandwidth will never be big enough for audio and video. Right? How’s that working out?
There’s a big lesson in all of this history as I give you a wave of all of this. Let me pull something to you. There’s a lot of you in the room here and you come from all over the place, especially I heard that in the opening comments this morning. Many of you came here by travelling on a commercial airline. You well know the check-in procedures that you have to go through: online bookings, printing out your boarding pass, whether you print it out at home, or in your office or at the airport, scanning your passports, getting your boarding pass several times. Some of you travel internationally, you did that a lot of times to get here. Walk through security checkpoint, eventually walk to a secure area until the aircraft boards and so on. Could the Wright Brothers possibly have anticipated all that when they figured out how to fly a machine in the air? They saw from the air on those first flights. They looked down like, “Wow, man. I can see the ground.” Did they ever imagine a day when everybody would be able to do that so quickly? We call it Google Earth.
The early inventors of photography, they were fooling around with: black boxes, photosensitive materials, stinky chemicals. Did they ever imagine the emergence of the digital camera or the selfie or worst of all, the selfie stick?
When Alexander Graham Bell spilled acid on himself and called out to Watson, was he able to imagine that every one of us in this room probably was going to have one of those in our pockets? Did he consider voice mail as an option? Can you imagine him calling out to Watson getting something like this. Uh, seriously? There it is. “Hey I’m not in the next room right now, please leave your message or I’ll call you back as soon as I can. Thanks and have a great day.” I don’t know.
Did the inventors of radio ever consider that one day everyone would own several radio transmitters? Everything from: cell phones, WiFi, Bluetooth, two-way radios, cordless phones that’s if you have a landline to plug your cordless phone into, this clicker thing which works with, this wireless microphone I have on. We all have own many transmitters. Fessenden had only one. Alright? It’s changing. I wonder what Fessenden would’ve thought of internet radio and podcasts?
My point in all of this is that these original inventions were never intended to serve the purposes that they do today. None of the inventions as invented do the same thing today. Guess both make sense. Now the content that we invented is going to be doing what it did in the past. We have to think about what content is going to do for our viewers, for content, for viewers. These things all mutate over time and will continue to do so. I keep hitting the wrong button, that’s part of my problem. My bad. It’s not about the medium, it’s the message and by the message, I don’t actually mean the content.
I was in NAB a couple weeks ago, perhaps some of you were there too. As I walked around, past almost 1,800 exhibitor booths, I noticed something. There are lots of systems and devices out there for: creating, distributing, storing and monetizing your content, but there is proportionately very little about how to hold-up your audience or how to hold your audience, or even how to get your audience in the first place. The tools that are out, themed to be right now, are often designed by a particular group designated listeners and/or viewers and see if anybody bites, if anybody takes up their content. That’s an old push it out to them model. We all know about push and pull content.
Perhaps and I’m just speculating here, what we need is a different model that allows the end user, the consumer, to actually find the stuff they’re interested in rather than just stumble upon it by happenstance or because they saw someone’s posting on Facebook about it, that content that might interest them. Yes, we realize this, but it’s not organized. But that’s the way it seems to be working right now, at least the way it works for me as a consumer of content.
The notes for this symposium, the big broad notes in the handouts that you all have, talk about creating one-to-one connection with the viewer and deepening that relationship. I wholeheartedly agree. I said a couple minutes ago that it’s about the message, but I said that that message wasn’t content. I’m going to suggest that over the next couple of days you think about customer service. Maybe that’s part of the message. In the end, this is about people; not technology. In fact, it’s not even necessarily about content. It is, as we’re doing for the next few days about the discoverability of that content.
I’ve concentrated on technology a lot in this talk I think you see this technology is terribly mutable, so is content. Content is absolutely mutable, it can be repurposed for distribution in so many different ways and pretty much everybody in the room probably does that in one way or another. Making more if it, is not getting it discovered any better, there’s just more to choose from. To me every single one of your audience members is a human being, just like you and I. Bad grammar up there. Just like you and me. Maybe that is where we should be concentrating our efforts from now on. I don’t know.
But, what I’ve tried to give you is a little bit behind, a little bit of historical background, to think about how everything that you create in the moment, we think we’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got motion pictures figured out. I’ve got TV figured out. I’ve got radio figured out. Then we do, at the moment, but maybe we have to think about can we predict in the future how we figure out how we get our folks to discover our content better?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your mission over the next couple of days. Thank you very much for your time.
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