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Are CTV Platforms Like Google TV Creating a New Entertainment Sector?

CTV platforms like Google TV are filling the void as traditional cable systems recede from their former ubiquity and arguably creating an entirely new category of content distributor, contends Google TV Product Manager UX Rob Caruso in this fireside chat with Media Universe Cartographer Evan Shapiro at Streaming Media NYC. Shapiro even coins a new term for this new entertainment sector: “Collabregator.”

The role of CTV platforms as the new entertainment distributors  

Shapiro notes that Google has a major advantage with its vast infrastructure, which greatly helps its ability to develop new products and reach customer bases in new regions. “What's fascinating is the arrival and evolution of the operating system, the connected television…you're creating a new space, a new sector, a new segment of entertainment,” he says. “To a certain extent, it's software, operational, and discovery, but on the other hand, it's much more than that. It is, for all intents and purposes, the user experience and the user interface. From an economic standpoint and from a theoretical standpoint, what defines this emerging segment?”

Caruso says that what’s emerging is not necessarily new, but the distribution platforms have changed the most. Rather than the clunky older cable boxes that once delivered the user interface, smart TVs have risen to dominance, even though the smart TV ecosystem is still not as developed as what’s available on tablets and phones. “But we are still able to do things interactively on those smart TVs that you weren't able to do in the cable ecosystem,” he says. “So I don't know it's a new entertainment experience as much as it's just shifted the delivery of it, both the actual mechanism to deliver the bits and also the device that you're interacting on. You mentioned the economics, that's slightly different. You're not paying big subscription packages to get this. You're paying more in micro subscriptions to the individual apps and maybe to a pay TV provider like YouTube TV or Hulu. And then there's the ad-supported component of it that has shifted. It's not that it didn't exist [before], but it's the CTV platforms that are taking a bigger role there.”

The new age of the “collabregators”

Shapiro says that the new role of CTV platforms as entertainment distributors is like the “new age Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD),” and that he likes to call this new form of distributed aggregation “collabregators,” which should more evenly rise the tides for all players. “Ostensibly, we went from a fee-based distribution model to one that's much more around revenue share,” he says. However, he observes that the interests of all these new players are not as aligned as they could be, with the continuance of “walled gardens” of different platforms and providers making the user experience more complicated than necessary. He asks Caruso, “A, what's your take on that? And B, do you see a pathway to better aligning the interests of all these players so that the interests and needs of the consumers are better met?”

“At the end of the day, it doesn't make any sense to be exclusive,” Caruso says. “If you're a Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) provider, you want [your reach and visibility] to be as wide as possible. People are less precious about their experience when you're in the FAST world because you want that experience. You're probably okay if someone consumes your content elsewhere inside of a native CTV platform. For instance, [at Google], we aggregate as much information as possible, and we expose it to the user in the interface. If you choose to launch an app, that's great too. But what we've seen is pretty tremendous incremental reach where users that knew about [an] app, downloaded that app and launched it…that user's already been reached. What we're doing is by bringing that content forward, we're bringing in new folks that maybe wouldn't have known to download a Pluto app or a Tubi app, and now they're getting incremental viewing as a result of that. So to me, that's probably the best example where the tide actually lifts everybody. We get some benefit from that by using our interface to help discover content. The partners are getting incremental viewing, so everybody's winning there.”

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