Today it’s rare to find a TV program that solely exists in TV land. Often you will find it online, with a few clips uploaded to YouTube or on a site where you can watch the show in its entirety. Or you can buy the DVD of the program, or watch episodes and snippets of it on your mobile phone. Some are even made into video games, or comic books or even major studio films. Television programming has become a 360-degree media commodity that is chopped and modified for many different platforms, and broadcasters are coming to the party. But is this anything new? For decades we have seen movies made into TV shows, TV shows made into movies, comic books made into TV shows and vice versa. Think of Charlie’s Angels, the TV program made into a movie. Think of The A-Team, The Addams Family, The Fugitive, Get Smart, Miami Vice and The Transformers. Recent examples in Australia have included the Network Ten TV hit MasterChef, which launched several spinoff shows and a MasterChef magazine, and past examples such as Better Homes & Gardens magazine, which spawned a TV and radio show, and Burke’s Backyard which launched on radio, then TV and then a magazine. Mike Rich, CEO of GroupM agency ESP in Asia Pacific, said it’s all about trying to amplify good content through multiple channels. “The principle isn’t anything new,” he said. “What’s changed is the channels and the method of the message.” Cross-platform content and TV programming extending into other mediums might not be a new concept, but it has certainly taken flight in the past decade. With the rise of the internet, smart phones and globalisation, people are more engaged and connected than ever before and there is an insatiable demand for content. The traditional television business had been under attack and broadcasters have had to try many things to arrest the slide and increase their audiences. One of these methods has been to expand their TV programs into other channels such as online, mobile and video games. Alexandre Muller, managing director of TV5MONDE Asia Pacific, believes broadcasters have little option but to do it in a bid to attract advertising revenue. “There’s no choice today,” he said. “It’s a necessity for most of the channels. All the international channels have the same problem. You have to come to advertisers with a complete solution – TV, online and mobile.” Lanny Huang, general manager of Playboy TV Asia and Japan, agrees. Playboy is the perfect example of a brand that began in one channel and that has morphed into numerous different offshoots – from a magazine to television channel, men’s clubs in casinos, fashion, merchandising, games and online content. Playboy’s clubs are located in the likes of Macau Sands and Las Vegas’ Palms Hotel, while its Playboy: The Mansion video game is available on Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox. The Playboy fashion line includes watches, handbags, men’s wear, lighters, women’s lingerie and other female accessories. Huang says the company is a believer in cross-platform content, with Playboy becoming a lifestyle brand. He says the point of all this content is “maximum exposure for the TV programs and branding to the audience and advertiser”. “In the past, television sets were only in homes and houses,” Huang said. “Yet now portable devices like mobile handsets, iPads, game devices etc can download the programs for viewing ‘anytime anywhere’”. In the wider broadcaster world, you would be hard-pressed to find any TV network across the globe who doesn’t believe in the power of cross-platform content and who isn’t seeking to harness that power. BBC Worldwide is another channel operator that seeks to make the most of its potent TV content. Marcus Arthur, managing director for global brands at BBC Worldwide, said his division’s job is to drive “maximum value from our five key brands and this is best done by creating 360° propositions, which includes brand extensions which can range from books to full scale live events”. “The division exists to make our brands live in as many formats as possible,” he said. “Big television series are at the heart of what we do and we are working on cross-platform opportunities for all of our major brands in order to exploit their full value and return profit back to the BBC and license fee payer.” Some of the BBC’s most successful examples include the TV programs Doctor Who and Top Gear. The BBC’s magazine business publishes more than 30 titles ranging from Top Gear, which is licensed in 24 countries, to Doctor Who Adventures, Gardener’s World and In the Night Garden. The operator also has joint ventures with Random House and Ebury with a books business covering every TV genre. The BBC is no slouch when it comes to digital media either. “The Top Gear website had over 4.5 million unique users last month and we’re embracing web, VOD and mobile platforms across all of our brands,” Arthur said. “For instance we have a global partnership with YouTube and have a BBC Worldwide channel to showcase our content as well as individual channels for BBC Earth, Top Gear and Eastenders. Gaming is relatively new for us but a deal with Sony in 2007 has seen the Top Gear race track featuring in Sony Gran Turismo, the world’s leading racing game franchise and we have announced a new deal with Forza to develop two products, Forza 3 and a new product for release in 2011. We’re developing gaming propositions around other global brands including a recently announced deal with Asylum Entertainment to develop Nintendo and Wii console games for Doctor Who.” Arthur said the reason behind this is very simple – relevance and going where the audience is. Audiences are becoming more demanding and advertisers want to be where the audience is and where their message will be heard. “Audiences are increasingly sophisticated and likely to identify and ignore advertising that doesn’t fit with their interests so it is mutually beneficial for advertisers to seek out brands with a good audience fit for their product,” Arthur said. “The brand will benefit from advertising revenue and the advertiser benefits from finding an audience that will pay attention to their message.” So with the amount of channels exploding in recent years and the opportunities seemingly endless, what TV genres are the most easily transported to another platform? Considering the wide variety of TV programming, and the vast expanse of fragmented TV audiences, it is hard to pinpoint exactly. For TV5MONDE, sport and news are the two main types of content that it looks to extend across different platforms. “Live sports and news are the two main drivers of it,” TV5MONDE’s Muller said. “This is where people should concentrate.” TV5MONDE launched its football content on mobile phones two years ago, which covers video highlights of matches, texts and other components. “This was quite successful,” Muller says. “We’re looking at extending it.” The broadcaster is also looking at news applications, and planning to create a free news app that is available on all the different mobile phone brands. When it comes to mobiles, Muller believes it is all about shortterm viewing. “I don’t think live TV is the answer,” he says. “It’s not working, there’s no business model behind it. Why watch a two-hour program on a mobile? It’s for short-term viewing.” Reality TV is certainly a genre that extends easily and successfully to other channels, particularly in Asia Pacific. ESP’s Rich points to some of the reality shows his agency has been involved with, such as Got Talent, and others like Idol and The Amazing Race. “Got Talent had great success through YouTube,” Rich said. “They [reality TV] lend themselves to bite-sized chunks of content quite easily.” Rajesh Mahtani, Starcom’s executive director of strategy and analytics in SE Asia, agrees and says the likes of Idol and the Amazing Race boast strong online communities that revolve around them. He also includes sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Friends, and any popular local TV dramas that have discussion forums, fan sites, blogs and social network groups fuelled by communities of fans. “TV content can fuel communities and conversations and television today is a social experience,” Mahtani said. “But social connections today are many miles wide but only inches deep. What I mean is that the physical viewing experience today tends to be primarily individualistic but the internet has provided a powerful means to connect individuals from every corner of the world and form virtual communities.” In the opinion of Mahtani, science fiction is a genre that particularly lends itself well to multiple platforms. “They are based on imagination, which makes it versatile and expansive, and more importantly, have loyal communities with cult-like following,” he said. “These communities display an obsessive behaviour, which compels them to adopt content across multiple formats, be it print, gaming, movies or online communities. The few that come to mind are Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate – though this started off as a movie before expanding to a TV series. They have been expanded to online, gaming and print, comic books and fiction, platforms.” But it’s not just fiction and drama that is proving to be successful as cross-platform content. News in its many forms – entertainment, sports, general and finance – is also carving out its own niche. A big part of CNBC’s operations in Asia Pacific is its online presence and its mobile offering. CNBC has real-time information, exclusive interviews and documentaries available on TV, mobile and online, with apps for iPhones, Blackberrys and iPads. “We’ve also recently announced the launch of the only real-time financial news and data app on the upcoming Google TV platform,” Jacqueline Lam, vice president of marketing and distribution for CNBC in Asia Pacific, said. “In addition to a choice of live channels from Asia, the US and Europe, viewers can also keep track of who is appearing on CNBC through ‘guest alerts’, which they can include in their Outlook diary as a reminder.” The broadcaster’s goal is that the vast majority of its TV programmes have seamless integration with CNBC.com. “For instance, we ran the live global broadcast of our exclusive Townhall with President Obama on TV and online,” Lam said. “Segments of the Townhall were also uploaded online and on the mobile apps after the programme. Another recent example would be our Squawk on the road Thailand coverage. Videos of that coverage were offered online and on the mobile apps.” Like CNBC, BBC World News is using news at the forefront of its 360-degree media assault. Radio is often paired with TV, through the BBC World Service Radio, while mobile content is increasing and its online presence is strong. “A lot of our World News programmes are doing good business online – Click, Fast:Track, The Real,” Paul Gibbs, head of programming at BBC World News, said. “No programming is put into the schedules without consideration of its possibilities across all platforms.” With the amount of new channels available, which appears to grow each year, it is fair to ask which channel has the most potential. Which medium presents the most lucrative opportunities for extension from TV? Opinion remains mixed, with online and mobile seemingly vying for that honour. Clouding the issue somewhat is the fact that both of these platforms are closely linked and dependent. TV5MONDE’s Muller believes mobile has the most potential for cross-platform content “but it’s important to have internet and mobile”. “There’s still not a huge amount of phones connected to the web. With mobile you only select what you want. It’s the most personal medium, it’s very personalised. The possibility for advertising is much, much better. We have the keys to do something great. This is what people are waiting for.” Muller said the key issue for broadcasters is that if they provide something online, it also has to be also available on mobiles. “Today any mobile phone has to be considered as an internet-connected device,” he said. BBC World News’ Gibbs is another believer in mobile. “For a channel based on news and current affairs mobile comes first,” he said. “And the take up of BBC World News on mobile is growing at a phenomenal rate – especially in countries which have migrated from terrestrial TV and telephones to mobile circumventing the web.” To a broadcaster like Playboy TV, both mobile and gaming are viable platforms. “Both have the most potential since every person has at least one to two mobile handsets at their side,” Playboy’s Huang said. “Yet gaming with 3D will be the future and we believe that 3D games will be the most revenue generated depending upon 3D TV sets sold in the markets for the coming years.” Deciding on the positives and negatives of a particular channel might be a moot point, according to BBC Worldwide’s Arthur, as it depends entirely on the TV programming and the brand in question. “A brand like Lonely Planet has huge potential on a mobile platform that allows for social interaction and sharing, whereas a brand like Top Gear has a huge amount of potential in the gaming arena which we are already expanding into through the partnership with Forza,” Arthur said. Broadcasters are certainly moving into a brave new world as they embark on this divine pursuit of 360-degree media. They are moving out of their comfort zones and moving into waters that are unchartered and while, potentially lucrative, also expensive to navigate. Monetizing cross-platform content is something that so far has proved elusive. TV5MONDE’s Muller agrees that this area is difficult, but it’s also worthwhile. “It takes time,” he said. “It’s tricky. The marketing is different, it’s a totally different approach. Not everything we’re doing is working. Sometimes the market is not ready for it. [But] it’s a bigger reality than 3D TV, for example.” ESP’s Rich feels that the challenge is for the content markers to have the courage and skill to think about the engagement level of their content before it is exposed to the market. “Audiences are discerning and increasingly cynical,” he said. “Consumers engage with things because they care about it.” A crucial change in the psyche of TV creation is that program makers are starting to think about where their content can survive and flourish away from just TV screens. “We do think about this early,” Rich said. “The starting point is insight on who the audience is, and what is the most effective channels to reach them.” Far from being a flash in the pan, this drive towards crossplatform content is going to define the TV industry in the next few years. Rich, whose agency is currently increasing its expertise in this field, believes it is a “big learning area for everybody”. “I don’t think anyone has the answers at the moment – mainly in monetization, particularly in the mobile space,” he said. “It’s hard to create a model to justify mobile content.” Hard as it may be, this medianeutrality approach is here to stay and broadcasters need to continue to lift their game. “In the beginning it was ‘niceto- have’ and considered very innovative,” Angel Orengo, senior vice president of distribution in Asia Pacific for Sony Pictures Television, said. “Today, crossplatform expressions or a manifestation of content is an integral part of every content strategy.” To put it simply, the future is a cross-platform one and we all must adapt to this new reality. “A few years ago people were talking about convergence – it’s coming now,” TV5MONDE’s Muller says. “It’s interesting. This is where people think there will be a future.” Muller admits, “there’s a long way to go”, but says the journey has began and it should one hell of a ride. “It’s a very exciting period,” he says. “Two to three years from now, things will be so much different from today.”