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You'll never guess what MSNBC thinks about 4K

Global Head of Media

September 14, 2015

At Valtech's Dinner on Demand, an un-conference style event in the heart of Amsterdam, Adobe's Kevin Bishop asked the following question of Richard Wolffe, Digital GM for MSNBC:

Does 4K matter to your business…?

After a pause his answer came back,

No, not really.

The context was that in discussions about innovation in technology and progress in the media industry everyone is talking about 4K, UHDTV, HDR, but nobody is asking the question: how relevant is it?

It was telling that one of the leading minds in a global broadcaster believes that the importance of more pixels is overstated, and that there is in fact a panel of kings in the media world: the audience, the content, and the experience.

The Audience is King:

At this event it was clear in the minds of many that the audience holds the power in the battle between broadcasters and service providers, because the content can now be consumed wherever and whenever the viewers want. If it can't, if there isn't that capability, they simply won't stick around. With shortening attention spans and infinite mobility, why would they?

The Content is King:

So you can deliver content on a variety of devices, screen sizes and on different levels of mobility. Your CDN supplies clear and fast content to whoever is requesting it, whenever they want. Your content, however, is the media equivalent of the colour beige. Not quite "nothing," but lacking in any particular colour.

People watch what everyone else wants to watch

If you're producing content that people won't watch, they won't stick around either. Another interesting quotation was from William Cooper from informitv, who said that personalisation is a red herring: "People watch what everyone else wants to watch, you can personalise as intricately as you like, but winning content is winning because it appeals to the majority."

The Experience is King:

If people can't access the content they want to watch because they don't understand the UI, or the system lags or the streaming quality is down to 420p on a 50" screen, they won't stick around. They have a wealth of services available at their fingertips and there are some broadcasters and service providers who are doing user experience brilliantly. There's no room for sup-par interaction. The linear, traditional TV model worked well for so many years because of its simplicity, over complication in this digital age would see adoption rates for new services plummet.

So while people will punish you if you're supplying poor video quality, the evidence suggests that they won't abandon you completely if you've got a great user experience, your content is brilliant and you can supply it on their terms. But please, if you're going to insist on championing 4K, make it backwards compatible…

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