TV companies will have to adapt to the rapidly evolving world of online entertainment if they are to survive, experts warn.
Broadcasters are already playing catch-up with online gaming giants for the attention of young listeners and the ad-dollar battle that follows.
On the horizon is the so-called “metavers” – a loose term that covers the growing ecosystem of interactive online worlds, games and 3D meeting places that are already attracting millions of users.
Although older consumers are still engrossed in traditional TV, according to Statista, viewership among people under the age of 35 has halved in a decade and will decline rapidly as Metaverse develops.
“Young people have turned from passive TV viewers into active players, and they have turned from screens to smartphones,” said Frederic Cavaza, co-founder of Cisk, a French company specializing in digital transformation. “TV channels are dying with their viewers.”
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To reach young people, broadcasters need to compete with gaming platforms such as RoboLux, Fortnite and Minecraft – which are seen as pioneers of Metavers – which are already establishing an influential position.
Half of 9-12-year-olds in the United States use Roblox at least once a week, according to media research firm Dubit – from playing games to watching concerts to chatting with friends.
Audiences could be huge: 33 million people watched rapper Lil Nass X’s performance on Roblox in 2020 – more than three times the number of people who saw her on Grammys TV this week. Matthew Warnford, co-founder of Dubit, says broadcasters must choose whether to stick to a shrinking market for traditional TV programming, or to bring their characters and brands to the Metavers platform.
“It means bringing people into a world, part of their story, playing with their friends – in the same way Disneyland lets you and your friends live in their world with Mickey Mouse,” he said.
TV companies have time to adapt, but they face a big challenge in simultaneously catering to young people who want to watch traditional broadcasts for older people, middle-aged people moving to streaming and interactive and social entertainment.
“If we want to be relevant, we have to position ourselves in all of these uses,” said Katie Bream, head of innovation at France Television.
He said national broadcasters are still in research mode, playing with augmented and virtual reality to create immersive cultural and sporting experiences.
But the biggest challenge may be financial. To date, TV companies have avoided technological disruption because their advertising revenue has not been significantly affected – unlike other traditional media such as newspapers.
Warnford said that “change can happen faster than human perception.” Moving TV ads into the gaming world was difficult before because they were created by individual companies “who locked them down and captured all the value,” he said.
But with the more open field of Metaverse, there will be more opportunities for brands to promote themselves and sell products directly to users.
In fact, fashion and luxury labels are already making millions by selling virtual clothing and accessories on Robolex, Fortnite and other platforms.
“If they want to reach young people, do companies go to TV or do they go where young people really are – in gaming and metavers?”