Second-screen hopefuls hard-pressed to disrupt Hollywood ‘cabal’

You can’t move these days for new research indicating the rise of of “second-screeners” — those of us who watch television while using a handheld device.

But, as upstart operators scurry around trying to exploit that fact with variants of social or interactive TV add-ons, what is the real business opportunity here?

Terence Kawaja, the respected former GCA Savian media M&A advisor turned Luma Capital founder, told Monaco Media Forum on Thursday:

“That’s all well and good – but it’s on the margin. The thing they teach you in startup school is, solve an existing problem. There’s no problem in TV — at least, not for the people who are funding it.

“When social tv companies say, ‘We can enhance engagement by 700 percent, the advertisers say, ‘So? We’re happy with the engagement we have.’ As far as the TV infrastructure goes, it ain’t broke.”

Executives from Google (s goog) and France Telecom’s Orange, which holds equity in Dailymotion, disagreed, however.

Photo: Monaco Mediax ©

That’s like saying, ‘A horse is not broken so why invent the car?’,” said Google’s media and platform director for northern and central Europe, Benjamin Faes.

“I love television but I don’t think the current state of television advertising leverages all the potential TV has.”

When TV ads start becoming personalized in the same way web ads are, that could be game-changing. Google has previously advised BSkyB on its long-gestated, soon-upcoming long of just such an initiative.

But Kawaja’s problem is that technologists will find cracking a still-powerful Hollywood impossible if they work against the beast.

“A lot of digital guys say ‘TV is dead, video’s going to take over’. Not so fast — the producers have a cabal that’s not going to be disrupted any time soon. This is really a lop-sided playing field.

“Television ad spend is $70 billion in the U.S. Compare that to online video monetisation that’s roughly $2.5 billion. The $70 billion is growing. This cabal is going to make it very difficult to disintermediate.

Orange Digital EVP Stephanie L’Hospital told Kawaja: “Even if, today, ad spend is growing on TV, if the TV industry does not act soon, the total amount of value will decrease.”