As the realms of television, smart devices and the internet continue to converge, TV networks and the likes of Microsoft and Google have a very good reason to work together. While Nine Network was the first to forge a relationship with a tech giant – allying with Microsoft in 1997 – it took Kerry Stokes' Seven Media Group (now Seven West Media) until 2006 to tie the knot with Yahoo. However, the latest step in Yahoo!7's growth strategy could potentially see it leapfrog Nine and certainly leave Network Ten in the dust.
That step is Yahoo!7's content sharing deal with Samsung Electronics, a deal that will see Samsung natively feature Yahoo!7’s range of apps on its devices. This means that if you own anything from a Samsung Galaxy smartphone to a home theatre system, you will soon have access Fango, 7News and its online IPTV service 7PLUS in-built into your device.
The fact that Samsung has scored the exclusive rights to stream 7PLUS through an app rather than through a browser is easily the crown jewel of this deal. Seven has some of Australia’s highest rating TV shows, and access to such content may play of consumers’ minds when they are hunting for their next device.
It seems Samsung understands the importance of having access to this content, as none of its home-entertainment range has been spared in this Yahoo!7 push. We may soon see an era where My Kitchen Rules is beamed directly to your fridge!
All in all, the Samsung-Yahoo!7 partnership seems like a good fit.
Yahoo!7 needs to launch its mobile IPTV offering with a bang if it hopes to lead the space and being automatically featured on Samsung devices may help Yahoo!7 overcome its biggest hurdle. Yahoo!7 is launching its offering on an ad-subsidised model, whereas one of its biggest IPTV rivals, ABC’s iView operates on an ad-free model. The Samsung deal gives Yahoo!7 a ready-made distribution platform with substantial audience reach.
As for Samsung, it’s looking to take on Apple in Australia's smartphone and tablet race and having access to Seven’s news coverage and highly rated assortment of TV shows will give it another plus over its rival. But to make the partnership even sweeter, SevenWest has also agreed to promote the Samsung partnership and its device range across part of its vast media network. And given how dedicated Samsung is to marketing its brand, this can only be good news for the tech giant.
Deals like these are inevitable given the current media landscape, where shifting technologies are eroding the traditional TV business model. The shift into IPTV will be crucial for Australia’s major networks, as they begin to come to grips with a future where all TV content is streamed via the internet.
Some networks are more prepared than others. For instance, Nine Network’s concrete relationship with Microsoft and that NineMSN partnership could eventually lead to a scenario where the media company’s content is featured on a Windows phone or the Surface tablet.
But, the TV stations aren’t the only ones to watch in this space. As we’ve already seen in the US, this disruption is opening the market up to new players, like QuickFlix, which is currently preparing itself for a renewed assault on Foxtel. Then there are Australia’s major telcos all gearing up for a future where they will provide internet access and content to go along with it.
So while this deal pits both Yahoo!7 and Samsung ahead of the curve, it also raises questions as to how Australia’s most ailing TV network, Ten, will cope with this transition.
As we’ve seen with social TV, Ten traditionally hasn’t been quick to jump on new technology trends. In Ten’s defence, there are still no hard figures to prove whether early adoption of social TV has actually benefited any of the networks, but given the prevalence of tweets and posts being plastered across the TV screen during prime time shows, one can only assume that it’s prominence is on the rise.
Pre-empting this, Seven and Nine both tooled up with their own apps to embrace the social TV trend. Ten was last to the party, and ended up making what could be considered a token agreement with international social TV company, Zeebox. The only problem with this deal is that that it was not much of a binding partnership. Zeebox has long maintained that it is network agnostic, and that any company can form a partnership with it.
Ten’s future is already under heavy scrutiny and moving into mobile IPTV may be the least of its concerns, but perhaps it’s an area that the company’s new chief executive Hamish McLennan may want to keep an eye on.