Transculturalism™ Viewed as Template for Future Success in Reaching Diverse, Young, Millennial Media Audiences
March 21, 2014, New York, NY – Over 300 media executives gathered at the 14th Annual Multicultural Media for Multicultural America Forum, held at the Edison Ballroom on March 20th in NYC.
The focused event included a series of research presentations and 5 panels featuring thought leaders from all sectors of the media space. The sessions focused on the key business areas of the media industry: Multichannel distribution and programming, marketing research and strategy, digital and OTT distribution strategies, and advertising. A final, closing session featured industry veterans discussing their views of the future of TV and media.
The day’s discussion focused on transculturalism™, a concept introduced by Adriana Waterston, SVP of Marketing and Business Development of Horowitz Associates to explain the dynamics of today’s diverse, multiplatform media environment. Transculturalism™ is a cyclical relationship that all people have with each other and the impact these relationships have to ever-changing definitions of culture. In transculturalism™, Waterston noted, “None of us are static, stuck in time or constrained in silos defined by narrow commonly accepted characteristics or traits. We are constantly changing, evolving, and being redefined by each other. We are all influenced, and we are all influencers.”
It is because of this phenomenon of transculturalism™, Waterston explained, that consumers today demand content that reflects the diversity of the world around them. Shifting notions of what defines the “general market” are changing expectations that people have in terms of the faces and stories they see in mainstream TV. This is particularly true of the young, diverse, millennial audience. According to Keli Lee, EVP of Casting for ABC, authenticity is key: “I don’t think about [casting a character] as ‘is it broad, is it mass, is it going to appeal to a mass audience’. I think about it as who is the right person for this character.” When you find the right actor, “you either believe the person, you find their voice to be authentic, find them relatable or accessible or you love to hate them, because that is part of the character.” In a multiplatform world where consumers have virtually unlimited control over the content they consume, “quality and diversity in terms of the faces and stories we see on TV matters more than ever,” notes Waterston.
Indeed, delivering quality content for their target audiences is on the strategic agenda for the programmers on the Forum’s panels. Michelle Rice, EVP, Sales and Marketing for TV One, noted that at TV One, “We see ourselves as super-serving our customers… to create value for our partners. We’re investing a lot more money in original content… and creating greater engagement.” For some programmers, the evolving demographics of America present opportunities to re-shift their focus to grow their audiences. Tom Grayman, Senior Director of Research for Spike TV revealed that, “We found we were doing a good job of serving that audience [of young white men], but we realized we were leaving out a huge swath of potential viewers… So we started to evolve our positioning and we are officially abandoning ‘the network for men’ as our positioning.”
Waterston presented a ground-breaking segmentation of the TV universe that placed TV viewers on a continuum based on their media habits, not demographics. Radha Subramanyam, EVP, Insights, Research, & Analytics for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment explained that Clear Channel has also moved away from demographics in their audience segmentation: “We never talk about demographics as a way to launch a brand or to way to nurture a brand. We always talk about ‘tribes’ of people, we always talk about psychographics. We always try to find those existing tribes of culture and be the beacon for them.”
In Horowitz’s TV universe segmentation, segments ranged from the “Old Schoolers”, the most traditional viewers who remain wholly oriented towards live TV, to the “Untethered Curators” who spend most of their TV time on streamed content and are oriented towards premium TV series, online original content, and web videos. While the segmentation was not based on demographics, Waterston noted that multicultural consumers, along with other millennials, over-index in some of the most leading-edge segments in the new TV universe segmentation. Serving young, diverse millennials with the quality content they want, on all the platforms they use, will be critical in driving future revenue for the media industry.
Reacting to Horowitz’s segmentation data, Emma Brackett, VP, Content & Programming, DIRECTV pondered the challenges and opportunities these young, leading edge segments pose for the industry. “Those Millennials who never subscribed [to multichannel services]… How do we bring them in? How do we serve them what content are they looking for?” Alexis Johnson, Time Warner Cable’s VP, Content Acquisition, explained that at his company, the strategy is to “make sure that we increase the value proposition. Not just choices in the number of channels, but the number of devices, experiences.” Sruta Vootukuru, Director of Programming, Dish Network, agreed: “In the past, when you thought about viewership, content was king. But now content is only one part of it. The equation now includes variables such as convenience, personalization, and relevance.”
José Vélez-Silva, Senior Director of Multicultural Marketing for Comcast affirmed the media giant’s commitment to meeting the evolving demands and expectations of their subscribers. Velez-Silva explained that “it is about what is meaningful and relevant… we are creating our services to cater to this ever-changing transcultural and multicultural audience. We’re not starting with a product and then seeing how it fits with the household; we’re talking to consumers and seeing what they really need and like, and then we’re building our products and experiences to cater to those needs.”
Another undercurrent of the Forum’s discussions was the need for better and more standardized measurement across media platforms was an undercurrent of Forum discussions, especially in today’s rapidly evolving and dynamic media environment. Artie Bulgrin, SVP, Research & Analytics, ESPN shared his view that the industry needs to focus on “the relentless pursuit of better measurement. The fact of the matter is, we’re falling dangerously behind the consumers and not really understanding what their behavior is. We’re guessing too much.”
Joel Kliksberg, VP & Chief Strategy Officer, Fusion, the new ABC/Univision joint English-language venture targeting young, millennial Latinos, summarized the complexity of today’s media environment: “The biggest challenge from the content production side is the pace of change. It took radio some 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, it took television about 13 years to reach an audience of 50 million and it took Instagram about a year and a half. So the pace of change is so rapidly occurring. But with that change comes phenomenal opportunity. And so we, everyone who works at Fusion, feel incredibly fortunate to have these two massive parent companies making an investment in the vision of the future.”
Mike Rosen, Telemundo Media’s EVP of Advertising Sales, pointed to the opportunity for media giants to superserve audiences in a transcultural America: “Telemundo, for a very long time, was really a silo within the world of NBCU. It really stood alone because for so long, this industry was so separated. I love this term, transculturalism™. Today is the first time I’ve ever heard that term and I love it. We’re always thinking about how we can refer to what’s going on in the marketplace.”
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The annual Multicultural Media Forum is organized by Horowitz Associates Market and Multicultural Research. For more information about the 2014 event, contact Stephanie Wong: 914-834-5999 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.multiculturalmediaforum.com