Reposted from the CIKTN blog.

On Tuesday this week we held the last in our mini-series of briefings around Challenge 3 of the Convergence In A Digital Landscape feasibility study fund. Last week, as I reported here, we were in Liverpool and Belfast; this week we were back in London, at the excellent Wallacespace in Kings Cross.

The morning took the same format as our previous sessions: I played the role of genial host, Jeremy Silver represented the TSB and gave a formal briefing about the call; we had a previously successful funding applicant talk about their experience of going through the process – in this case Phil McLauchlan, Chief Scientist (surely the best ever job title?) with MirriAd – and finished off the morning with a panel discussion, of which more in a moment.

We had packed audience, with quite a few familiar faces, but many new ones too, and Jeremy’s thorough briefing was followed by a lengthy Q&A which indicated, I felt, a real interest in this call; analytics and data mining might seem, on the surface, the driest of this finding call’s “challenges”, but it hits a sweet spot between some thorny business needs in the creative industries and ways in which smart tech can help address them.

Phil’s presentation about MirriAd and the company’s experience of working with the TSB was extremely well received. MirriAd describes itself as “digital product placement”, but unless you see it in action, you’ll have no idea about just how for they take that product placement, seamlessly pasting products into film sequences where they didn’t previously exist. Take a look at their website to get a feel for it. In any case, Phil was broadly very positive about the impact the TSB funding had made on their business, but in a series of Dos and Don’ts, underlined that working strictly to TSB regulations, and minding the detail at all stages was absolutely essential, both to securing funding in the first place and in seeing a project through – and that rigorous project management was the key to this.

And then the panel… I chaired and this time out I was joined by (once again) Jeremy, Evan Stein of Decibel, Alan Payne of Deep Visuals, Neil Mortensen of Thinkbox TV and Ted Littledale from Secondsync. It was, again, a lively discussion, with questions and prompts not just from yours truly but from the audience – some of whom were plainly very passionate indeed about the role that science in general – and mathematics in particular – could play in driving new business models in the content industries.

The discussion largely centred on the traditional broadcast industries – TV, really – and the second screen activity around them. The picture that emerged for me was one in which individuals and organisations right along the value chain – programme makers, broadcasters, advertisers, brand owners – understand that things are changing in some fundamental way but that, for the moment at least, the old model is kinda hanging in there, while new consumption patterns (and the overwhelming data we have at our fingertips about those patterns) are not yet really delivering. Nonetheless, there seemed to be a consensus in the room that there’s huge disruption afoot in the worked of marketing and content making (as Phil’s MirriAd presentation had surely demonstrated) and untapped opportunities in the ever greater detail we have about content use and consumption. Whether the best solutions would come from human insight or just smarter and smarter algorithms was the source of a bit of heat in the discussion (which I fess up to stoking a little – my stance on this issue is a matter of record!) – but there was agreement that those solutions need to emerge for the sake of the content industries’ health.

And that’s a good point at which to leave our little “tour” I guess – with a hope that this round of TSB funding might help some of those solutions emerge.

Simon

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