Narrowcasting Comes to the Big Screen

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David Keene– The Cinema Market was one of the first to incorporate digital signage, and DOOH, into public spaces. The logic and logistics of narrowcasting to movie theater lobbies does not require much of a stretch, and several large players in the market including Christie leverage their strength in providing images to both the big cinema screen (digital feature movie projection) and the smaller screens in the venue (movie promos, ads, etc). But when major industry players start talking about narrowcasting content to the big screen in the movie theater not just the smaller screens, something important is taking place. How is Cinema related to digital signage? Inextricably– going forward.

In 2012, the kind of disruption to the Advertising industry, and mobile phone industry, that has changed media platforms and business models forever is now visiting the movie exhibition industry. This was in full evidence at NAB 2012’s Technology Summit on Cinema, produced in partnership with SMPTE, that took place Saturday and Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. A good deal of Summit focused on the key technical areas that tend to dominate the headlines: Preventing piracy; Achieving higher frame rates in projection; Laser projection; 4K resolution and beyond; and sketching out a digital cinema deployment timetable. But the most pressing issue at the Summit– and in the industry– is nothing less than the survival of commercial movie theaters in the face of business model changes wrought by the digital transition. The ones who wish to survive the transition in the movie biz will soon diversify away from just showing feature films and toward more content sharing with other media. “Narrowcasting”. “Dayparting”. Ever heard those terms– so familiar to us in the digital signage world– used when talking about the movie business? You have now.

At a major presentation entitled “A Change is Going to Come” at Technology Summit on Cinema, Sunday, on the eve of the NAB show, Chris McGurk, Chief Executive Officer of Cinedigm, outlined what he saw as the future of Cinema. Cinedigm is a huge, dominant distributor of movies and other content to theaters in the U.S. Pointing out that only 5 % of seats are occupied in theaters Monday-Friday (15% on a yearly basis), and given big studios’ focus on blockbuster movies, McGurk stressed that we have to find new content to fill those seats– live sports, music, interactive. A more “ targeted, narrowcast” market, said MCGurk. “Digital cinema can be more ‘rifle’ approach not shotgun approach. Digital allows us to target the marketing. While enhancing exposure as only a theatrical release can do.” McGurk added that this new kind of content can use social media to draw people in. And that there are myriad ad revenue possibilities.

“Narrowcasting in the theater is the new call to arms,” said McGurk. If you’re not sure how this affects the larger digital signage and DOOH business, it’s simple. As my friend (and Digital Signage magazine columnist) Laura Davis-Taylor and I stress continually in our analysis, digital signage and DOOH can only be understood in the context of the larger media disruptions that are taking place in markets whose size dwarf our more parochial sphere. The smartphone market alone is already hugely disrupting the (originally) disruptive digital signage market. The TV market, also, is seeing shifting content delivery models that are sweeping over all media consumption. And now, movies– what many thought the last bastion of old-school, Hollywood controlled and nurtured content– are undergoing massive changes in business models.

I’ll be reporting on all the developments in the fast-changing cinema business in NewBay publications in the coming weeks– including the fascinating and challenging crossover of media platforms that now has all the major players rethinking the boundaries between TV, Cinema, OOH, and DOOH. Stay tuned… Coming to a screen near you.

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