Deloitte's Richard Merchant discusses mobility and M&E

HOLLYWOOD--The 2018 SMPTE conference opened on Monday with a overview of the opportunities M&E companies will one day pursue as private transportation transitions from cars driven by individuals to a future where self-driving vehicles turn drivers into passengers looking to be entertained.

Richard Merchant, Managing Director in Monitor Deloitte’s Strategy practice, and leader of Deloitte’s Media & Entertainment efforts on the Future of Mobility, painted a picture of where this transportation transformation that the M&E industry cannot ignore.

TV Technology Contributing Editor Phil Kurz sat down with Merchant after his address to discuss these opportunities in depth.

TV Technology: You seem very bullish on the future of autonomous vehicles. What gives you that confidence?

Greg Merchant: Deloitte has been doing a great deal of research studying the future of mobility and really delving deep into each of the industries it’s going to impact.

So even if you are wrong on the timing, it’s hard to argue against many of these impacts coming into society.

When you really look at the likelihood of everything transforming and the accelerating delivery of technologies that are making all of this possible, it’s hard to argue that it’s not going to change the way transportation works and the way mobility works sooner and permanently.

TVT: Earlier today in his keynote, Doug Davis of Intel quoted a Strategy Analytics study the company commissioned. It valued the autonomous vehicle market at $7 trillion by 2050. What do your figures show? And what slice of that will be related to media?

GM: The estimate we’ve done predicts about $2 trillion of economic activity every year. By 2030, the ecosystem should actually be humming along. In that, media specifically was pegged at $16 billion of economic impact every year.

But as I said in today’s speech, I would consider that more of a floor than a ceiling because there are more than just consumption opportunities we are talking about with the in-transit experience.

There are also going to be entirely new forms of experiences that are going to be developed across video, social, music, advertising, live entertainment, education and productivity. So, when you think about how all of those are going to be constructed both technically and experientially in the car, $16 billion will be on the low end.

TVT: Many of the speakers here at SMPTE today have made the point that the younger generation is receptive to ride sharing –a sign that Americans’ love affair with their cars may be coming to an end. But that generation was growing up in a time when the economy was flat. Given today’s strong economy, improvements in their financial means and growing ability to own their own cars, do you think their willingness to ride share will wane?

GM: I think we may see slight wavers, but I think the trend is headed in a direction where it’s not going to reverse. Put it this way, do you take more Ubers now than you did two years ago?

Ride sharing is actually expanding into different groups more than it is contracting. The conversation you have more often than not with leading and trailing millennials is about the reasons why they should ever buy a car.

Perhaps as they move out to the distant suburbs they may find an incentive to buy their own cars. But as long as they live around urban centers, ride sharing is only going to continue to grow.

TVT: Tell me more about the revenue possibilities this change in mobility will create for M&E.

GM: I think advertising is going to be revolutionized. You’ll be able to see different kinds of campaigns structured and targeted and sustained over the course of your daily commute, or even over the course of weeks.

You are going to be able to use location-based technologies to make them increasingly sophisticated and effective.

Ad insertion technologies for the inside of an automobile that are AR-enabled will absolutely change the way you interact with and view the world around you.

TVT: You mentioned in your presentation that billboards might evolve dramatically.

GM: Right now, the top of the line is a billboard that switches. It may, at most, have 30 different advertisements on it.

In the future, you could simply have a blank billboard that projects a customized ad for every single person that drives past it because it will know you are coming, and it will be able to do that seamlessly through an AR environment through your windshield.

TVT: Why would you even need that if you have all of the displays in your autonomous car?

GM: That’s part of the discussion. Do you still want to keep billboards in some way, shape or form? Remember, people still walk, they’ll see it outside the car.

But some billboards next to a high-volume highway, you probably don’t even need. If you can project an ad onto the billboard, you can most likely project a billboard.

That’s one area. The other that gets opened up, particularly with 5G, is that you are going to start to see ad-supported transportation –so the route you take home may change if someone pays a little extra to run you past their grocery store.

The cost of your ride will be determined by how much advertising you are willing to absorb on the trip.

I think you will actually see Uber partner with someone else to manage the cost of the ride.

TVT: What are some of your thoughts about how TV broadcasters and others might capitalize on this through their production businesses?

GM: Because of the development phase of the technology, most of what we are going to be limited by is our imagination.

Said another way, not everything is where it is going to be, but there is such a tailwind behind this technology that it will get there.

When you think about the different form factors you can put into a car –with ATSC 3.0 for instance—you’ll be able to have this integrated advertising. You’ll be able to have interactive like you’ve never dreamed of.

You’ll be able to play a game with an acquaintance halfway around the world while you are coming home from work and they are going to work.

You’ll be able to serve so much data into these delivery platforms at any one time.

TVT: What about the demand for production stemming from this anticipated mobility play?

GM: I think that is going to be a huge challenge. There is all of this technology on one side. On the other is the need to tell creative stories. There’s a need to tell a compelling version of what happened with completely engaging content.

I think there will be growing pains. It probably won’t be the most elegant experience as we get started.

But there is going to be an evolution as there has been with pretty much every media we come out with as people learn how to communicate through that particular medium.

You know, we are talking about something that could be an immersive 360-degree environment. So, to tell a story in that while you’re moving is going to be a little more complicated than just a two-dimensional story being told through your mobile phone.

I think it makes sense to start working on that now, particularly the technology and how to structure stories that get told in those environments as you go from your kitchen to the car, to the train, to a city bike –the ability to keep a story going and tell it across all those different media is going to be important. And there is a big production component to that.

But the real reason I think it makes a lot of sense is historically you’ve tried to simulate entertainment experiences and bring them into the car as best we can. Now we are talking about something where you have a contained environment where you could develop something that is the new standard of what people are going to want in their very own living room.

This isn’t something where the destination is only going to be the car. The destination could be the living room, but we are starting in the car.

The 2018 SMPTE conference continues through Thursday, Oct. 25. For more information, visit www.smpte2018.org