Media industry expert and “Streaming Media All-Star” Matt Smith, Chief Evangelist for platform solution company Anvato, offers his take on the new frontier of television.
The plane has taken flight. The ship has left the pier. The train has left the station. Pick your analogy, but be sure to understand the notion. Television as we know it is changing. What that means and where it is going may largely be driven by your age, your discretionary spend, and your technology usage.
If you believe Apple CEO Tim Cook, the the future of TV is apps. Apple, and their technology siblings at Roku, Sony (with their Playstation Vue service) and Amazon Prime Video tend to partially agree in that technology, IP video and apps and services will largely shape how you watch television now and into the future ahead. However, listen to today’s broadcaster who reaches audiences via television transmitter, cable or satellite and you’ll hear a different spin. They believe that live, linear television won’t change much and that they’ll always have an audience for their programming. The reality of where this is all going seems to lie somewhere in between.
Let’s get one thing clear from the onset of this argument – there will always be an audience for content and events that happen in the moment. Live happens once – there is no ‘back’ button and you don’t get a ‘do over.’ Therefore, live sports and news will always be in demand (and not on-demand) and will have audiences who seek breaking news and live sports events as they unfold. Whether you as a viewer consume those events in a lean back fashion in the living room via a cable or satellite provider, or even a local broadcast via an antenna, or conversely on a tablet, smartphone or connected device like the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku device really boils down to your choice and preference as a viewer. Again, live is live and audiences will be able to find it where they choose. Still, expect to see both big network programmers and local broadcasters alike to continue to hone and enrich their streaming, application driven offerings to appease and reach viewers wherever they may be.
When it comes to the exponentially expanding universe of on-demand content, the frontier is wide open as networks, programmers, publishers and the like are staking out territory to cater to audiences on screens of all sizes. The past several months have also seen the arrival of standalone services that untether the viewer from the living room and their traditional cable or satellite subscription. Verizon’s Go90 service, Dish Network’s SlingTV and even HBO Now stand as examples of new offerings that aim to offer viewers programming packages or very popular channels with in-demand programming (HBO Now) that aren’t tied to traditional distribution models.
So where is this all headed? First – expect no sea change with winners and losers where a few prevail and others fail miserably. Don’t get me wrong, the largest challenge in this new television universe lies in aligning quality programming with audiences who are willing to pay for it. This means that in the new frontier, viewers will be empowered to pick programming with their wallet, subscribing to shows and brands they want – and a move away from channel cramming that has become part of the cable subscription model. Do expect to see more of the Cs – change, choice and contraction. Change is obvious, as many viewers consume content on more screens – in and out of the home. Choice because as we’ve covered here – audiences are fractionalizing and moving, literally. Programmers, service providers and anyone with content seeking an audience must embrace this change. And there will also be change for the viewer, too. Many operators are already offering skinny bundles which give the subscriber more choice and discretion over programming spend. Lastly contraction – in that we will see smaller bundles of channel offerings and a move to more viewers consuming their television content via in-app experiences.
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