By Matt Smith, Vice President and Principal Media Evangelist, Brightcove
The way we watch television is in a state of change. Television itself is in a state of change. A generation of viewers watch television in a very disruptive manner on a variety of screens which are most likely not tied to a living room experience. Therefore, the package options and the underlying delivery technology are adapting too. Over the next year, we should expect to see the continued explosion of OTT with more investment, services launching, competition for content and viewers, and more viewers consuming content in a device first manner.
Battle Royale Between ATSC 3.0 and Today’s OTT Solutions
People want the freedom to to watch anything they want, on any device, whenever they want. Streaming and over-the-top (OTT) technologies have helped pave the way and enable programmers, networks and service providers to meet those viewers on the screen of their choice. The broadcast industry is playing catch up in developing native capabilities to deliver streams and additional data to viewers, and that is what the latest ATSC 3.0 standard seeks to help address. A significant portion of the specification addresses over the air 4K broadcasts, but device delivery and multiscreen delivery are part of the package. There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered when it comes to ATSC 3.0 and how it will be deployed. Will broadcasters become less reliant on today’s streaming technologies and OVPs as this begins to roll out? As we’ve seen with other broad specifications, expect regional affiliates to bring up the proverbial rear, while larger and better funded organizations will be the first adopters. Expect this adoption to also be impacted by the refresh rate of televisions and other viewing devices consumers follow. There are still more questions than answers when it comes to ATSC 3.0, but it’s a hot topic to watch in the coming year.
The Renaissance of Live
Live streaming is nothing new, it’s been around for years. However, we will see it used more and more in the coming year. This resurgence of live is tied to many factors, from the rise of skinny bundles to specialized live sports streams and beyond. Overall this is a good trend, both for viewers and technology providers. The number of OTT delivered live channels will grow over the course of 2018, it’s hard to quantify but the number will significantly increase when compared to 2017.
Some new, supplemental technologies that will help this are the SRT Alliance and transport stream (TS) as delivery mechanisms for this ‘new’ live. As the industry moves toward more mature and fault tolerant technologies that TS and SRT provide (like forward error correction (FEC)), we will be delivering on the mantra that we’ve lived by in being ‘better than broadcast’.
Major Investments in OTT
According to a recent report by TDG, the total market size for the OTT video market in 2019 is supposed to reach $1.5 billion dollars. Today, it’s probably half of that. Think about that for a second – that is incredibly rapid growth in about an 18 month period. More services will launch, both live and ondemand, as well as combinations of both. I expect to see a lot of new services pop up, but also a lot of consolidation with the bigger players eating up the smaller ones.
We are currently experiencing a shift in how the majority of viewers watch television. Millennials are a device first generation, meaning they consume majority of their content on the go on different devices, rather than sitting in front of a television in the living room. More and more subscribers will sign up in a device first manner, allowing subscribers to watch their favorite shows whenever they are on the go.
In the next 12 months, we will see the larger networks pay more attention to OTT and even invest more heavily than before. Today, viewers don’t watch networks, they watch shows. Networks are feeling this shift in viewing trends. Even though networks still tout a full nightly lineup of shows, they are increasingly aware viewers aren’t viewing the full night’s lineup but only shows that appeal to them. This throws a wrench in the traditional broadcasters wheel, they now need to think of ways to keep viewers engaged past one show. CBS is one of the first networks to address this, making its Star Trek: Discovery show available only on its streaming product. I expect to see this model accelerate over the course of 2018, with networks investing much more into online services and original content to keep viewers coming back for more.
The Cost of Content Will Continue to Increase
Launching an OTT service includes a lot of time and investment. Hiring the right people, with technical and market expertise is time consuming and costly. If a content owner decides to go the vendor route, there are a few options to explore. A fully customized service will be the most expensive option with a long lead time. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a turnkey solution which brings services to market faster, with little upfront cost but no customizable features. Choosing the right vendor to grow the tech stack together, allows for content owners to focus on what really matters, delivering engaging content.
Keeping the service up and running is an important step but it doesn’t really matter if there is no content to deliver to viewers. OTT services are stuck paying studios millions of dollars for content. Having fresh, new content is a main reason why subscribers stay engaged. However, the burden of having to shell out an exponential amount of money for rights to content is not a long term business strategy. At some point, this has to change, and it is. That’s why more and more services are developing their own content at a rapid pace. Think HULU with The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s slew of original content including Narcos, House of Cards, and Stranger Things. With the bigger services developing their own content, it gives subscribers another reason to stay subscribed. It’s content you can’t get anywhere else and this will continue to get more and more competitive as other services catch on.
As we move into 2018, we will continue to see more of the same. OTT will continue to reign supreme and competition will be fierce. We are all along for this crazy ride, and I for one am excited to see what exactly 2018 holds for our industry.
The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at Lynn@Cynopsis.com.