Tom Williams, CEO at digital video specialist Ostmodern, has given his predictions for the industry in 2018, including where the future of VoD is headed, the continued importance of sports rights and the rise of online VR.
1.Voice technology won’t replace UI yet
Content discovery remains one of the most difficult tasks for service providers and their developments teams. While voice-based UI promises to provide the answers to this issue, it won’t replace visual UI in the near future, as serendipitous discovery is still a common journey for the majority of users.
Key point: Although voice was one of the major themes for the broadcast industry in the 2017 and is increasingly becoming integrated into more video products, it’s still in its early years, and remains more of a special feature. In 2018, as more devices with voice capabilities enter the fore, it will become increasingly commonplace, but won’t fully replace visual UI.
2. Web VR will open VR to the masses
2017 saw another massive spike in the Virtual Reality (VR) hype machine. However, with the basic VR setup for Oculus and Vive still costing hundreds of pounds, the technology remains inaccessible for most consumers. There is also yet to be a compelling use case outside of gaming and education. Sony’s PlayStationVR (PSVR) did sell units in significant numbers in 2017.
Web VR opens the door to VR content for the masses. Content through this platform can be accessed from channels where audiences already spend their time; slipping a phone into Google cardboard is a low barrier for audiences wanting to try out a VR experience. Web VR headsets are now becoming more and more affordable, which is set to further drive adoption in 2018.
Key point: Web VR will allow for affordable experimentation with VR until the mass market decides it’s ready for full VR experiences
3. Blockchain will change distribution models
Blockchain is now as much discussed, and hyped, as VR. As momentum builds, 2018 could be the year where blockchain really adds value to VoD services. Netflix, Amazon and other large video services are currently the main gatekeepers for video distribution and monetisation. Sites like Vimeo and YouTube may enable easy distribution of content, but don’t allow content creators to control their content and track how it is being used. Blockchain, with its secure, decentralised network, will allow creators to track and monetise their content, while building a direct relationship with their audience.
Key point: Although it is still an emerging technology looking for its place in industry, video providers should be keeping an eye on blockchain to see how it might impact their business. The value of blockchain in VoD will emerge in how it can powerfully manage and track the rights of content.
Content – delivery
4 VoD will continue to need to be part of a wider experience
VoD services can no longer just present a bucket of stand-alone videos to entice audiences. Today’s viewers discover content in various places and they expect to do this on their own terms. Providing assets that can promote your content in the appropriate way on the right platform is paramount. For example, when publicising Blue Planet, the BBC created a huge range of supporting content that allowed consumers to begin to engage with the programme as they wished. As well as GIFs, memes and Snapchat stories, the BBC produced small ‘snackable’ versions of the narratives that were used on social networks to advertise the programme. An increasing number of content owners are adopting similar strategies. They are looking to support content early, and are recognising the impact trailers and imagery can have on the overall viewing experience.
Key point: In 2018, we expect this trend to continue, as consumer expectations evolve. Promoting a programme will require supporting content for specific platforms that allows viewers to learn about a programme on their own terms, at the right time. Video on demand providers will need to think about: what works on different platforms and devices? How can trailers and imagery be used more effectively on these platforms? What supporting content can be created early on that will allow consumers to interact with, and learn about, a show or a programme in their own terms?
5 Live sports rights will continue to reduce the need for live TV packages
Sports have long been considered the last bastion for live TV, but audience behaviours have changed and many viewers are moving away from large cable packages where they’re forced to pay for channels they simply don’t watch. Social media networks and tech giants like Amazon are only fuelling this further by disrupting an already fragmenting sports broadcasting arena, purchasing the rights to several major live sporting events. Even Netflix Founder Reed Hastings refuses to rule out bringing live sport to the OTT platform. With this in mind, it remains to be seen what future live TV packages might look like.
Key point: As we move into 2018, audiences will continue to demand content delivered in a package that works for them. This leaves the traditional expensive aggregators of TV in a vulnerable position, especially with younger audiences.
6 Kids’ TV will be a focus for most major VoD players
Younger audiences are now consuming most of their video content on demand, with Netflix and YouTube serving as their main interaction point for video instead of traditional TV. This presents a huge opportunity for VoD service providers to build potentially long-lasting relationships early as the BBC did with previous generations, becoming the household name for broadcast and video content. While Netflix and YouTube are partly playing this role for younger people, both companies still have work to do to ensure they continue to foster relationships with younger viewers. There is still the opportunity for other VoD platforms to capitalise. In 2018, we’ll see more and more providers moving into kids’ TV and focusing on content aimed at children and young adults.
Key point: VoD products aimed at kids are often overlooked by providers, and instead are bolted onto adult products. Younger audiences will demand experiences that engage them specifically in return for their loyalty and children’s products will be designed with this in mind.
Content – creation
7 Object-oriented TV will gain traction
‘Object-oriented TV’ involves a show being broken into separate parts – the video, audio track, music, and even subtitles – and then being put back together to form shows tailored for each individual viewer. For example, a programme could extend or reduce scenes based on a viewer’s personal preferences. There is also great potential to optimise the delivery of video, reducing the need for multiple video assets for language or localisation. Video components can be compiled on the fly according to a user’s needs.
While this concept isn’t yet mainstream, the idea of spin-offs and extensions to stories is, and audiences will continue to demand more of this type of content. The BBC has been experimenting with this idea. With their hit show Peaky Blinders, for example, they produce brief, spin-off stories to keep audiences engaged between shows. Taking this idea into the ‘on demand’ world will open up many new possibilities in 2018.
Key point: Consumers follow shows for different reasons, they crave more from the characters they love and want to delve into the various aspects that make programming exciting for them. As a result of this, we’ll see more providers experiment in object-oriented TV over the course of 2018. There is no longer one linear story with optional add-ons. Instead, individual viewers are presented with the story that best suits their personal preferences.
8 Studios will continue to go direct to consumer
Disney’s recent removal of all their content from Netflix is one of the earliest warning signs for VoD platforms that the industry has changed. Netflix has evolved their business by completely winning over the audiences of content producers and has now become a media powerhouse that challenges those content producers directly. Consumers view Netflix as both an easy way to view a range of content online, and as a producer of premium content. It is a platform that is easily accessed, offers value for money and contains exciting, unique content all in one place. This has, and will, further force content producers to consider how they can build the same brand affinity with their material, while also providing a convenient access points for consumers.
Key point: As we slowly break away from the traditional broadcast model, audiences now demand content on their own terms and want to build relationships with the platforms that provide the content they want. Those in the middle between content producers and VoD platforms will increasingly have to decide where their place is in the market.
9 Personalisation isn’t the magic bullet
Unfortunately, people don’t always know what they want. This is the issue the industry has consistently experienced when it comes to personalisation of services in 2017. Often providing users with tools to personalise a product doesn’t mean they will use them.
Netflix is the market leader and its business model is attractive to other companies. However, don’t underestimate the investment and resources Netflix has dedicated to personalisation. The OTT giant has centred its whole platform on this concept and was the first to bet big on it. While having features that keep pace with competitors’ is obviously important, most providers neither have the necessary resources nor the content catalogue size to justify personalisation features that match Netflix’s.
Key point: Next year, we’ll see more companies move away from trying to create the Netflix model and realise that focusing on the features that work for their own product and business will be the key to success in a crowded VOD market. Netflix uses personalisation to solve a unique problem to its business but it isn’t a problem every business faces, neither is it the only solution to the problem of content discovery.
10 eSports will become more mainstream
‘eSports’ continues to reach new heights, as more people start hearing the potential behind it. Last year’s Dota International tournament had a prize pot of $10 million for the winning team, showing that eSports is now serious business. But how will this impact broadcasters in 2018? With declining live sport viewers, particulars among the younger demographic, many will turn their attention to eSports in an effort to boost engagement.
Key point: eSports will be a significant genre in the brave new world of broadcast in 2018, that will open up a plethora of opportunities for new content to be produced and viewed by audiences.