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2020, the end is nigh

December 21, 2020

At the beginning of this sorry excuse for a year I wrote that predictions were difficult, but I would have a go anyway. Hands up, writing in early January, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic coming along to screw with our lives, companies and economies. At least I wasn’t alone.

Has such an unprecedented event, (anyone else want to kick in the TV when politicians use this phrase for the one millionth time?), had a massive impact on those predictions, and what are the projections for 2021?

I said the OTT revolution had already happened and 2020 would be about evolution. True, and the pandemic saw them grow even faster than predicted with Prime Video, in particular, making ground as Amazon basked in the ill wind of lockdowns driving up TV time and online shopping.

Their ‘crack habit’ content demand is heightened by the speed their audience has been using up their inventory, and supply has been hampered by socially distanced production. The premium on good content is going vertical and partly because of this, some SVoDs have decided to throw cinemas under the bus. Nice to know who your friends are.

I said the big SVoDs would grow, but some latecomers, including AVoDs, would need to prove themselves through into 2021. I still think some of them won’t see the end of next year.

M&A – pretty quiet as it’s hard to make mega deals WFH. So, as the vaccine spreads, pent up deals will boom. The ‘too big to fail’ content conglomerates will still be blocked by anti-trust concerns. And some of the big-techs may also be hampered by new regulatory concerns. Nonetheless, ‘mid-size’ US and European media companies will see consolidation in 2021.

Service providers have also seen some silver linings in 2020 with broadband demand through the roof. And, not withstanding the Huawei hiccough, 5G is making some serious progress in go-ahead markets. Expect it to be useful enough commercially and to consumers that the usual behind the curve slowcoaches will regret it by the end of 2021.

Service providers still struggle with the conundrum of losing their media play. Smarter ones have their own OTT plays underway, others are focussed on packaging SVoDs and working towards the still elusive, unified UI and discovery plays that will define their future. Expect one or more to succeed in 2021, and slightly tilt the balance of power back in their direction.

Advertising has had a terrible year with ratings through the roof, but clients and rates going missing. Everyone is still working diligently away on targeting. But there remains a disconnect between the current TV inventory and how much it cares about wastage. Deliver a smaller audience – even if it is more highly targeted – and they expect to pay much less, and so programmatic rates remain nearer internet prices than TV. Instead of just pushing the technology, perhaps more emphasis on prepping a new kind of client would help.

I make no predictions for 2021, including ‘at least it can’t be worse’.

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