Pay-TV, RIP?

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In this new edition of Euromedia we asked if pay-TV was on its deathbed. A trifle morbid perhaps, especially in a pandemic, but it seemed important. Certainly, pay-TV in some markets – the Americas in particular – is in decline, and the absence of some live sports events has not helped.

Broadly speaking, contributors think pay-TV will continue, even prosper, but that relies on it finding more ways work with, not against, new OTT players. Already, a number of major providers have brought the bigger streamers ‘onto’ their platforms so that subscribers can access them in one place. Some of our correspondents say this direction of travel needs to continue with pay-TV providers bringing integrated UI, discovery and billing to the party.

None of these are impossible technically, no, commercially is the problem. Would an OTT streamer ever give access to the metadata to allow cross service UI/discovery? Perhaps even allow a la carte choices within the services, with a suitable premium? Probably not. But if they won’t play that game, surely the bigger pay-TV providers can at least negotiate a streamer discount for their subscribers as an alternative?

Co-existence certainly looks to be the future. Sport will return, and the way the SVoDs have handled their sport offerings makes you feel the traditional sports channels have a sound future. Linear TV also still seems the natural home for Shiny Floor Shows and the news.

Of course, drama is already being produced by pay-TV and FTA broadcasters as if they are SVoDs; only their strongest offerings are not stacked up ready to binge on their catch-up platforms from the release of episode one. It is noticeable that some shows that start off with weekly airings, then switch to VoD as the ratings come in. It isn’t quite as bad as being cancelled, but the phrase ‘congratulations you’re going to VoD early’ is now the most backhanded compliment in the business.

With the amount of drama watched by us all over the last 12 months, and the amount of user data collected (much of it surely tainted by the audience’s desperation for anything new), the challenge will be for creatives to resist spreadsheet scripting and directing by dataset.


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