How many times have you read the following headline: “Is TV dead?
At least since 2007, when Netflix announced they would start streaming and the first iPhone saw the light of day, there have been similar questions and reports from pretty much every industry expert and professional services company. The death of TV has been predicted as imminent, whereas in reality, 14 years later, it is still premature to make such a statement. The majority of the TV viewing in 2021 is still dominated by linear TV, either that is real-time or time-shifted.
Surely, there are arguments to say that TV is dying, but it is still not quite dead yet. Will it die? “Yes, eventually” is probably the correct answer, but it will still take some time. A long time. We can ask the question in another 14 years, in 2035, and the answer is quite likely that TV as we know it is still around.
If we consider the demographic spread, there is an argument that a linear TV audience is angling towards an older audience and streaming will replace this when the young habits become the habits of the old. But this change also takes time, and it is not sure that all millennials have shed the TV habits of the older generation. There is no doubt that there are new habits, but maybe some of the old habits will also prevail.
2021 may be the wrong year to do comparisons with previous years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but is relevant for us as a provider in the broadcast industry as it has resulted in increased viewing. Ofcom, the UK regulatory and competition authority, reports that from 2019 to 2020, there was an increase of 32% in viewing. Interestingly, the majority of the increase, 37 minutes, was through OTT services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. Linear TV also increased by 31 minutes, mainly due to news consumption and information related to the pandemic.
The biggest challenge for linear TV will be the global decline in TV advertising, resulting in a shift of spending away from the content producers and owners. The very same owners of the linear content need to build a large number of streaming products to capture back the lost revenue. In other words, a shift from linear to digital.
As we have experienced a dip in advertising money for TV due to Covid-19, it is still expected to recover in 2023. What is however not solved is the advertising consumption. As the TV Advertising Global Market Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Growth and Change (summary) states: “The low assurance that the advertisement will be viewed and effective is the major obstacle for the TV advertising market.”
The report goes on further: “The increased use of over-the-top (OTT) media services is expected to drive the growth of the TV advertising market. OTT offers reach and retention as the video advertisement is 100% viewable and non-skippable.”
Linear TV ads are extremely costly, and if you only have half the audience watching them, it is no wonder why they want the money spent on OTT services instead.
Live events, such as large sporting events will still be a crucial element for traditional TV, and it could also drive linear viewing around the live slots . Same with big election productions, or any other large scale news event that requires production skills that only the people working in a regular broadcaster operation still possess exclusively. Furthermore, the broadcasters have available funds that can be used to team up with the pure digital players. With interesting content rights, skills and money, there are several good reasons why it is still premature to announce the death of TV.
So, it seems clear that linear TV is here to stay for quite a while, but it is losing its grip on being the dominant service. Streaming is taking over, day by day. Linear TV is certainly not the only option that you have anymore, neither as a viewer nor as an advertiser.
Streaming is takes over
We have already seen that the Ofcom report gives the premonition of a decline in linear content consumption versus streaming content consumption.
Making a comparison to the newspaper industry is tempting. What we experienced there was a gradual slow downturn, then a substantial decline, before we saw an extreme drop in advertising income. The newspapers gradually reduced their print presence, and did a range of other cost saving exercises for a long time. The effort was rewarded once completed and a new online strategy adopted. Any newspaper editor will still tell you it is a hard life to fight for advertising money with the industry giants, but remarkably many of the local newspapers have survived, albeit with an online presence only.
Similarly, the linear broadcasters that do not manage to find a way from linear to streaming will struggle to survive. But, if they find the right partner to work with and keep offering quality content, there is no reason why this shift should make them disappear.
There are other aspects we need to consider as well for the linear-to-streaming shift.
The age-old broadcaster economy where state monopolies are being funded over taxpayer bills is a model which will come under scrutiny in many countries. This may affect their funding down the line.
The cost of setting up a large scale, on-premise, organisation is becoming a thing of the past, and nimbler, efficient solutions with the top vendors and service providers are materialising. It is still about offering the best content, but the moment linear delivery is not a premise, your checkbook does not have to take the same beating. New entrants will think twice about linear distribution.
Looking at the challenges for traditional broadcasters, their top 2 challenges (1) are related to IP based upgrades and cloud services/technology. Both of these priorities are in line with what is required to consume OTT content. IP related projects become the focus and satellite and cable projects are shut down. OTT is all about the delivery of video content from the providers to the end-users over the internet, so it only makes sense that this is where the money is spent.
Most western countries have a population of consumers that are ready from an infrastructural point of view. Anybody can access the OTT services with a suitable high-speed connection to the internet and this is available in most places. So, the broadcasters are doing catch-up to enable them to provide us consumers with their content.
As a provider of streaming and content management platform software for media companies in the broadcasting industry, Vimond experiences this exact circumstance now. Our customers are all working on plans regarding new and improved OTT offerings. Taking care of your users is an endless job and this is where technology companies such as us come in. Vimond provides a crucial piece of the puzzle: The tools that allow you to curate, monetise and distribute your content and ensure that it is presented to the end users in the most attractive and pleasing way. Our main focus as a company is to simplify and improve the diligent process of getting the most out of your content, so that you can stand out from the crowd and engage hordes of viewers in a cost efficient way.
In the end, the fight is about eyeballs. So what is it that makes this competition so hard these days?
The challenges in streaming media
The age old saying that “Content is King” still very much rings true. Without the right content, the audience will quickly move over to something else. Viewers are not known for their loyalty and patience, and will with the flick of a button move over to the next vendor or change for another content section.
There are obvious infrastructural savings with being a streaming company only, but most highly attractive content is extremely expensive, and this is what the end user is there to see, whether you get the signal through cable or streaming. Producing a high ranking international TV-series costs millions of dollars, sometimes per episode. The average last season Game Of Thrones episode cost approximately 15 million dollars, a growth of 5 million USD per episode compared to season 6. It is challenging to create quality content without a lot of money, so new entrants into the streaming space, at least for international audiences, are normally financially solid companies that have a lot of money to spend. Or at the very least have extremely solid funding before they undertake the startup.
A game of consolidation
We have recently seen that the big just becomes bigger. Disney+ launched in 2019 and has already gained 100 million users as of March 2021. HBO Max is slated to start launching internationally at the end of June 2021 and ViacomCBS has rebranded and expanded into Paramount+. One of the largest mergers ever is yet to come with ATT announcing a deal to merge WarnerMedia and Discovery. This new giant’s hairy goal is to have 400 million streaming subscribers. Netflix leads the way today with approximately 200 million subscribers and Amazon Prime Video follows behind with 150 million subscribers. (Both numbers from Q4 2020).
As the globalisation in video content consumption is accelerating, and the benefit of scale is drawing the attention of the audience towards a handful of global video services, is there still room for others here?
OTT business models
There is no doubt it is challenging to become a viable alternative, linear or not. Starting up a global service today seems like a daunting task, but the key to this will be niche content and localisation. Then you need to find the right service model. Is it AVOD, TVOD, SVOD, or PVOD?
For SVOD, you need the balance of the right price of subscription compared to the cost of getting proper content. Netflix is probably the most known SVOD service with their 200 million subscriber base. They have revealed that they are going to spend 17 billion US dollars on content in 2021.
If your service is to be financed through advertising, you will lay down the AVOD model, allowing for the ads to come as insertions before, in the middle and after the content. If this is going to be successful depends on your content vs audience. There is at least one thing which is common to all advertisers: Advertising needs to hit the right audience. No advertiser wants to pay for eyeballs that will never spend money on their product. In today’s landscape it is a very hard battle to fight for advertising dollars against the likes of Facebook that has billions of users, but if the content is attractive enough, this is a very viable option of service financing. Streaming has a better hit rate for the ads compared to linear TV, as we saw in part 1, but there will still be concerns from advertisers to spend their money where they get the best effect.
So, understanding your audience is key to success and survival. Getting the xVOD choice correct is pivotal as the wrong choice will likely take you quickly towards the cliff.
With easy cancellations and lots of compelling programming on competing services, churn is a major headache for service operators. Having the right content in the right model will reduce the chance of churn.
Technology makes all the difference
Another crucial element is choosing the right technology. Keep investing in on-premise technology today means missing out on leveraging the power of the cloud. The cloud provides the power to scale quickly and efficiently without having to shell out millions of dollars in on-premises equipment. It also enables much quicker time to market deployments and higher pace of innovation to stay ahead in the fast changing market space. That is why, today, the real alternative is the cloud.
It is definitely a challenging and defining time for the OTT industry. The price for content is increasing and a flurry of large scale market consolidation is happening globally.
Is there a sustainable future for the small to medium providers? If you get the basics right, there is a good chance to do well.
How to survive as a streaming service?
Throughout this. article, we have determined that TV is far from dead, but streaming is taking over from linear. We have also discussed some of the current challenges the streamers may have.
So finally, we want to make some suggestions on what to do to become (or stay) successful.
- Always think OTT first. Quite possibly, you should think OTT only. It allows you to focus on where the future revenue is, and also to lower the cost of operation.
- When the service allows for it, focus on local content. Or, focus on global niche content. By addressing a subset of the audience, there is a chance that you can provide the right content for the right crowd. Alternatively, become a content producer and develop and produce what fits the platform, advertising mechanism and audience.
- Focus on the user experience. How often have you spent time on a service where it is hard to find the content, poor recommendations and non-attractive subscription offers? By serving you as a subscriber or user the right content at the right time, there is a high chance you will actually consume this content.
- Present a clear and distinct brand. There should never be any confusion of which provider the user is consuming their content through.
- Cater for the communities that will come as a result of your programming. Interesting programs create communities as a result and create conversations between friends, family and colleagues, which translates into new subscribers/users for the provider. With the huge amount of social services available, it does not take long before an opinion related to a piece of content is spread to millions.
- Be prepared to execute quick changes if the users report back errors or suggest clever changes. With such a vast array of choices, subscribers are not going to stay true to any providers unless they are satisfied with how the content is provided. The absolute key is to find the right technology partner you can collaborate with and trust to be able to make these adaptations for you as a content provider.
- Standardise where you can! No need to spend time and money to develop something that others have been spending years developing. Unless you want to start a costly internal development effort that will create years of maintenance concerns and rack up massive internal costs, then buy from an outside vendor. Normally, you will always be behind the curve with internal development as other companies have already been doing this for years. So, finding the right technology is key to being able to offer the best user experience and the most flexible use for the consumers. In the end, the users are focused on the content.
- Find vendors that really understand OTT. Today, there are a plethora of different vendors, but very few of them really understand this landscape, technology and the market mechanisms. It is a challenge for all parties to clearly explain the product offering in the OTT space and which vendor should be chosen in favour of another one. Taking into consideration experience and previous deliveries is likely the best way to find the right choice.
- Using new and sometimes immature technology should be well considered. For instance, Artificial Intelligence (AI) alone is not the way, but can be an incredible asset to use when used correctly. You need to work with companies that understand this new and emerging technology and spend time to implement this in a useful way for you as a content provider.
- Do more with less resources. It is a statement which everyone has heard more and more over the last years. Manual tasks need to be removed and automation utilised. Making the right technology and vendor choice will provide you with software options which will allow you to automate mundane manual tasks and spend money where it is important.
If you consider all of these items when you launch a new service, or redesign your old, we believe there is a good chance you will succeed.
Vimond has been in this industry for 10 years and during the years since Vimond was founded, we have been a crucial factor in some of the most exciting and groundbreaking OTT projects in the industry. We have seen lots of companies thrive, but also seen some fail. We are proud to have businesses such as Comcast, Fox, Telstra, Reuters and TV 2 (just to name a few) on our list of customers. If you're watching movies or sports in Australia or Norway, Hollywood movies in Southeast Asia, Africa, or Scandinavia – or even news globally – there's a strong chance that you're enjoying Vimond technology firsthand.
We know the OTT world! If you need to make use of our experience, we are happy to provide you with our best advice!