The Future of Web TV

sony_w600b_tv_2014IDG Connect recently asked a number of industry experts where they saw web-based TV a decade from now. Since a decade is not that far away, the answers are things that many of you should already be thinking about when planning about the future of your video products. Here are some of the responses that are probably of the most interest to small carriers:

Content Will Largely Move Online. The experts almost universally agreed that content would largely move online. They expect this will be driven by several trends. First is that worldwide most video will not be watched on landline connections Second, there will be a huge influx of new content and content providers that are not associated with cable companies and traditional video.

Video Demand Will Drive Changes in the Network. Today, even in the US, only something like 5% of watched video is delivered online, so a migration to online content is going to require big changes in the Internet infrastructure. Video is already stressing the network and we have barely begun this migration. As more live content moves online network latency will become more important, as already witnessed by the numerous failures when putting big live events on the web.

The Players Will Change. The experts think that there will be a lot of changes in content providers. Today in the US the large content providers are in a position of power since they have the content that most people want to watch. But as more and more new content enters the market from alternate providers the balance of power will shift and the influence of today’s content providers will diminish. The experts expect major market consolidation as companies gobble up successful content developers.

Content Becomes Personalized. For years TIVO has had a great platform for helping people find what they want to watch. Searching for content on Netflix and other OTT platforms is far more clumsy. The experts believe that with the introduction of AI into the process that finding content will become easy. Rather than search through one content provider like Neflix to find something to watch, personal assistants will look through all content that is available to a given person and which will be platform agnostic. Of course, platform providers like Netflix will hate this because they try very hard to keep a viewer on their platform.

Wireless Connectivity Will be a Major Driver. Worldwide there will be far more people connecting to content with smartphones than through landline connections, and so there will be a huge increase in content aimed primarily at the smartphone platform.

Live Events Become the Exception. There is always going to be a demand for live content like sports or reality shows. But most content is going to become streamed rather than live. This bodes poorly for the big US content providers since they make all of their money through selling subscriptions to millions of US landline customers. While major networks like Disney or the Food Network might always be popular, many of the smaller networks are going to fare worse. We may not see the total shift to a la carte programming by 2026, but we ought to be well on the way towards it by then.

Social Media and Amateur Content will be Larger. Already today YouTube is becoming a major player in the content world. They have a ton of programming that older folks never heard of, but that all of our kids are watching. As Facebook and others social media sites get into video content delivery expect an explosion in the popularity of amateur content.

What all of this means to a small cable provider is that the traditional cable TV product is likely to change and morph over the next decade into something very different than what you deliver today. The chances of still delivering a 150 or 200 channel traditional lineup ten years from now is pretty small. What we don’t know is if there will be something to replace the big package for small cable providers or if you will eventually just be nudged out of the cable business.

One other thing is for sure – which is that as video moves online that people who live where there is no good broadband are going to have no access to programming and will become isolated from the major culture of the country. This is going to really push rural people to scream loudly to politicians to find them a broadband solution.

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