So, time to dust off the crystal ball and look at what 2008 has in store for us.
Recession – let me start on a low note. There has been little doubt in my mind for some time that we are heading for a considerable slowdown, especially in the UK (I don’t want to get on my economic soap box, but Brown selling off our gold reserves will turn out to be a very bad move). It may not be an official recession, but a credit squeeze will result in falling house prices and consumer demand and the mass lay-offs in the City will have an equal impact). However, the good news is that means more redundant investment bankers will have time sitting at home to watch online video – and there may be considerable opportunities for them to invest in the internet TV sector, which will largely be immune from the economic setbacks. Ironically, I expect the squeeze to have more of an impact in the US, where less debt will mean less investment and a general nervousness amongst investors in riskier ventures. The European market will fare much better.
Profitability – with the bad news out of the way, let’s be more positive. At long last, money will be made from online video; both the audience figures and the advertising demand is now of a level where sustainable businesses can be built. This is unlikely to be spectacular in the year ahead, but will point to the sector’s long term viability and potential.
Portal battles – there will be a concerted tussle for eyeballs as existing services try to reach critical mass; services such as Joost and Bablegum will suffer as the big boys push their portals and the UGC sites move into long form.
Dealmaking – will be the keyword for the year; already the market feels like .com 1999 as everyone tussles for their niche; there is great scope for some formalised systems to help the deal making (ie online open marketplace for video content and for video ads).
Google makes an impact – video ads and overlays will become an integrated part of Google’s offering in 2008, so will provide an immediate route for monetisation for many channel operators, content owners and producers. However, the Google ad model may also be in for a rough time as more and more advertisers
H.264 – driven by existing broadcasters, the quality and widespread compatibility of H.264 will gradually see more mainstream uses in the new year.
Long form v. short form – a realisation will dawn upon the market that these are two very different media and need to be handled and commercialised very differently.
Corporate Channels – companies and organisations will start to establish their own channels and not having a corporate TV channel allied to an existing web presence will become increasingly rare.
WiMax Networks – already extensively in trials, the mobile companies will face very real competition as WiMax networks are rolled out in urban areas (and may provide better, cheaper bandwidth in many rural areas too).
Laser projectors – this may be a somewhat premature prediction, but prototypes of mobile phones with laser projections are already appearing. This is a precursor to the day where the screen as we know it today may no longer exist and the utility of mobile devices takes a further step as you carry around a device that can hold all of your movies and TV (or can stream them) and can also project the videos onto any flat light surface, including your living room wall. However, the next step towards this will be the inclusion of STB technologies into flatscreens as the screen manufacturers make their play for the eyeballs in the living room.
The ‘All In One’ Box – to some degree we’ve already seen this appear, but expect your home set top box to do a lot more in future, covering telephony, TV, video on demand, photo and document storage and browsing and instant messaging; also expect to be able to link two or more of the above.
Whatever the New Year brings let me offer you all a successful and prosperous time.