Friday, December 19, 2014

IPTV Almanac 2015

By popular demand we’re bringing back our traditional peek into the crystal ball and making some predictions on what will be the major themes of the coming year in the media technology world.

So, here goes..

Facebook will make a play for video – I wrote a blog on this a couple of days ago. Many of the mainstream sites are leaving dollars on the table by allowing YouTube to monetize their products like some giant video cuckoo. As the value of video advertising continues to far outstrip any other kind of advertising, this will be an area the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr will need to address.

YouTube starts its decline – the service isn’t really sure what it wants to be – a video platform, a broadcaster, a marketplace, and despite its impressive revenue growth, it has recently seen viewing figures start to fall for the first time since its stratospheric growth began and been forced to advertise itself heavily.

Regulation - from the EU down to ATVOD, the likes of Google/YouTube aren’t going to be able to pretend that they’re just a glorified hosting service for much longer.

The Video Agency – managing video for corporations and organisations has become a complex business and companies such as Righster and Lovelive have done very well out of this. I expect this trend to accelerate, with Video Agencies becoming as common as PR Agencies, and pointing to the future for many production companies.

Bandwidth woes – I’m seeing and hearing of problems with the BT network all over the place. My bandwidth in rural Wales has gone from a reliable 2Mbps to a few Kbps over the course of the past few years and now my old neighbours in London are complaining of the same. Rural America seems no different. BT are far more interested in buying sports rights and mobile operators than keeping customers happy since they still have a virtual monopoly. And we’re still some way from seeing Google’s balloons or Facebook’s low level satellite grid filling in the gaps. Expect similar issues with 4G as more and more users adopt the service.

Production moves into the cloud – finally, the era of tapes and bikes is over, now it’s the £50 hard drive in the drawer which needs up ting away. That’s no place to keep a million pound production… the industry has moved from being mechanical to electronic hardware to software and now into virtualised production at an increasingly rapid rate.

Production in the cloud 2 - it's not just the actual production of film and TV that's gradually moving into the cloud, the funding and distribution is also becoming crowdsourced and delivered exclusively online. I even see a time when fans may run reverse auctions for sports rights.

Standardisation – the media industry has few standards, and those which do exist are quickly ignored or circumvented (just look at HD in US broadcasting). But initiatives such as DPP and AMWA are proving to be more open than predecessors such as SMPTE ever were.

Mergers, takeovers, consolidation – already we have seen a number of big deals such as Comcast’s bids for Warner and Universal, but the consolidation has just started. In the UK, I’ve variously been told by those in the know that Liberty, ITV and Virgin Media are all up for play. Certainly Vodafone has to do something with its cash pile. It may make sense for Twitter or Facebook to buy Vimeo (see above). In Europe it will be infrastructure players searching for content. In the USA it will be tech companies doing the same.

Hacking as a way of life – Sony isn’t the first media  company to be hacked, but their spineless response has sent the signal that it is now open season on the media industry. This is likely to have profound effects on the industry. First of all, it should encourage a move to non-distributed material, where content is streamed rather than sent and shared as files; secondly it means that security will be taken far more seriously at all levels of the industry; thirdly it will make Hollywood producers think twice before trashing their talent even in private emails.

The Rights have it – having spent nearly a decade providing rights software to the TV industry, it has been fascinating to see an absolute flurry of activity towards the end of 2014 around rights management. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, rights are becoming ever more complex, not only in their scope, but also in the ‘rights chains’ that link an actor and musician with a production company with a financing company through a distributor to a broadcaster and on to the broadcaster’s channel operators or affiliates. Secondly, there’s money being left on the table: the Internet has created efficient marketplace for all kinds of things, including photography, but has failed to do so for anything where the rights are complex. Thirdly, there’s an increasing need for accountability due to the many factors outlined above – security, M&A, process.

The slow death of the Schedule - it's been long predicted, but we really have reached a tipping point where less and less TV is being watched on the schedule (although it's diffidult to track the actual decline due to the medieval practices of the ratings agencies who still use paper diaries in areas of the US). The rise of the Box Set is a phenomenon that will probably be the last nail in the coffin. Waiting eight or thirteen weeks for an outcome seems positively dated in our always on society.

Africa – there’s endless coverage of what’s happening with technology and content in Europe, Asia and the Americas, but the real innovation is often in Africa. From phones as credit cards to the low cost production powerhouse that is Nollywood, it’s worth keeping an eye on developments in a market so often ignored. 

And we’ll come back at the end of the year to see how we did….

Well, that’s my lot for another year. It just remains for me, and all of us at IPTV Times and TV Everywhere, to wish you a peaceful holiday season and a hugely successful 2015!