In a week that saw Amazon de-list Apple TV and Chromecast from its store, we may be seeing the start of the first real battle for mainstream-sized viewers. It’s not just hardware sellers, either: Verizon launched its go90 app in the US, and beIN Sports added movies to extend its appeal to a wider audience.
The message seems clear: not only do we all agree that TV is transitioning to the Internet, the market is now big enough to demand significant attention.
That’s not so, say non-OTT players. Freesat has launched a new set of channels, and Arqiva and Fox UK announced a new FTA channel of their own. The traditional TV players are also pointing to a Nielsen study that suggests consumers are more likely to trust TV ads than online ones. As self-serving as that report may be – Nielsen continues to dominate traditional TV measurement without finding its way as solidly online; however, it does suggest that nobody is taking anything for granted. Perhaps they will take solace in the news that there has been a 48% increase in online users taking advantage of ad blockers.
In news that surprises exactly nobody, ABC announced during Television Week that Millennials lean toward VOD over linear TV. Although this study really relates to linear television, it points toward the long-term trend of consumers shifting away from appointment-TV watching, and towards a driving desire to watch what they want, when they want. This explains in no small way the continued investment in TVE, such as the relaunch of Mexico’s Televisa OTT platform: to mangle the immortal words of Wayne Gretzky, you have to offer your services where the viewers are going to be, not where they used to be.
Getting to the place where consumers are starting to gather continues to be a focus of the leading players in the marketplace. There’s a big push over at CBS, as Homeland returns to Showtime the success of HBO Now is giving the network confidence that real revenues may be awaiting them if they can deliver the sort of entertainment viewers crave. And Sling TV’s lineup continues to grow, with additions that Dish hopes makes their cable/satellite-free alternative increasingly appealing to the 7% of the US population 18 – 31 who are cord-nevers.
Still and all, just adding new appeals seems insufficient: now services don’t have to be good they have to be better than the alternative. NBCU’s Alan Wurtzel this week decried the state of cross-platform measurement, saying what many have been thinking for a while: just because linear viewership dips doesn’t mean content isn’t reaching the eyeballs advertisers crave. Demonstrating a network’s reach is hard to do with today’s techniques (though we might add that we’d be happy to help identify NBCU’s online viewers). And the war for eyeballs between Verizon and Comcast has been called: however they measure them, these two behemoths will be slugging it out, staking their claims to the prime locations on the web
So it’s clear that the next great entertainment battleground will be on streaming, as viewers with streaming devices literally watch 4 hours more per week than their Luddite peers. As service providers strive to offer the best product ever, the winners and losers are taking position even now.