For those who don’t follow football (or American Football, if you prefer), the big news you may have missed this last week was the streaming of a regular season NFL game by Yahoo! A real first, it may very well have marked one of those watershed moments – an occasion that nobody was quite sure would ever happen, but that, in hindsight, was probably inevitable.
How did it go? Incredibly well, by all accounts. Over at Patriots.com, a very thoughtful piece pointed out that there was more going on here than simply showing a game and reaping the benefits of running ads against it. There was rich data here that hopefully tells both the league and Yahoo! what future there may be in streaming. Already, the pundits are asking not only whether Yahoo! will become the Netflix of Sports, but what this single broadcast could mean for ESPN in the future. NFL officials are reportedly now looking at how they can sell the streaming rights discretely from broadcast rights, and whether they can increase their overall take by doing so. Watch this space – this is about to get exciting.
But of course, it’s not only the NFL trying the waters. News this week that the NBA is ‘going virtual’ with Turner and NextVR – and, indeed, has already broadcast a game. For a sense of what happened, check out the review from TechCrunch. From our perspective, the real takeaway is that this is awesome…but not if you don’t get the delivery right: the writer is very clear that bandwidth impacted his enjoyment, so fixing the delivery model to deliver exceptional quality of experience is as important in the VR world as the TV world.
All this activity may lead one to believe the OTT revolution is now as inexorable as, well, the NFL being on the Internet. Not so fast, says TBI Vision. It’s a great piece and worth the read, but the short version appears to be that, while there’s a swift land grab going on in the OTT space, the big players are well-positioned because of their vast content libraries, and the cash reserves to secure irresistible content at prices that freeze out the upstarts. Perhaps they’re right that content will be King – but all our data tells us that consumers, who now want to watch their streaming content on the TV, are as interested in the playback experience as they are the content. Which makes sense: however good the content, it’s not worth watching if the picture is pixelated and constantly plagued by stalls and interruptions.
Adweek of course had their own take on what’s going on with cord-cutters. Unsurprisingly for that outlet, we are served some (probably quite sensible) skepticism about the pace of change. They point out that the historical number of people giving up cable is about 2%, which is roughly where we stand today. Also, as they point out, not only do consumers cancel cable – there are plenty who are signing up for it every day. In a fundamentally saturated market, how easy is it to spot a downward trend?
Here’s the thing: the leaders in the TV industry are investing heavily in OTT, and there is no deceleration evident. Shifting the technology does not, necessarily, mean the destruction of the current ecosystem and replacing it with an upstart behemoth. Netflix may have sucked all the oxygen out of the room by now, leaving limited space for any start-up to set their targets on taking out NBCU, Fox or Disney, but the move to consumers watching what they want, how they want, when they want, is as self-evidently on its way as football on the Internet.