We’re All In This Together

November 19, 2015

TV(R)evolution this week led with an article titled Why Cord-Cutting Has Ceased To Be A Threat. Wait, what? Well, actually, it makes a pile of sense: the MVPD’s are joining hands with the streamers, and building a new ecosystem that will look remarkably like the one from which we are evolving.

The piece really talks about what we all knew was coming: consumers may not want to manage multiple subscriptions, and need an ISP anyway to do the streaming, so it makes sense for the MVPD to be the sales/marketing and subscription arm of the streaming services. Start to look out there at services like Comcast Stream and Verizon Go90 (not to mention Sling TV, and many more), and this starts to look like a quiet revolution.

While streamers, consumers and MVPDs may be embracing this reality, life is looking a little tougher for broadcasters.  According to Medialife, the Big Five are down 6% in viewers this year, which really just continues a trend that’s been on its way for a while. We can argue as to whether this is because of cord-cutting, massive expansion in channel choices, or something else entirely, but the bottom line is that straight-up broadcasting is slowing down. Which is not to say these massive corporations are going down quietly – CBS All Access is moving quickly, ABC has a very handy set of streaming options, and both Fox and NBC are making their moves. In the end, the likelihood is that all the players in the marketplace will come together to build out a robust set of TV choices that continues to dominate our attention and our spending.

In fact, Univision is making really big steps, building on an already pretty impressively-executed digital strategy.  According to Videoink, the company is riding the SVOD wave with its new Univision Now.  Given that demographically, Spanish-speakers tend to garner more content across the web, the chances are good that this will open up a whole new cohort of subscribers; and that ultimately this will be a big seller for not only TV-focused MVPDs, but also telcos.

In possibly even bigger news, Sky in the UK is launching Sky Q, a totally new kind of service that its own CEO Jeremy Darroch describes as “the biggest reimagining of Sky in its history”. Combining wired set top boxes, wireless plug-and-play devices, a home Hub and a new on-the-go app, this promises to raise new questions about what it really means to be a ‘traditional’ TV provider. As Sky promises to ‘superserve’ its customers, the gauntlet has been thrown down to other providers to innovate and create new opportunity.

This is not going unnoticed, as FierceOnlineVideo notes that streaming media companies are now fighting tooth and nail for consumers. Now it’s not just the content producers, and service providers, it’s also the device manufacturers trying to win what we’ll call for the sake of argument Share of Eyeballs. Device companies are pushing and shoving to show that their machines hold consumers’ attention (according to Parks & Associates, the top ones, in order, are Xbox, Playstation, and Roku). This then propels the service providers to dedicate effort to those platforms – resulting in more sales.  Again, the development of a new kind of ecosystem brings new opportunities that simply weren’t there just a few short years ago.

The end game is still not in clear view, though.  Just as the corporate titans are doubling down on OTT, the Silicon Valley pioneers are fighting back.  Vimeo is about ready to roll out online originals, just as YouTube Red enters the fray. Nobody in the tech world is quite ready to throw up the white flag and watch their digital developments get quietly trumped by the media universe.

Everyone’s in this together. With the bold declarations that digital TV is a fad slowly fading into long-term memory, the ecosystem – ever more fractured yet interconnected – continues to deliver new options, new business models, and new partnerships