Over the past few days, my MediaKind colleagues Jay Ganesan and Damien Montessuit have provided their industry predictions for APAC and EMEA. They are both so incredibly aware of what is happening in our industry – not only in their respective markets but also globally. They have captured several key areas that I concur with and don’t want to repeat.
First and foremost, I have been incredibly proud of our industry in 2020 and how it has been responding to consumer needs. None of us claim that video is as essential a utility as power and water, but it is crucial in times like these to keep people highly informed and create an outlet for entertainment.
Here, then, are some of my thoughts on the shape of 2021 in the Americas:
1) M&A’s to shake up and consolidate the market in the Americas
As COVID-19 either slows or becomes the new normal, our industry’s ‘business’ will return. This will stimulate significant acquisitions and mergers. In parallel, some past investments will be shuttered, and some key players will establish new, unconventional partnerships. This should happen across North America and Latin America, where the market focus is heavily on economic recovery and re-investment.
I will not predict which companies will be bought or sold or which entities will be spun off, shut down, or merged elsewhere – but we will see activity at the mega-merger level as well as market consolidation. There are plenty of tech-driven vendors that were in-play pre-COVID, which are now going to be aggressively looking for the right exit strategy.
2) Consumers demanding even better quality on streaming as SVOD grows
Jay and Damien both talked about the rise of linear OTT streaming and direct-to-consumer (D2C), but I see an even more aggressive push for unique entrants in this space. Sports, major live events and big studio films going D2C via VOD services. This is already happening, but I see this growing exponentially.
In my view, most consumers have tolerated less than five nine’s service from a streaming perspective for a long time, but as we shift to more high-value, live content and things like big-budget film premiers, that tolerance will change. While UI/UX, content libraries, and pricing bundles have dominated the OTT preference trends, video and audio quality could make or break these billion-dollar D2C plays.
In parallel to this, I believe we will see a shift towards more efficient VOD delivery, storage and quality. This will be driven by the increasing trend of same-day releases on streaming platforms and bigger Cloud DVR pay-TV streaming services like YouTube TV, AT&T TV, etc., which are replacing actual cloud recorded content with SVOD after 90 days.
3) Premium quality video is 5G’s killer app
5G is taking off in North America, obviously, with all the major operators rolling out coverage across the US and Canada. Video has long been a use case ambition with this new speed and capacity. With skyrocketing demand for streaming, network owners’ opportunity is to become the home to a new kind of video experience – the promise of a Set Top Box in your pocket is coming true.
It is not just VOD or even live events streamed in UHD. 5G enables the opportunity to provide multiple streams of a sports event so that the user controls the action. Thanks to the guaranteed bandwidth, high data speeds, delivery reliability, and low latency, in particular, you can innovate new video services with a high level of interaction, such as live betting. Video experiences can become more immersive – whether it’s enabling data-intensive resolutions such as UHD, virtual or augmented reality viewing, or 360-degree content.
Traditional distributors of content (MNO’s, MVNO’s) are not just going to sit by and watch their access investments become commoditized. They also know that technology like HDR 10, Dolby Vision, and CMAF still has limitations over Wi-Fi or pure OTT. That’s why I believe we will finally see the differentiation or monetization use cases of 5G accelerate. The ‘potential’ of 5G will no longer just be a headline when it comes to video.