Peter Csathy lays out a detailed roadmap of where the digital media world is going in 2017 and identifies concrete strategies and actions to immediately leverage the power of Media 2.0 in his new book, Media 2.0(17) - An insider's guide to today's world of digital media, where it's going (and how to take fearless action to innovate, lead and win). This "Top Ten" article is an excerpt from his book You can order your copy now by clicking on this link, available in both print and eBook.
My TOP 10 PREDICTIONS FOR DIGITAL MEDIA IN 2017
by Peter Csathy
(1) We will see all-out war in the world of premium video, as both massive new entrants like AT&T’s DirecTV Now – and SVOD services like Hulu – become virtual cable and satellite companies (multichannel video program distributors or “MVPD’s”) that, like Sling TV and Sony PlayStation Vue, offer live channels to compete head-on with the actual MVPDs. These new virtual MVPDs will give each of us at least double the number of choices to choose from to be our primary “television” provider. That’s great for consumers (and we can switch services anytime if we see something better, because they are “virtual” – no technician or installation needed). Not so much for the actual MVPDs. It’s not all bad for MVPDs though, since most also provide the pipes across which all of this great premium content flows. And, consumers voraciously demand ever-speedy broadband -- a higher margin and increasingly lucrative business.
(2) Netflix’s overall dominance in the world of premium OTT video will be challenged like never before, as seemingly docile competitors like Hulu beat it to this virtual MVPD expansion, as global competitors take out China and other territories before it, and as pure-play content-only monetizing business models fight to compete against an increasingly aggressive array of industry behemoths that can use content as marketing. Whereas Netflix’s 2016 ended with a performance bang, these sobering realities begin to hit home in 2017.
Here’s a related bonus prediction. Personalization will become a central campaign in this increasingly crowded OTT battle royale. Our “television” experiences will begin to shift from one-to-many (broadcast) to one-to-one (personalized). Content is king of course (that’s what this book is all about, after all). But, even if a content pool is compelling and deep, it means nothing to consumers if they can’t find what they want in it. So, content competition will not only mean a race for exclusive licensing and development of the best Originals. It will begin to focus on uncovering the gems that already exist, and showcasing them in a way that varies from customer to customer.
(3) Mega M&A will rule the day. Consider this the “AT&T Effect,” as the titans of both technology (platforms) and content (creators) react to the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Netflix’s long-term vulnerability means that active discussions will take place in 2017 to buy it (Disney already was rumored to be interested in 2016). Don’t be surprised if one of the usual suspects is that potential buyer (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Verizon), or even some less usual suspects (such as massive international player Alibaba). With one stroke of the pen, that buyer could own the dominant global brand and footprint in a premium OTT video world that has nowhere to go but up (massively up). All of these behemoths have the means to do it. And, you only get one shot. If you want to be “that guy,” you gotta buy it. You certainly can’t build it.
Here’s another bonus prediction. The pace of smaller (yet still strategically significant) digital-first media M&A will accelerate as well. Traditional media’s increasing Media 2.0 urgency will cause several of them to focus like never before on those remaining digital-first video companies that are category leaders. Tastemade and Jukin’ Media are amongst the leading candidates here (but the tires of them all will be aggressively kicked).
(4) The streaming music market also consolidates further, as the “big box” multi-monetizing digital retailers (Apple, Amazon, Google/YouTube) increasingly use music as “loss leaders” and squeeze out the hopes of the remaining independents that monetize only the music itself (Spotify, Pandora, Napster, Deezer, Slacker, and a host of others). Apple is not likely to play more in this M&A game, since it already bought its way into the market with Beats. But, consider all of the other gorillas fair game (and don’t forget about other sly giants like Microsoft and international player Alibaba).
(5) The artificial platform distinction between short-form and long-form content will begin to disappear (much like the “MCN” moniker disappeared in 2016), as duration no longer serves as a proxy for quality. Good storytelling is good storytelling, period. And, good stories are told in however long it takes to tell them. No longer constrained by old-world format rules of space and time, newly-emancipated storytellers will increasingly freely experiment across multiple platforms, perhaps even presenting a single story holistically across all of them (which one of you creators is doing that?). And we consumers can watch those stories wherever we want. Yes, the average video viewed on a mobile device is still shorter in duration than the average video you watch on your living room’s big screen. But, our behavior evolves, just as the content driving it evolves.
(6) The artificial distinction between media companies, and the advertisers who support them, also blurs. Every brand can be a media company, because ultimately each brand tells stories. It’s just a question of how effective and engaging they are, and to what degree (Red Bull takes it furthest). More and more brands will go direct-to-consumer with their own branded content/content marketing that entertains in its own right (remember Dollar Shave Club?). And, they increasingly work with digital-first media companies that increasingly target them to get there. Much like virtual MVPDs increasingly focus on personalization, brands will do the same across multiple touchpoints in a unified experience that speaks to us as individuals. Wearables and beacon technology may help here.
(7) VR & AR, both of which brashly and loudly broke out into the early commercial mainstream in 2016, will maintain a slightly lower profile in 2017. Yet, the technology will evolve significantly, and the live content that brings that technology to life will begin to reveal itself in tantalizing new ways. Brands will accelerate their number of VR and AR “experiments” to develop evermore impactful and unforgettable immersive ads. And, both media companies and VCs will increasingly pour money into the content development side of the VR and AR space.
(8) eSports’ relentless march forward will accelerate too, as relatable e-thletes (see what I did there?) raise their profiles into the commercial mainstream via advertisers hungry to reach their rabid social followings. Brands will divert significantly more resources to this new “space” which, in turn, will increasingly challenge the traditional sports market.
(9) The power of data becomes increasingly clear and critical to Media 2.0 companies, and consolidation here too will rule the day. Bloated legacy data platforms -- that face disruption by significantly lower-priced and more efficient new ones -- will act to take out those threats (case in point, Salesforce buying data management platform Krux for $700 million late 2016). Players across the Media 2.0 ecosystem (content creators, distributors, marketers) will benefit from that disruption via more choice and less cost to gain a deeper understanding of (and develop greater personalization for) specifically targeted consumers.
(10) International becomes an even greater battleground, as the largest Media 2.0 players both inside and outside the U.S. increasingly encroach on each other’s home turf in this borderless world (China’s LeEco anyone?). As a result, companies big and small will be more willing to partner with players outside their borders to compete most effectively against these forces and to significantly expand their own opportunities.
There you have it. So much to lay out, so little time (and I didn’t even include last year’s “expect the unexpected” softball … although of course we all should).
Now it’s 2017.
NOW IT’S TIME TO BE FEARLESS!