A LOOK BACK AT MY DIGITAL MEDIA PREDICTIONS FOR 2016
By, Peter Csathy
One year ago, TechCrunch and Variety asked me to offer my predictions for digital media for this past year, 2016. I later expanded upon those predictions in my own “Digital Media Update” blog and laid them out "Top 10" style. Here they are below, together with my abbreviated, “listicled” summary analysis of how they stacked up to reality. This abbreviated scorecard gives a good snapshot of key digital media developments and milestones in 2016 (and also keeps me honest as I now write my Top 10 digital media predictions for next year, 2017, which will be featured in next month's newsletter).
So, here we go -- my Top 10 digital media predictions for this past year (scored against 2016's reality):
(1) VR will be the headline story, as what was just recently written off as fad for most in media will cross into mass market status. Several millions of premium headsets (not just Google Cardboards) will be sold by major consumer electronics companies.
REALITY -- Samsung alone sold well over 1 million of its Gear headsets in the first six months of 2016, and endless chatter of VR filled the hallways of media and tech companies everywhere. What I didn’t foresee was AR’s rapid ascension into our collective consciousness via Pokemon Go. Not many saw that coming. Don't think there is more of a transformational headline story than the new immersive world of Media 2.0, but if there is one, let me know. Immersive is very much a brave new world of Media 2.0 mass opportunity that demands content focus that will lead to yet another content coronation.
(2) Not far behind, consolidation will rule the day, as traditional media companies – both domestic and international – will accelerate their appetite for digital-first M&A.
REALITY – AT&T buys Time Warner for $85 billion. That mega-deal checks this box all by itself. And Media 2.0-related M&A shows no sign of abating (in fact, it will accelerate precisely because of that deal, so get your advisors in place and be ready to move on “moment in time” strategic, and potentially game-changing, opportunities). Arch-rival Verizon acquired languishing Yahoo! for $4.8 billion and drifting Vessel for an undisclosed sum. But, will the Yahoo! deal stick? Or, will it be hacked away? (Last I checked, Verizon was seeking at least a $1 billion haircut.)
Amongst traditional media giants, Comcast NBCUniversal was on a tear all year with its acquisition of Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, its acquisition of Netflix-like OTT service M-Go (via its Fandango unit), its acquisition of dual movie sites Rotten Tomatoes and Flixster, and its doubling-down on BuzzFeed by investing another $200 million late in the year.
(3) The multi-platform-ization of media will show no signs of abating, as the “Great Unbundling” of pay TV packages will continue and the list of YouTube challengers (like Facebook and Snapchat) and challenging stand-alone OTT services grows.
REALITY – AT&T alone checks this box too. A seemingly neverending string of new premium OTT services (including DirecTV Now) and newly-emancipated pay TV channels flooded the market in 2016. Others included AT&T-related Fullscreen at $5.99 per month and NBCUniversal’s comedy-focused OTT service Seeso at $3.99 (I could go on and on). Meanwhile, Facebook challenged YouTube big time -- both for captured video and live streaming video.
(4) Live streaming (both event and individual/social) will join video on demand (VOD) as a key area of focus.
REALITY – True, without a doubt. Live streaming became a major new Media 2.0 battleground as Facebook launched “Facebook Live” to compete directly with YouTube. Meanwhile, Disney invested a cool $1 billion in live streaming platform BAMTech. Drop the mic, Bam!
(5) On the music side, major services’ (Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Tidal) subscription-focused business models will continue to be challenged. Consolidation – back to the big box days. Whereas distribution expansion on the video side, implosion on the music side. Take a fresh look at economics and incentives – it’s in their self interest.
REALITY – This sobering reality shows no signs of slowing, although nearly all of these pure-play streaming services took at least baby steps to diversify. Spotify’s and Pandora’s operating losses continued to mount over the course of the year (although that certainly didn't stop Spotify from raising another $1 billion in debt financing this year and registering for one of 2017's most anticipated IPOs). Consolidation in this OTT music space is inevitable.
(6) eSports – already quietly massive – will be quiet no longer.
REALITY – eSports really hasn't been quiet to “insiders” for a long time, but this emerging Media 2.0 category likely is new to you. Now we have several competing professional eSports leagues (from Activision, Turner, even Cineplex Entertainment to bring eSports to a theater near you) and major television “channels” regularly broadcast major eSports events (ESPN, Turner). Oh yes, and don’t forget that Vegas already bets big, big, big – so it must be real.
(7) The video game industry will continue to out-pace and dwarf traditional media titles.
REALITY – It’s too early to make a final judgment here for the year (final figures aren’t in as I write this). But, this reality likely isn’t going away anytime soon, especially with the rise of eSports and the mainstreaming of VR and AR (all of which will further accelerate growth of the overall games industry).
(8) Wearables and digital health will expand significantly. The Apple Watch is just an early prototype for things to come.
REALITY – This one may sound out of context compared to the others, but let me assure you it isn’t. Storytelling and gamification are directly relevant to this market.
So, how do I judge this one? Well, first, I'll concede that this prediction was kind of a a softball. Who could deny it then? And who can deny it now one year later? Just look at all the wrists around you. Putting aside all the new age bracelets you see, check out all the fitbits here, Apple Watches there.
The broad market for “Wearables” is an opportunity that deserves active study and reflection. Simple licensing of your valuable IP (titles, characters, storylines) are obvious opportunities and may become lucrative new revenue streams. There’s certainly significant money on the table. That’s the way you gotta think in all of these market segments.
(9) Borderless global partnerships amongst previously territory-constrained media and tech companies will accelerate amidst these new digital realities.
REALITY – Netflix, stymied in its own quest to conquer China, now plans to work with (not against) Chinese partners to explore new Media 2.0 opportunities, while the “Netflix of China” – LeEco – bought U.S.-based Vizio and is building a massive new headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley to conquer the U.S. Media 2.0 market. That kind of borderless competition will only accelerate in 2017.
(10) Finally, expect the unexpected.
REALITY -- Who can deny this fundamental Media 2.0 reality? In 2016, perhaps the simplest of stories, Pokemon Go, best crystalized this point. Transformational technology. Revolutionary content-driven application of that technology. Creating an entirely new experience. Resulting in a global phenomenon. Pokeman Go demonstrates Media 2.0’s transformational possibilities driven by creativity, innovation and action.
So take action, yourself. Do the unexpected. Deeply immerse yourselves in the forces around you. Lead the change.
We at CREATV Media can help. Reach out to us at email@example.com
Yes, DirecTV Now -- But AT&T Soon, THAT's The Big Story
By, Peter Csathy
All digital media eyes recently focused on AT&T with the giant's formal unveiling of its new "DirecTV Now" premium OTT video service
that takes on and hopes to win against Netflix and all premium OTT video contenders (Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV)
. And, make no mistake, DirecTV Now is formidable -- coming to you with many tantalizing not-so-secret weapons (not the least of which is its unexpectedly low $35 monthly price point -- about 50% lower than most industry insiders anticipated -- which puts massive pricing pressure on other OTT services that are or will become virtual MVPDs -- multichannel video program distributors)
. DirecTV Now, unlike Netflix now, offers live TV channels in addition to VOD (essentially your current cable or satellite television, but without the need for a truck and technician to hook you up).
So, DirecTV Now makes AT&T a key digital media player to watch, right now.
But, while DirecTV Now is certainly something big right now, that's nothing compared to the AT&T digital media mega-player coming soon that hopes to reach you everywhere you are (both in the real and virtual worlds).
Remember that little $85 billion acquisition of media icon Time Warner a couple months back?
Well, once that deal closes (which is not an absolute certainty)
, then AT&T immediately becomes a part owner of Hulu itself (with a 10% interest). So, AT&T will immediately be a leading OTT player (competing against itself to a certain extent in the process with DirecTV Now)
. And, AT&T certainly will have the content goods to help drive success -- owning a prized treasure trove of intellectual property (HBO, Warner Bros., Turner motion picture and television content)
that it can choose to exploit any way it wishes (including withholding some of it from competitors).
But wait, there's more. That's just the premium OTT video part of the overall digital media equation.
Let's next take the world of virtual reality (VR).
Assuming its Time Warner deal closes, AT&T immediately becomes a leading player in the VR space via Time Warner's strategic investment in leading live VR player NextVR (a company that has raised about $120 million to date)
How about augmented reality (AR)? Yes, that's right. AT&T will be a leading player in that world too via its Time Warner augmentation and Warner Bros.' major investment in the most intriguing and enigmatic AR player of them all -- Magic Leap
(a company which has a $4.5 billion investor valuation ... and it hasn't even released a product yet!
Want even more? Because AT&T obviously did -- which brings us to yet another reason for AT&T to like Time Warner. And, that reason is eSports.
Once the deal closes, AT&T immediately becomes a very real major player in eSports too when it brings Time Warner's Turner brand into the fold -- and, in particular, Turner's new ELEAGUE professional eSports league launched about one year ago with mega-agency WME-IMG.
How about that, people?
And we ain't even done yet.
Don't forget about AT&T's existing $600 million-ish Otter Media
content-driven joint venture with The Chernin Group. Otter Media certainly is no slouch in the digital media world. Digital Media pioneer Fullscreen is just one of its many brands, and don't forget that Fullscreen is now a premium SVOD player itself -- just a different kind of SVOD. Fullscreen, unlike Netflix or Hulu, is primarily mobile and millennial focused.
So, yeah, I think AT&T is intriguing now.
But, that ain't nothing compared to the power, reach and potential it has when it integrates Time Warner. Now, it's all about execution.
Isn't it always?
Will be interesting to watch how it all unfolds in 2017 -- and how all the others react.
We can help you make sense of it all. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On October 25, 2016, CREATV Media co-hosted a major VR and AR-focused event at YouTube Space LA. Here is Chairman Peter Csathy's roundtable discussion with 20th Century Fox's Futurist Ted Schilowitz, SKY UK's head of U.S. investing John Jelley, and The Void's Chief Strategy Officer Sam Englebardt.