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Winning over viewers in a Netflix world

September 26, 2017

Brian Morris   

Blog contributor

The world of TV is notoriously hard to crack but widespread technological disruption over the past decade and beyond has led a shift away from traditional broadcasters. Corporations like the BBC no longer dictate what people watch on TV and when, with time-shifting, streaming and data analytics completely transforming the media landscape.

Services like Netflix and Amazon Video have emerged as major players in the next-generation media ecosystem, bringing with them a new, flexible way of watching content on multiple devices, anywhere, at any time. Meanwhile, legacy broadcasters have had to adapt their offerings to suit these evolving viewing habits, including catch-up services like BBC’s iPlayer and subscription-based platforms like Sky’s Now TV.

While it may be tricky for smaller rivals to make their mark, offering niche content or delivering something unique that enhances the viewer experience is the key. OTT networks have dramatically lowered the barriers to entry, so that while big players like Netflix may be leading the way, smaller streaming networks are also now in with a shot at success.

Taking on the big players

There is a growing number of streaming services that stand out from the crowd by offering a carefully curated selection of content aimed at specific audiences. One example is Shudder, a horror film-based subscription streaming service, which launched in the US in 2015 and later expanded to the UK in 2016. While Shudder is operated by US TV network AMC and not a startup firm, it illustrates how smaller players targeting a very precise market can prosper.

Outside of TV shows and films, there’s also a huge opportunity for other industries to produce their own tailored videos. The ability to offer curated content is particularly useful in the world of sport, enabling teams and leagues to complement match coverage with additional content. In-depth analysis and behind-the-scenes player footage can be used to enhance the fan experience, which is especially useful for fans based overseas who wouldn’t otherwise have such direct access to their favourite teams.

Various professional sports organisations have started to branch out into streaming their own content including NFL Network and NBA TV while Tata Communications works with F1 and Red Bull TV. The OTT approach can also help international news networks to reach new audiences in other countries, with Tata Communications already working with Asian Television Network (ATN) Canada to do just that.

Tapping into the ‘passenger economy’

While at one time the TV and cinema dominated the viewing experience, people can now watch video on mobiles devices almost anywhere they like, including the car. And with autonomous cars on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before video content for cars develops as a business in its own right.

A recent study predicts that a ‘passenger economy’ will emerge to capitalise on the time that will be freed up as drivers become passengers. It estimates that this new industry will be worth $7 trillion (£5.3 trillion) by 2050 as autonomous vehicles become mainstream. The report warns that it’s important to start thinking about digital strategy now as the opportunities offered by the autonomous cars of the future are still up for grabs. It predicts that media producers will develop custom content formats to match short and long travel times.

In order to offer curated content, artificial intelligence (AI) software will increasingly be used for advanced data analytics and could double annual economic growth rates by 2035, according to a recent report. AI and machine learning are already used by firms like Netflix to track trends in viewer consumption and make recommendations based on their preferences. While this kind of technology was previously limited to large companies, it is becoming increasingly accessible, giving smaller operations the same quality data to work with as the broadcasting giants.

Social media and the rise of amateur content creators

The explosion of social media, particularly among millennials and Generation Y ‘digital natives’, also offers big opportunities. Not only does social media offer a way of promoting media services from smaller operators, it’s also acts as a broadcasting platform in itself. Live streaming services like Facebook Live, Periscope and Instagram Live, along with YouTube Live, enable people to become amateur content creators, broadcasting unique content at scale.

As viewing habits evolve, there are huge opportunities for different types of businesses, including news distributors, retailers, device makers and sports leagues to develop new digital video strategies quickly and at scale. And while larger media firms like Netflix have created their own bespoke global distribution methods, OTT networks are the way forward for smaller operators that want to get in on the action.

Read one of my previous blogs on Live 360-degree video.