In the past few years, many of us – on a daily basis – consume a mixture of lean-back and lean-forward video, an assortment of linear and streaming, and online and OTT. This is significantly influencing the traditional broadcast business that many of us have perpetuated and kept healthy for the past few decades. But like a competitive athlete, our industry must adapt and lean forward into the new challenges.
My origins are in telecom, and I was a small part of one of the first IPTV deployments in the U.S. That was 20 years ago. Telcos had visions of making significant inroads into video. What happened since that time was the emergence of the Internet and all forms of visual and informational alternatives that take our eyeballs and grey matter away from linear TV. As a result, telco TV subscriber penetration has not generally hit dizzying heights, and all competitors in the distribution space (over-the-air broadcasters, cable, telcos, and satellite) are challenged to maintain growth and profitability.
The Internet has spoiled us. It is a 100% lean-forward environment – where I am in control of what I find and what I consume – and this is coloring our expectations for video consumption, as well. No need to go through the research that shows the rising popularity of streaming alternatives – just about anyone will tell you that they increasingly stream and select their own content.
So let’s talk for a minute about the next great evolution in video consumption. Lean-back is easy. We all still do it to some degree – and probably always will. Many of us come home from work, grab a meal, plop down in front of the TV, extend the workday with a tablet or open laptop, flip through the TV channels, and maybe find something interesting. Little effort and often little attention to what’s on. However, with a simple click or two on Roku, Amazon Prime, Netflix, or my smart TV, I am in a lean-forward land of many options. A bit more effort resulting in more attention and definitely more gained.
The lean-forward Internet makes us all want so much from our television experience. I WANT some linear, half-hour shows. I WANT some subscription-based streaming video and pay per view. I WANT the ads that I view to be meaningful to me and my lifestyle. I WANT all of my video to be self-selected and customized, available on my devices of choice – and as easily accessible as my cloud-based music. I WANT to store content for some time. I WANT to upload my family videos, and pop them onto my selected device in an instant. I WANT it easy, a nice and simple means to record, store, play back and consume all of my video. And outside of sporting or similar events, who cares about real-time? I WANT all of this in MY TIME.
Like Sting sang in that Dire Straits song - “I want my MTV”, I WANT MY OWN TV – but it is much, much more than TV – that’s just another screen to me. I WANT multi-sourced, perpetually stored, in-my-time, easily accessed video and relevant ads – all of which are targeted and wrapped around me and my eyeballs. I WANT a lot, I know. Indeed, I think WE WANT a lot anymore.
I believe that day is here – and it is descending from the cloud.