Growing up in India in the 1980s, watching television was a severely restricted experience. One could only watch the news, sports or entertainment content that the television networks (there was only one – Doordarshan) chose to broadcast; and could only be watched when the network decided to air it. There was no multi-screen viewing. Everyone gathered around a single television screen.
If we compare it to today, the shift has been nothing short of dramatic. Not only has there been an explosion of media, channels, devices and platforms, but the concept of scheduled content viewing has pretty much gone out the window. As OTT platforms become more popular, they attract big-budget original content with top movie stars. The pandemic-enforced restrictions that affected the release of films in cinemas further supported this trend.
Technological solutions, especially those with cloud support, were the biggest harbingers of change at this time. It simplified broadcast operations, minimized the cost and complexity of a hardware-intensive operating system, and maximized the speed and agility of channel creation, distribution, and monetization. The benefits of cloud solutions do not end there. Helped content owners take a diverse approach to their distribution strategy. Content that is available on traditional TV channels can also be watched on streaming platforms, giving consumers the freedom to choose their preferred medium.
Additionally, AI & ML enhancements have boosted search and recommendation features on streaming platforms, and innovative voice assistants – such as Amazon Alexa with the voice of Amitabh Bachchan – are raising the bar on the customer experience.
Also read: 5G saw improvements in car safety, user experience
These changes mean that broadcast traffic is not what it used to be. Here are some of the biggest shifts in content distribution brought about by emerging technologies:
Unpredictable economic models
As content rapidly moves from a broadcast model to a “one-way broadcast” where each viewer essentially has their own independent stream of content, the cost of serving customers has shifted from fixed to highly variable. As a result, economic models have been turned on their head.
On the one hand, there has been a big jump in the volume of content consumption per capita. According to Limelight Networks, Inc’s November 2020 State of Online Video 2020 report, Indians watched an average of 10 hours 54 minutes of online video content and 8 hours of traditional television per week.
At the same time, content consumption is now very fragmented due to the explosion in the number of endpoints. Today, video content is consumed through OTT channels, social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, online video platforms such as YouTube, messaging applications such as WhatsApp, or regular television broadcasts. There is also more variety in the content. A classic example is the popularity of Korean dramas in India. Therefore, despite the drastic increase in content consumption, it is almost impossible to predict consumption patterns.
While older platforms tend to have some visibility based on past data on similar content, newer players are completely out in the cold. This makes decisions about the economics of content production and distribution extremely challenging.
Transition from B2B to B2C
Previously, content owners used a Business to Business (B2B) model. They primarily sold their content to distributors such as satellite TV providers and cable operators. These distributors in turn presented the content to the viewers. Now that OTT channels are operated directly by broadcasters, there is a shift to a Business to Consumer (B2C) model.
This requires some change in thinking regarding aspects such as customer experience and monetization. For example, how easy is it for users to find a certain show on your OTT channel? The business model is also different, as broadcasters now have to be adept at the nuances of making money from individual customers, rather than through licensing.
The impact of 5G
As 5G becomes available and more mainstream, bandwidth will become cheaper and more affordable. This will not only lead to a growing user base for content consumption, but users will demand better streaming quality such as 4K or ultra HD, or even immersive experiences delivered through virtual reality or augmented reality.
With near-zero latency, we can expect the lines between video games and passive content to blur as viewers gain more control over how they watch a show.
While technology has undoubtedly disrupted the world of content broadcasting, the demand for relevant and quality content remains.
Thus, the ability to understand the audience and their preferences and deliver the right content through the right channels will be an important success factor for content providers in the future.
(The author is the co-founder and CEO of Amagi)