A 2020 Vision for TV’s Future

The year 2020 is here and TV will, once again, never be the same. Streaming video, subscription services, pirates, connected TVs, interactive programming and much more have changed the way, the where and the how of content consumption.

Jean-Marc Racine

Jean-Marc Racine

And it doesn’t stop there. There is so much more that will continue to change. Think of what we already know for 2020:

• Next-Gen TV will start to make ATSC 3.0 a household name.

• New over-the-top services from titans like NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia will join the battle for streaming TV viewers.

• The rumor mill for more mergers and acquisitions is already full, and will continue to reshape the business landscape of video.

Collectively, our industry will thrive if we plan for what’s next. To do so, broadcasters, OTT companies, content owners and technology companies should look ahead. Here are a few predictions:

Bundling: Meet the rebirth of pay TV and the growth of streaming and subscription VOD. Bundling is already happening, but it will increase exponentially. The cross-service TV bundle will move center stage as the perceived wisdom that cord-cutting is decimating the traditional pay TV sector will prove false. With the world’s media powerhouses launching streaming services into an already crowded market, consumers will be confronted with too many siloed options. The result is that many services won’t survive and some cord-cutters, tired of searching for content, may ultimately watch less. To avoid this fate, traditional pay TV programmers and new players will join forces to offer converged, curated “new pay TV” bundles that better meet consumer demand.

Piracy: Whether it’s casual credentials-sharing or the illegal sale of passwords and illicit streaming, piracy will continue to grow. We will see the industry raise the volume about the impact of casual credentials-sharing and the toxicity of streaming piracy and fraudulent, for-profit sharing. While individual operators facing severe piracy situations are already calling for more to be done to combat pirates, we are only at the start of this battle to protect both the value of premium content and operator revenues.

The proof of the severity of the problem is found in the numbers. Synamedia recently unveiled the findings from analyses of two video service providers, which uncovered more than 3 million viewer credentials were compromised across both the dark and open Web over the course of just six months. Additionally, the analysis found these particular video service providers are likely to be losing more than $72 million of potential annual subscription-fee revenue due to password-sharing from roughly 500,000 non-paying users.

These statistics illustrate a microcosm of the real impact piracy is already having in the industry. In order to survive, video providers must defend their livelihood with state-of-the-art technology, the intelligence of experts who think like pirates do and who know how they work, so they can move even faster than the relentless thieves. Simply, they must stay ahead of the game.

Latency: Achieving synchronized latency between live broadcast and OTT streaming at scale will become a ‘must-have’ as live sports streaming goes mainstream. This will require optimizing the entire end-to-end chain for low latency. Using a low-delay encoder is a moot point if the content delivery network (CDN) platform and player introduce delays down the line. Operators will also start to converge their broadcast and IP streams at the headend to help minimize any delay and optimize their workflows.

At the same time, we will also see a flurry of activity around ATSC 3.0 as U.S. broadcasters prepare the technical, commercial and legal ground for rollouts that will open up new application opportunities. It’s no secret that the way TV is viewed has changed since ATSC 1.0 was rolled out. There is no longer one screen in the home where viewing takes place. The TV-watching experience has changed, the platforms have grown in size (or shrunk in some cases) and the options have expanded. With ATSC 3.0, there’s more of nearly everything: More immersive experiences, more personalization and more content and related services.

Hybrid Operations and Cloud: As the move to the cloud accelerates, we will see greater adoption by pay TV providers of solutions to find the optimal balance between capital expenditures and operating expenditures. For example, solutions that offer the ability to launch, scale up and scale down high availability channels for smarter hybrid on-premise and public cloud deployments while keeping a tight control on costs.

From the viewers’ perspective, a hybrid approach takes into consideration their desire for accessible content, superior experiences and reliable services. Consumers expect to be able to watch any show they want, on any device they want, at any time they want. To keep up, companies must consider a blend of broadcast and IP to deliver more viewing options, must have cloud DVR and greater flexibility for a complete viewing experience.

Addressable Advertising: We expect to see new ecosystems and partnerships to address the growing demand for linear TV addressable advertising. This will include more pay TV operator and broadcaster collaborations based upon sharing advanced advertising platforms and audience data to create solutions matching the needs of advertisers and agencies. The entire industry will also need to work together to define a standard way of measuring addressable advertising audiences and outcomes.

However it all plays out, there’s one prediction that is certain to come true: It will be another exciting year in the ongoing evolution and revolution of the TV industry.

Jean-Marc Racine is chief product officer at Synamedia, a London-based video software and services company.