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The New TV Normal: Three Predictions for the Future of Streaming

Navdeep Saini of DistroScale
Navdeep Saini, co-founder and CEO, DistroScale (Image credit: DistroScale)

We are in the midst of a new “TV normal.” Cord-cutters are on the rise, and competition is heating up in the streaming TV market, with new paid subscription and FAST (free ad-supported streaming) service models popping onto the scene at a frequency previously unseen.  

As we move through year two of the pandemic, the streaming TV industry cannot afford to become complacent. Now is the time to capitalize on the boom, to take advantage of consumers’ interest in streaming TV and to smartly think through what providers can next offer to propel the industry forward. Let’s take a look at three predictions as to what the future of streaming TV holds.

Anticipate subscription “cycling” and plan accordingly: Subscription services tend to add up. That begs the question, which streaming service is really worth keeping around? With streaming services being easily accessible when starting and stopping service,  we’ve noticed some users tend to get caught up in subscription “cycling.” This is a relatively new phenomenon where viewers will start a subscription to a new streaming service when they know a new season of a show they wish to view is about to be released and then will cancel the subscription once they finish the show. From there, they will rotate to the next subscription service, effectively repeating the cycle. 

Subscription cycling has been a tricky concept for platforms to crack down. After all, the major appeal to cord-cutting is the premise that it allows consumers to start and stop service with ease, without getting caught up in yearly premium plans. One way that some streaming TV platforms have managed to keep subscribers year-round is to offer a deal on a prepaid yearly subscription plan, enticing audiences to pay upfront rather than month to month. Perhaps the future will see more of this notion. 

We predict the industry will see a continual spike in FAST platform subscriptions. Such streaming TV platforms often offer an array of independent content, partnering with specific brands and media to create custom shows that target viewers’ specific interests. In a world where subscription cycling is growing tiresome and content consumption remains at an all-time high, what viewer wouldn’t consider the option to add an additional streaming service to their roster at absolutely no cost?

Consider innovative ways to engage in streaming bundles and platform partnerships: Streaming bundles aren’t exactly a new trend, but they are hot right now. Conglomerate media brands are turning to build stacked streaming platforms that could rival long-standing platforms like Netflix, with many offering fun deals to entice viewers (i.e. sign up for a Hulu and Disney Plus bundle and get a free ESPN Plus subscription!). But is there a way to take this to the next level?

The short answer is yes, and the streaming services that are not looking to get innovative in who and how they engage in partner bundles are poised to quickly fall behind. Now is the time for streaming TV service platforms to take a closer look at their audience demographic. Understand who you are reaching as a platform, and more importantly, why. What content is resonating with your viewers? Once streaming TV platforms understand that, they’ll be able to better understand which brands to partner with in an effort to attract new subscribers. Streaming TV services that favor independent content providers will do especially well here, as their channel options are often more vast and tailored to meet specific audience interests.

With globalization on the rise, consider creating a localized viewing experience: The world continues to become smaller; people connect over shared interests, and media & entertainment is a great way to share stories that transcend regions and encourage a deeper sense of community. Perhaps that is why, in part due to COVID-19, globalization of content has been on the rise. Platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have all released animated and foreign-language projects on their platforms as a way to keep new content figures up and viewers engaged. In the future months, we predict streaming TV platform providers would do well to consider creating a “localized” viewing experience. What do we mean by that? We mean that with such an abundance of content streaming across platforms, now is the time for streaming TV platform providers to increase their interactivity. Perhaps this will see streaming TV providers become content sharing platforms in which friends from all around the nation, or world, can watch their favorite show or film together, and interact while doing so. We’ve started to see this in nascent form, as with Netflix’s release of the Bandersnatch Black Mirror finale, but there is more work still to be done.

This is a pivotal time to be in the streaming service business. This past year, we witnessed the biggest subscription drop ever in cable TV history, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. Streaming TV services have the market and their influence is growing everyday. Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas. Now is the time to plan properly, think creatively, get innovative, and pioneer the way for the future of entertainment viewing. Let’s make it better than it ever was before.

Navdeep Saini is co-founder and CEO of DistroScale, parent company of DistroTV.