Streaming, Diversity, Live Shows Ahead

With another evolutionary year for the television programming industry nearly over, it’s time to focus on trends the landscape might reveal in the new year. With the number of original scripted series expected to surpass the 500 mark and new distribution entrants like Apple launching new streaming services with original programming, here are five trends the industry should look at in 2019:

1. Time spent viewing content on the web will keep going up. This seems to be a no-brainer, given the trends in viewer behavior over the past few years, but 2019 will mark the closest that actual time viewing on the internet has come to matching the time spent viewing on traditional TV. Consumers are expected to watch 265.8 minutes a day of streaming content next year, per data from Zenith Media, up from 239.9 in 2018. In comparison, viewers will spend 271.5 hours watching TV in 2019, down from 276.8 minutes this year, according to Zenith. The media buyer projects that time spent watching streaming video will surpass that of traditional TV in 2020.

2. There will be more diversity behind the camera. Actors and actresses of color in lead roles in shows on cable, broadcast and streaming services increased in 2018, thanks to new series such as Showtime’s The Chi, BBC America’s Killing Eve and Starz’s Vida. In 2019, more people of color will take the reins as producers, directors and writers. Major production and development deals with the likes of Shonda Rhimes (Netflix), Tanya Saracho (Starz) and Lena Waithe (Showtime) should ensure more diversity behind the camera in 2019.

3. Networks will continue to experiment with live programming. Broadcast and cable networks will look to offer live specials and sports programming to keep viewers tethered to the traditional bundle while luring cable-cutters and cable-nevers away from the streaming services. From the Fox network’s buying rights to the WWE’s weekly SmackDown! pro wrestling series last May to the December launch of Discovery’s Border Live to the continued success of A&E’s Live PD, the industry will look to exploit live content to maintain and draw in new viewers.

4. New streaming sports services will compete for high-profile live sports content. Startup streaming sports service DAZN’s three-year, $300 million deal with Major League Baseball to create a daily, primetime show with live look-ins to games in progress was the latest in a series of eye-opening sports rights acquisitions by streaming services in 2018. ESPN and the new ESPN+ streaming service’s multiyear TV deal with UFC, wrestled away from Fox, and DAZN’s securing of TV rights for pay-per-view boxing stalwart Canelo Alvarez’s next 11 fights put streaming sports services on the playing field for live marquee events. Despite some highprofile technical hiccups such as Bleacher Report Live’s streaming issues with the Nov. 16 Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson pay-per-view golf match, look for sports streaming services to pick off small and midsized sports packages before becoming competitive bidders for the more high-profile packages from the major sports leagues in 2020 and beyond.

5. Traditional television networks launch more original content on the web to reach millennials and cord-cutters. Cable networks will continue take their branded content to social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat in an effort to reach nonsubscribers and millennials. MTV in 2018 used SnapChat to reboot some classic shows such as Cribs and Girl Code, and it’s planning to launch other shows from sister services BET and Comedy Central in 2019. Meanwhile, networks will look to push original premieres to the web first in an effort to entice viewers to come back to the linear channel for other content. Discovery’s MotorTrend Network (rebranded from Velocity) said it will premiere new episodes of all original shows on the Motor- Trend streaming site before they air on the linear channel. And CBS All Access will continue to roll out original programming — including a Twilight Zone reboot — to complement episode libraries of the broadcast network’s original shows.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.