Many of us started this year with a certain amount of trepidation, wondering what the next 12 months would throw at us after two years of recurrent lockdowns, rolling waves of infection, travel bans and more because of the pandemic. Indeed, restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19 were still in place in multiple countries as 2022 got underway. Then Russia invaded Ukraine, triggering a cascade of devastating consequences that remain with us to this day.
One thing that did return in force this year was the ability to travel — and in-person events were back. Many of us were able to venture out to IBC this year and mingle with friends and colleagues, embracing the opportunity to discuss industry trends and latest technologies with people in the same room.
As the year draws to a close, it seemed an opportune time to ask Content Everywhere companies for their views on the top trends in 2022. As always, key industry players have been keen to respond with comments on how the past year shaped up both for them and the wider industry.
Going even more OTT
Nick Thexton, chief technology officer of Synamedia, kicks things off with a useful summary of the current situation for Content Everywhere companies.
“The industry is undergoing so much pressure and change but has responded with indomitable spirit and huge energy around all kinds of new developments focused on enhancing the user experience while generating new revenues for major players, as well as smaller companies and new entrants to the market,” he says.
For Rick Young, SVP and head of global product at LTN, 2022 brought a turning point in media and broadcasting. “The industry moved away from traditional linear distribution models into the digital world to reach more global audiences beyond the limits of platforms, devices, or geography,” he says.
Indeed, Bill McLaughlin, Chief Product Officer of Ai-Media, also notes that IBC 2022 was different in that the long pause between events “made it very clear whether technology that had been exhibited as ‘the future’ in 2019 was really happening – or not. For example, the onset of 3D video was hyped around the trade floor several years ago, but never took off.”
“Here’s another thing we picked up on at IBC in Amsterdam and have been noticing ever since,” says McLaughlin. “Pretty much every broadcaster has transformed into an OTT streaming service. OTT isn’t just something they’re doing, now it’s how they self-identify. Name a network giant with a foundation in traditional TV – they’ve gone from talking about OTT as their side project to the main attraction. Today, streaming is the space where they’re actually competing, and the legacy network is the niche.”
Christof Haslauer, CEO of NativeWaves, has a similar view: “2022 has also been the year when traditional broadcasters have either added an OTT offering or significantly enhanced it. Linear broadcasters have always looked at OTT as the poor cousin, but thanks to the popularity of streaming services such as Netflix and DAZN, they are now having to rethink.”
Streaming, AVOD and FAST
For sure, streaming and variations on content monetisation models are headline topics these days. Here, two acronyms have certainly moved into the mainstream: AVOD, or advertising-based video on demand, which refers to streaming services that offer their viewers the option to watch any content in their video library on demand in exchange for watching ads; and FAST, or free ad-supported TV, which offers linear channels that are supported by advertisements and operates more like traditional linear TV.
Mrugesh Desai, VP North America at Accedo, claims that “AVOD is the new SVOD”, with AVOD growing faster than ever before.
“We have seen massive changes, with many of the large video service providers introducing ad-funded tiers to stem losses from consumers looking to cut costs. One thing that has changed over recent years that has helped AVOD to gain a bigger market share is the ability to provide highly personalised ads, which provide better value to both viewers and advertisers,” Desai says
As for FAST, Red Bee Media says it is now established “as an important additional pillar in our industry. Content owners recognise the potential for FAST to access viewers currently out of reach and are looking to establish and expand their FAST capabilities to the next level. The US is leading the way, but Europe is close behind.”
At the same time, there are both risks and rewards with new streaming services, as Witbe highlights, with quality of experience a key requirement. “2022 saw more viewers at home eager to watch streaming content and more service providers competing for their attention. With a market so full, the risk of failing to garner enough revenue or deliver your content at an acceptable quality is immense. A poor reception doesn’t just hurt your service, it damages your entire brand. On the other hand, success in the market means more customers than ever before engaging with your content and often staying loyal to your service for years to come.”
Tom Dvorak, co-founder and CCO of XroadMedia, agrees that “we are starting to see a shift in consumer behaviour and a slowdown in growth with an increase in churn” because of the launch of new services and increased fragmentation.
Dvorak continues: “In an attempt to combat these rising issues, some of the trends we’ve seen have been services using personalisation as a way to keep users as well as pivoting to different models, such as the big SVOD providers switching and adding AVOD tiers to their offerings. In a similar fashion, FAST has continued to grow, especially a rise across different types of content and how adverts will be consumed and delivered … However, easy discoverability of content is still something that is missing within FAST.”
Desai notes that while ad-based services have typically been more popular in some regions than others, “there are signs this is changing, and we are seeing much more global acceptance of these services. That said, SVOD will continue to have its place. It is likely that we will see an increase in hybrid services that appeal to as many consumers as possible, by offering various tiers depending on budget and preference.”
Better Software Group (BSG) CEO Bart Lozia points to targeting advertising and shared viewing as growing trends. “More providers will explore ad-based streaming due to the immense revenue potential it brings,” he says. Meanwhile, shared viewing “gained popularity with tools such as Netflix’s Teleparty. Major OTT services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, and Sling TV have all launched co-viewing features. All such streaming experiences are becoming a standard expectation by viewers and will be extended with more features in the future.”
Haslauer also observes that 2022 “was the year when broadcasters realised the importance of product differentiation. Sending the same linear TV signal to streaming services wasn’t enough because audiences wanted more. Personalisation and audience interaction are now key to the services broadcasters are developing.”
Oliver Lietz, CEO nanocosmos, further remarks that interactive live streaming is no longer a niche solution, but a commonly used tool across industries to engage audiences worldwide.
“The demand to engage audiences virtually be it to monetise content or to have an alternative to in-person events (and achieve bi-directional communication with large audiences) has increased tremendously. What used to be a niche product for auctions or live casinos, for example, is now a common tool also to stay in touch with employees, citizens, fans, buyers. In addition new use cases have emerged like fast betting in sports,” Lietz says.
LTN’s Young adds that there has been a growing requirement for the creation of “massive content tonnage” — individual events and linear channels — over the past year. “There has been an explosion of on-demand and live content and the number of channels available to viewers, including FAST to create appealing subscription packages and attract and retain eyeballs,” he says.
Cloud and IP
However, Young notes that this change in “content tonnage”, as he puts it, requires a broader transformation of the underlying media technology infrastructure and workflows to support the growing volume of content and reach fragmented audiences.
In 2022 “media organisations started making bolder decisions about their IP journeys, moving away from limiting traditional satellite and fibre-based transport models. An IP-first approach to video transport technology enables media companies to reliably and cost-efficiently deliver high-value content to global markets, opening up new monetisation potential,” he says.
McLaughlin says that IP video and cloud workflow adoption for remote production was a predicted trend in 2019 “that’s fully bloomed in 2022”.
“With sporting events, for instance, the concept that a channel could send less crew and equipment on a truck has gained a lot of traction. Now a content creator can do much more in their own data centre using cloud-based applications. High-speed fibre links deliver pristine video and audio from an event site to a remote production hub halfway around the world,” he says.
McLaughlin adds: “The technology to make this happen in 2019 was arguably already there, but Covid’s safety concerns were a big accelerator. As a result, IP-based remote workflows aren’t a future-looking prediction – it’s how production is done.”
Venugopal Iyengar, deputy COO, digital, at Planetcast International picks up on a similar theme. “The move to the cloud has accelerated in 2022, with many areas of content production, processing, and distribution increasingly becoming either wholly cloud-based or hybrid,” he observes.
Red Bee Media notes that cloud technologies this year “enabled the flawless delivery of many large-scale, prestigious, live events like the Olympics, NFL Superbowl, FIFA World Cup 2022, Women’s Rugby Union, Men’s, and UEFA Women’s European Football Championship. We expect this trend to continue.”
And Witbe says agile, scalable cloud-based solutions “continue to be elevated” with growing interest in cloud-based services since the pandemic began. “Video service providers and customers at home alike seem enthusiastic about secure and scalable technology that is easier and quicker to implement than previous set-ups,” the company says.
Haslauer from NativeWaves points out that live sports events were traditionally captured for television by outside broadcast trucks “crammed with processing equipment that could take care of a lot of production at the venue. The covid pandemic accelerated remote production and it came to the mainstream this year.”
Meanwhile, Thexton from Synamedia also notes that the edge processing phenomenon “really took off this year and is set to get even bigger.”
“Edge processing and putting content closer to the consumer delivers clear economic benefits, especially for live streaming, because we can concentrate and accelerate content caching to reduce the cost of distribution. It’s also easier to manipulate the content and deliver extremely low latency at the edge,” he says.
Remote collaboration and more
Other common themes that emerged include remote collaboration, the deployment of AI/ML tools and data-driven insights.
Young from LTN says remote collaboration throughout the video supply chain is another important trend that defined 2022 and will continue to grow in 2023.
“Content creators, contributors, producers, and curators work together and form remote teams that collaborate from anywhere in the world. Remote collaboration was accelerated during 2020 to overcome the challenges of lockdowns and travel restrictions. This new way of working demonstrated its productivity, cost-efficiency, and carbon footprint reduction benefits. Cloud and IP-based workflows enable the aggregation and production of multiple live feeds from any location and device and their delivery anywhere in the world seamlessly, maintaining high quality and performance,” he says.
Red Bee Media highlights the use of data to support personalised content, noting that the diversity of an increasingly crowded media landscape “continues to require progressively enhanced, reliable, and accurate metadata to personalise the consumer experience through targeted content and advertising. Demand has increased significantly and will continue.”
Planetcast’s Iyengar also points to the growing role of AI/ML in post-production services, from AI-assisted editing and captioning to quality checks and compliance, while BSG’s Lozia notes that data-driven insights through increased adoption of AI and data-driven tools are key.
In summary, the Content Everywhere industry has been through a transformative period this year, establishing some new roadmaps for the period ahead. As for what next year will bring, look out for our January 2023 newsletter for predictions from some of the industry’s leading companies.
It just remains for me to thank you all for your huge support for the Content Everywhere newsletter, which we launched in February this year. I look forward to continuing the conversation in the coming months.
Wishing you all a peaceful festive period, and a happy new year.