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Disrupting the Digital Disruptors

24 Apr, 2017 By: Thomas K. Arnold


Are the disruptors being disrupted? That’s a good question to ask ourselves as we at Home Media Magazine present our seventh annual Digital Drivers feature, which we launched 2011 as a way to spotlight the executives behind the transition from physical media to digital distribution.

Back then, there were two views of digital distribution. One, held by the studios, was a transactional model in which consumers would buy digital copies of movies, TV shows and other filmed content over the Internet, effectively transitioning their purchase habit from physical media and providing studios with much better margins, with no manufacturing costs, minimal distribution expenses, and, best of all, no returns.

Rental, too, would migrate to the web, in the form of transactional streaming, or pay-per-view.

What studios hoped would be a smooth transition was already then being disrupted by Netflix, which had a whole other view of digital distribution: subscription streaming. Three years earlier, in 2008, Netflix jump-started its then-nascent subscription streaming service by leveraging a sub-contract with Starz that gave it access to Disney and other studio movies. That, in turn, led to the studios dealing directly with Netflix in licensing their back-catalog films and TV shows.

It was a decision Hollywood would soon come to regret, but, as they say, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. And so it is today that the digital distribution world is dominated by streaming, and streaming is dominated by Netflix, the biggest disruptor this industry has seen since DVD 20 years ago shifted home video from a rental model to a purchase model.

And yet while Netflix and the whole over-the-top (OTT) concept certainly dominate digital distribution, Netflix and the other streamers aren’t immune to disruption, either.

New research from Parks Associates reveals that 39% of U.S. broadband households visit a video sharing site like YouTube at least once a week — and 59% of broadband households visit an online video site on a regular basis. These findings sparked a session at the NAB show in Las Vegas called "OTT Video Services: Fighting to Capture and Retain Users," with Parks Associate senior analyst Glenn Hower, in a press release, maintaining that the growing popularity of user-generated content, particularly among young people, poses a growing treat to professionally produced content. "Consumers 18-24 go to a video sharing site 13 days per month on average,” he said. “They also use a video chat app like Snapchat an average of nearly 11 days in one month. The TV is still the most-used device for watching video content, but increased usage of secondary devices and video apps is making a significant impact on how users, especially younger viewers, consume and perceive content.”

Parks Associates research also shows 26% of households participate in live-streaming activities, such as streaming video from their own device or watching video over a live-streaming platform. "Emerging content platforms are changing the way content creators tell visual stories," Hower said. "Services like YouTube have given rise to video bloggers and sketch performers, who can interact with their audiences in a way that traditional media like film and television cannot allow. In addition, live streaming on platforms like Twitter's Periscope or Facebook Live is raw and impromptu, which can come across as more 'authentic' compared to a recorded video that has been edited and perfected."

The savviest digital drivers are those who realize that disruption is no longer something that happens from time to time, but, rather, is an ongoing thing.

It’s not enough to be platform agnostic. We now have to be content agnostic, as well.

The digital revolution is not over.



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