There is no doubt that the current coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact on the media industry. With so many people isolated at home, it is not surprising that we are seeing a surge in video viewing, with Nielsen predicting a 60 per cent rise in TV viewing during the outbreak. At the same time, sporting events have been cancelled and media and production companies are having to find new ways to produce and deliver content whilst ensuring social distancing. We are seeing the short-term effects right now, but what does this mean in the long term? Will the current crisis spell a new future for media?
Right now, people are isolated at home. For some that means working from homes, for others that is not an option. This has naturally led to a marked increase in video viewing, as well as huge demands on broadband and mobile networks. This has already led Netflix to reduce its streaming quality in order to ease internet capacity. YouTube has also done the same and there may well be pressure for other services to follow that example. With cinemas across the globe closing their doors, we are also seeing many film releases going straight to the home at a higher cost than normal downloads.
Whilst there is a massive increase in demand right now, this is likely to wane once isolation ends. People who have been forced to stay at home for long periods will want to get outside and visit friends and family so there will initially be a drop in viewing to less than before. The economical impact may also have its toll on subscription services, so maybe we will see a rise in demand for free content or bundles packages offering greater value.
For media companies with a vast library of on-demand content, it is not such a big challenge to continue to keep consumers satisfied in these difficult times. Where we are seeing a big impact however is with live content. When major sporting events were cancelled, for the first week we saw some smaller sporting events filling that content gap. This meant those sports providers suddenly had to figure out how to reach big, global audiences. Now of course even those sporting events have been cancelled, so sports broadcasters are having to get innovative with the type of content they can create.
We have already seen some great examples of this. Formula 1, faced with a cancelled calendar of races, turned to esports to deliver a fun race to keep fans engaged whilst ensuring social distancing for the competitors. Others are turning to the archives to re-broadcast key sporting moments.
Even breaking news stories are a challenge to cover as those media companies are, like everyone else, trying to ensure social distancing for their staff. Where before whole crews could turn up with OB trucks and lots of infrastructure, now production companies are looking for new ways to contribute content with just one person and a simple connection.
Will IP rise to the challenge?
Given the current climate, it is not surprising that there has been a rising demand for IP contribution and distribution. IP provides a way to get content to audiences, from wherever it is being produced, even if that is someone’s living room. This is critical right now for helping live production of some description to continue, but the question is whether that will continue.
Some media companies are already using IP, but there has for a long time been a certain amount of reticence from the industry as a whole which hasn’t believed in its readiness to deliver the content they need without failure. This crisis has forced many of those ‘legacy’ players to turn to IP and Cloud workflows from production right through to delivery and to adapt fast. We are seeing many Cloud tools offering free access, credits and/or tutorials to help media companies adapt quickly.
Perhaps for some, once this is all over, they will simply return to the studio and the legacy infrastructure previously in place. However, it also means that many video content providers will have IP tools and workflows in place, and the knowledge and confidence of operation, so they can choose to continue to use them. Furthermore, what this period will do is prove the untapped potential of what IP can do, together with demonstrating the flexibility, adaptability and cost-efficiency. If media companies suddenly find that IP is reliable and proven as well as delivering all of that ‘extra’, why would they go back? I don’t believe this will spell the end for legacy infrastructure, but I do believe it will accelerate the transition to IP.
The consumer wins
Ultimately, the move to IP will enable broadcasters to provide more content than ever before, while being able to quickly and easily scale up as needs arise. We will also likely see a rise in innovative approaches to content production that will eventually supplement live programming. All of this means that the consumer will get even more choice than ever before and importantly enable more customised and personalised content delivery, which will be great for the consumer but also good for the video industry as a whole. Media and sports organisations could also win too: increasing flexibility, reducing costs, creating viable services which were not under legacy solutions and new routes to monetising content. Will it be a ‘win-win’?