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What’s next for the online video revolution?

In 2005, Liberty Global published a whitepaper on ‘The Digital Video Consumer’ which reported that 95 per cent of video content viewing in Europe was “linear” television, noted the “wide variety of programming” and described the emergence of user-generated video and mobile video as among the fastest-growing video viewing options, “but [with] the number of users still small.”

It was into this market that Brightcove first emerged – founded a year earlier on the vision that combining video and the open internet would change everything: despite linear dominance, online video would become the leading content type for viewers across the world.

Fast forward to 2017 and that vision has firmly been realised, making Liberty Global’s report, in retrospect, somewhat amusing to read. That ‘small’ user base now amounts to 42.8 million consumers in the UK alone – all of whom are thought to be watching around an hour of online video every day – and the previously “wide” variety of programming has positively exploded across multiple platforms leaving us spoilt for choice.

Video-on-demand (VoD) and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services have played a significant part in the success of the online video revolution, shifting people’s preference from lean back linear experiences, to lean forward viewing habits that they control when, where and on whatever device they want.

But where is the next disruption coming from? While OTT players like Netflix and Amazon Prime continue to battle it out with traditional media companies (i.e. broadcasters, pay-TV operators) in the mainstream, attention is turning to the peripheral: niche content providers.

With so much on offer, consumers are increasingly facing an online video dilemma: do they subscribe to one OTT service, or many? The answer to this is currently dependent on how much coin they have in their pocket, but for the majority less may soon be more. Investing in one or two premium OTT services that provide viewers with content that maps to their individual interests (i.e. specific sports, content genres etc.) will be far more appealing than subscribing to multiple mainstream services with irrelevant, cross-over content – this is where niche services come in.

The next phase of the online video revolution will be defined by innumerable developments in niche plays driven by non-traditional media companies: from ‘born digital’ players that exist solely in the online arena (like LadBible), to businesses and brands that turn into media companies to grow an additional revenue stream (think Red Bull Media), and niche media companies that expand into OTT to grow their audience (such as Danger TV with its danger-centric sports/survival content).

This growth will be fuelled by the increasing affordability of OTT delivery mechanisms for smaller content operators. Services that radically reduce the cost and complexity of launching an end-to-end OTT service across multiple platforms and devices are disrupting the online video market, forging a big long-tail opportunity for future OTT services to cater for the diversity of content and passions that consumers follow.

In the next few years consumers will be curating their own EPGs from an ever-increasing pool of OTT content channels – whether trainspotters or tennis players, skydivers or salsa dancers, there’ll be a dedicated online video service ready and waiting for everyone.

If Liberty Global thought the variety of programming was wide in 2005, just wait until 2025.

By Mark Blair, VP of EMEA, Brightcove