The streaming industry is arguably more volatile and subject to changes and shocks than traditional broadcasting. This is the view of David Mercer, Founder and Principal Analyst of Cogitans Insights, who argues that viewing habits around streaming services are still in flux.
Referring to older viewers who mostly watch traditional broadcasting, he says, “Many people will continue to push a button and watch whatever is on the screen – that’s what they’ve always done and they will continue to do that regardless of whatever else is out there. Generally speaking for a younger demographic, they’re the ones driving the trend towards the new services and therefore they haven’t formed the habit yet around streaming activity.”
Mercer says that both service providers and TV manufacturers have an interest in influencing the habits of viewers, and see the choices on the screen as an important terrain in this regard: “If you look at how Samsung and LG are playing around with the [user] interfaces, they’re constantly experimenting with how to improve usability and acceptability”. Despite the attempts at shaping the ways in which viewer habits are formed, he argues that no one has come up with a clear answer yet as to how users decide what they want on their screen.
What is clear is that traditional broadcasters have seen the writing on the walls according to Mercer, and are now trying to include streaming as part of their overall offer. Referring to ITV Studio’s announcement earlier this week that it will partner with Samsung TV Plus to launch FAST and AVOD channels in Europe, he says the move reflects that traditional broadcasters are “prepared to start moving with the times, supporting some of the new platforms or services.”.
The evolving content industry is another part of the TV ecosystem which Mercer believes is still “fundamentally mysterious”. Mentioning Korean global hit series Squid Game, he reflects on the fact that global video distributors like Netflix have ushered in a world where content has the power to cross borders and achieve immense success. He says, “In the previous structure of the industry it was always very geographically controlled. Players were usually restricted to individual countries or you might do deals across the region, but all that is breaking down now.”
With the increased capacity for content to travel and achieve success in other markets, Mercer believes the important question service providers must address is “are you aiming for the global audience to begin with, or are you targeting local?”. He mentions that services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video still want to attract national audiences in local markets – typically with content targeted towards them – but they may miss out on opportunities for content to be distributed globally as a result.
Despite the increased pace at which content has become globalised in recent years, and the general unpredictability of the content industry, Mercer does think there are limits to how seamlessly content can cross borders and find audiences in any market. He says, “There is clearly enough demand for localised content, and enough difference in cultural requirements and expectations that there will always be plenty of variation across different platforms and in different parts of the world.”
An aspect of the content industry Mercer thinks is important to highlight is the new possibilities for interactive media. During the pandemic, when artists and performers could no longer engage with fans face-to-face, new ways of engaging with audiences through internet platforms were experimented with. He believes that the tools are now in place for novel forms of content which viewers can communicate with – such as interactive gameshows – and that this interactive element remains an untapped opportunity.