Disruption from Glass-to-Glass in the Media & Entertainment world : Thanks to CoronaVirus !
You may be thinking “OMG : all hell is breaking loose due to Covid-19”. For the last few months since March 16th 2020, we have had no access to new live sports feeds and its news, news and more depressing news all the time! We are all placed under “Shelter-in-Place” (#SIP) orders and every industry has been impacted in a huge way including (M&E) the actors, directors, producers and new release distributors. We are sitting at home watching re-runs of “The Office”, “Friends” and old seasons of “Person of Interest” via Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. Ask any kid out there as they are now scavenging online video services (OTT) for interesting items to binge-watch, 1-tap or swipe through on all kinds of previously ignored online media and entertainment channels. My teenagers are relying heavily on “Snapchat”, “YouTube” and “TikTok”. I have personally been experimenting on new media outlets such as “QUIBI” for mobile phones, “Peacock” on Xfinity, “Disney+” and even “CBSAllAccess” just for StarTrek:Picard and new sci-fi content. We have reached such heights of tolerance, that we are also clicking-thru on PDFs via FB’s WhatsApp with links to super old video compilations from aggregated video sites all over the world. All the series of old classics movies/music/print-media from the 1950s and 60s that we now have time to peruse.
If you consider the changes in the video ecosystem, we have to think about:
a. News consumption uptick
b. Live sports pipeline has dried up
c. Gaming and Global eSports have spiked up tremendously
d. School bodies are left hanging without any online tools for video learning & test assessments; More distance learning being promoted now more than ever
e. Live broadcasts from home or un-professional (non-studio) environments accepted too now.
f. Huge segments of new users (Students, Senior Citizens) are now being addressed as critical target audiences by Zoom, Meet, Webex, etc.
From a customer sentiment perspective, I believe that Covid-19 impacted audiences are :
i. more Open-Minded
ii. Tolerant / Patient with glitches
iii. ready to Experiment with new mediums
iv. flexible about programming and content quality as long as reliable delivery is maintained.
Necessity is the mother of invention
We are suddenly seeing a whole load of disruptive innovation happening in the M&E industry now. Adoption of digital tools in the cloud has significantly gone up including all forms and categories of digital content to be consumed via IP and mobile networks. Now the case for 5G, IoT, AR, VR and XR is even stronger than ever before. Low-latency and high bandwidth requirements can be well justified as everyone works from home and lap up huge sets of media streams in parallel with all consumers all the time!
Even in the world of broadcast and TV networks, we are seeing ATSC 3.0 interactivity to be plausible as new audiences demand even better personalized experiences. HD broadcasts with UHD signals are now better positioned for consumption up and down the stream across media.
In all of this, the most positive data point is that the Networks have been surprisingly resilient. Cloud infrastructure from the likes of #GoogleCloud and #AWS are global and scalable to ensure continuous innovation and improvements in delivery. The Glass-to-Glass experience (G2G) has been changing over the last 4 years but now its going from WARP speed 9 to TransWarp 10 or even HyperDrive in the Star Wars Hyperspace terminology.
Furthermore on the technology POV, IP based consumption has changed quadrupled now to perhaps 12–15 screens per home. So in this scenario, we get an awesome new definition of “WEB-Scale”; what’s truly available 24x7 and has an immediate impact across the world with hybrid-delivery models in play with multiple-pipes and feedback + interactivity coming in from all SNS.
New technology standards are being adopted in a surprisingly more acceptable way in terms of risk and experimentation in studios as well as in homes from Glass-to-Glass. UltraHD, 8K, 4k and even standard definition technologies will all be utilized in this new hybrid consumption world. Compression techniques with codecs like AV-1, HEVC, VP9 are gaining adoption over the currently prevalent AVC codec.
On the business side, TV is still going strong and unlike many of the naysayers, “TV is not dead, Long Live new-age TV” (reference to all kinds of viewpoints by leaders saying the TV is going extinct: https://www.wired.com/2007/04/tvhistory-0406/ ) . Its just morphing into a different kind of consumption patterns based on post-COVID users’ willingness to accept the old with the new. If you think about your own personal home budgets, the entertainment budget is probably one of the last to cut while we encourage more of the “work-from-home” (#WFH) culture today. The WFH mentality has accelerated “Tele-working” for e.g. Twitter has announced that their staff are never coming back into the office for work.
Also, Online Learning has become a major business initiative now, and it has massively progressed in the time since March 2020. This is almost in ‘Slipstream’ mode passing through Bajoran Wormholes now.
Consumers, old and young, are all jumping on the hyperdrive bandwagon and learning to use ipads, smart phone , FB portal, Nest hubs and other IOT smart device apps to consume all forms of juicy content. Even “FakeNews” has been accepted as a norm now and audiences are smart enough to cross-check their content sources across various mediums.
Case in point with “Quality over Quantity” has been demonstrated by Disney+ in their astronomical rise from a modest 10 million users to over 50 million subscribers as per below (accelerated to a quarter million per day due to Covid-19):
Disney Plus User Statistics
November 2019 — — 10 million
December 2019 — — — — — - — 26.5 million
February 2020 — — — — — — — — — — 28.6 million
April 2020— — — — — — — — — — — — —— — — — — — 50 million
Point to note is that while all this is happening on the distribution and consumption side, upstream pre-production, production and post-production workflows have also been adapting in this new age. Everyone of the contributors are okay with remote work and automation in their pipelines. Content Innovation is happening now as you can see in examples from Musicians using ZOOM, MS Teams, Google MEET for cross-border collaboration and creation of time-synced music artifacts and live JAM sessions. Saturday Night Live (#SNL) has also shown itself to be a leader in this kind of content innovation. This is further creating a “Digital Fan-360” engagement. Refer to my article from July 2018 “Content is Still King, But User Experience is the Emperor” which talks about the 4 cycles of ‘Fan Building — Fan Insights — Fan Engagement & Fan Monetization’ Digital FAN-360. The cult following that is created during the production process is seamlessly transitioning into the distribution/consumption space and causing further innovation and derivative products via social networking channels.
The lessons that we are learning now during COVID-19 are really impactful and lasting. ‘Quality over Quantity’, ‘Bandwidth usage over QoE’ , ‘Compression over Capacity’ and many such Glass-to-Glass decisions will form the tenets of new Digital Transformation in our lives. These will create the new NORMAL in which consumers and producers come together to collaborate and build new innovative content and smart workflows that will eventually need to be automated leveraging AI/ML technologies as mentioned in my last article about : Navigating Media Workflows. Let’s put our heads together, think positively and dream big on the next wave of solutions for this new NORM!
More to come : The future of Media & Entertainment Solutions with NewTech
Author : VirooPax B. Mirji. — - Viroo Mirji (@ vpax)
p.s. These are personal views and should not be considered as representing any specific company or ecosystem of partners.