Streaming Forward: Where the Streaming Content Industry Is Headed in 2013 and Beyond

webvideoThe streaming content landscape during the past four quarters of 2012 has been eventful, to say the least. Industry activity was fast and furious, and major changes dramatically impacted the service offerings and consumer choices for what content audiences select and how they decide to consume it. Given the changes over the past 12 months, below are three key insights to expect in 2013 and beyond.

Continuing Surge of Mobile, Tablet, and Smart Device Sales & Streaming
With the frenzied holiday season, consumers are purchasing the latest and greatest smart devices in record numbers and at lightning speed. According to Gartner, sales of tablets and smartphones are estimated to reach 821 million units for 2012, and predicted to increase close to 50 percent next year, with a forecast of 1.2 billion units sold in 2013. The influx of smart devices has provided a new level of consumer empowerment, and will continue to make it more convenient for audiences to consume streaming content exactly when, where and how they choose. Part of the device owner’s everyday usage will include catching up on shows, watching their favorite sports team live during their commutes, while they are waiting for appointments, and in bed before they go to sleep or start their mornings — this will become more of an expected activity instead of a luxury. We will continue to see stream counts increase across the board and shift from PCs to more accessible smart devices, consoles and IPTV boxes.

With the explosion of new devices, though, there is further fragmentation around the support of content by various service providers. How far away are we from a viewer being able to pick up his or her preferred device and simply search for the content he wants to watch, make any required transactions and immediately begin to enjoy the content? When will a robust Streaming TV Guide be available that simply encompasses all available content? Today’s experience has much to be improved — as a user must first determine if the desired content is even available for streaming, find the service it’s available through, determine if that service has an app for their device, sign up for the service on their PC, and then download the aforementioned app and log in to start enjoying the content.

Next-Generation Content Queuing
2013 and beyond will also up the ante when it comes to queues and watch lists. These are still at the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and the evolution will continue this coming year. Today, there are services that keep track of what you’ve watched, what you’re currently watching, and provide a concierge-type level of service that includes ratings and friend recommendations. A few of these services even allow you to continue watching where you’ve left off across devices (i.e., a user can start watching a program or movie in his/her living room on his console, set-top box or smart TV, resume where they left off on their bus commute via their phone, and finally, finish the episode on their work PC during lunch).

The coming year will also unfold opportunities for you to leverage your social graph more extensively to provide more relevance and personalization, and to curate personal media experiences to be enjoyed with less manual input, ratings and followings. We can look forward to full premium linear channels personally tailored to each viewer that will deliver an experience of the viewer’s favorite content, intertwined with introductions to new content to embrace (think Pandora 2.0 for video).

In order for this to happen, these future channels (and their platforms) will need to span and intermix the premium content currently locked in today’s platform silos (Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, HBO, NBA League Pass, etc). As premium channels start to become decoupled from existing content bundles of traditional cable/satellite packages and subscribed to on an a la carte basis, this vision will get closer to a reality. In the interim, as technology continues to innovate at a much faster rate than media, will services be developed to address the problem by connecting and delivering your subscribed premium content across all of your separate subscriptions from competing platforms? It will be exciting to see who how these services are developed among competitors.

Streaming Content Across Borders
The traditional licensing model of TV broadcast and home video is changing drastically every year, as demonstrated by a flurry of activity in 2012 involving master licensors decoupling rights and increasing availability of content to new markets. This is done by licensing streaming rights to an ever-increasing number of countries and territories, in order to reach a deeper breadth of viewers in an increasingly globalized viewing market.

This practice reaches new audiences across country lines much more efficiently than the required TV and DVD deals which had historically been done show by show and market by market. As the majority of monetization for content is typically made within the home market, licensors are more flexible with new technologies and content strategies outside of these guarded markets. Ironically, international audiences may have better access and viewing experiences than home audiences. With the dramatic growth of broadband penetration and deep vertical content services (which hold international streaming rights), we will also see 2013 hasten major growth and interest internationally while driving incremental revenue, as increasingly demanding audiences connect and leverage their new broadband connections.

In contrast with the old established practice of major services slowly opening up new markets one by one (Hulu in Japan, Netflix in Brazil) or through the acquisition of complementary services in targeted markets (Amazon purchasing LoveFilm), premium deep vertical services will attract paying premium global customers from their beginnings and with each new title release.

For an idea of the enormous opportunity for streaming content globally, connect to a BitTorrent tracker of any premium video content (Homeland, UFC, Breaking Bad, etc.) and look at the vast breadth and depth of international IP addresses demanding the content. This kind of accessibility has arguably helped to produce a huge fan base for the shows, and demand is evident. The challenge, though, lies in how best to window the content and collect payments for premium content on a country-by-country basis.

With the irony of content owners being more progressive and flexible with their content internationally, will major shifts and evolutions of streaming content come here from overseas, as opposed to the other way around?

Brady McCollum is EVP and COO of Crunchyroll Inc., the leading global video network for Japanese anime and Asian media. Through its secure video platform for simulcasts and multilanguage content distribution, Crunchyroll delivers officially licensed content from leading Asian media producers directly to consumers.

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