The future looks good for niche streaming rights holders

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Content consumers came out winners in 2019 as the streaming media landscape grew and more competitors entered the market. It’s never been easier to access your favourite film and television content. The fate of cable, satellite and traditional terrestrial television has been sealed as Apple TV +, DC Universe, Disney + and Facebook Watch joined the growing list of platforms together with Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, HBO NOW, Showtime, STAN, STARZ, YouTube Premium and of course… Netflix.
2019 was also a shake up for territory rights management and distribution. Studios and rights holders are now going direct to consumers proving loyalty to good stories over content brands. An example of this in Australia, was STAN who lost out when Disney refused to renew their distribution deal. Some of the streaming services mentioned here are only available in the US, so for now license and specific territory arrangements continue to lock out international viewers from certain content.

Looking ahead to 2020, it doesn’t look like there’s much chance the industry will slow down. There’s more to come! In 2020 we’ll see Discovery/BBC, HBO MAX and NBC’s Peacock TV.

Consumers can expect to see more fragmentation, opening up opportunities for niche streaming players.

The opportunity now is for special interest groups, community groups and niche content genres, however, these rights holders are going to need help. To date, the streaming media business has made an art of making the very complex look incredibly simple.
Consumers expectations are based on the quality of service provided by the most popular platforms. Today, that is Netflix. It’s not that Netflix invented streaming media, they’ve just set the standard.
In the past two months, two media giants Apple and Disney have entered the subscription streaming media market. On both platforms the user experience is excellent, however weeks since their launch, experts continue to speculate as to why Disney ran into technical problems during the first 48 hours. The general consensus is at launch Disney could not cope with the huge demand for signups. Apple and Disney were in development for many months solving the complex components that have to work seamlessly together, however, it’s difficult to test demand against every component. Turnkey off the shelf solutions were off the table for these players. It was incumbent on Apple and Disney to build industry-class platforms and deliver what consumers have come to expect from the get-go. For all streaming media players regardless of size, the list of technical decision making is long and complex. Some of these include browser support for website access; user authentication; billing and multi-currency support; customer support; subscription management; language support; user-profiles and account personalisation; error detection; API calls, Digital Rights Management, Content protection (Widevine and Fairplay), Licensing; Quality of Service monitoring; metadata; transcoding; storage; Content Delivery Network(s); Player integration; previews; content promotion; ratings; Closed Captions; iOS and Android App development; Social Media integration; offline viewing and so on.   Phew!

The industry moves fast, but not fast enough when you’re wanting to enter a new market. In my 25+ years of working with media companies helping develop solutions, it is often cost-prohibitive and technically too complex to get in until someone develops more of a turnkey solution, however, these often come with compromises. For years, I’ve walked the halls of the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, so I can imagine it’d be easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume of choice. It’s hard to piece together all the pieces without the right kind of help.

Within the next 5 years, I’d expect to see tighter integration between content and engagement.

For consumers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find who’s got the content you’re looking for, and harder for content owners to get the word out there to promote their story. While companies like Facebook and Google might not have the volume of quality entertainment media, they do know technically how to engage people. Either we’ll see better integration between platforms and Social, or we’ll see Social Media platforms become better at content. Facebook and YouTube have both played a little in the original content space and I’d imagine we’ll see more activity from them both in the future, but I’d like to see tools for niche content players to develop their own “channels” within Social Media, or Content Marketing platforms for media creators. There’s just so much space for innovation and software development. 

It’s a great time for content consumers, creators and media platform developers. We’re living in the golden age of entertainment media.

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