Are we at a tipping point for video streaming and what will it mean for the future of TV?

Paul WhybrowA crowded marketplace is quickly turning into a battle on one side global online giant Netflix on the other challenged local incumbents, as evidenced by the plight EzyFlix and Quickflix. Paul Whybrow explains why local TV Networks must adapt to the emerging viewer norm  if they are to survive, let alone thrive.

The ‘Tipping Point’ is a fantastic book by Malcolm Gladwell, with examples of the magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviour cross a threshold and tip into a new world, where they spread like wildfire and become the new norm.

I look at the recent events in the TV world here and overseas and wonder whether we are hitting that point with the future of television.

Will we reject linear TV viewing which doesn’t give us the highly personalised experience we all crave: being able to watch what we want, where we want on whatever device we have to hand in a seamless and simplistic way.

Tv television

I grew up in a world where watching television consisted of a small number of TV stations, where the choice was between a limited range of shows; and if I didn’t start watching at the exact moment the TV Network dictated, then my enjoyment could be ruined not only for that day, but for an entire series if I missed that crucial set-up episode.

Fast forward to where we are today: our expectations have exploded with the online and mobile world, across all industries from education to retail to manufacturing and TV is no exception.

So it is very clear that the industry needs to adapt to survive and adapt fast if it wants to flourish, or risks being overtaken by the newbies like Netflix, HBO Now and Amazon Prime, who have no legacy concerns to worry about in meeting the consumer-centric product design and delivery that is rapidly being demanded.

Before we had touched, used and started to love on demand TV, then it was never a problem.  Now that people have experienced it, it is rapidly shifting from a really interesting concept to a standard expectation.

So does this mean the new players hold all the cards to win the game? I would say that is certainly not the case.

The adaptors have a great opportunity to reinvent their content and business model and be sector heroes – if they can adapt fast enough.

The reasons are as old and as well known as the industry itself.

Content is still King

The recent mindboggling deals with the AFL and NRL reinforce that fact that legacy players are not losing rights without a fight.


They know the old adage, content is king, works for a reason, and for Foxtel especially, owning the key Australian sports ensures subscriptions will continue to flow their way for the near future and will cushion the whole platform from competition in drama and movies.

That said, if Foxtel and FTA (Free to air) players don’t adapt their product delivery to offer sports across multiple platforms and in multiple ways, they will damage the loyalty and value they need to secure for success.

Local is loved

Engaging with TV is an emotional experience.  We want to enjoy entertainment and there will always be shows and movies that play well anywhere; and Netflix, Amazon and HBO all have access to great global hits. When TV is local we can really connect and care even more.

Global format shows have their own version for a simple reason: I want the local chef from my home town to win the food show; I want to watch my Australian choice of sport; and I want to hear the news from where I live.  Presto, Stan, Go and FTA have access to this content that we will always desire in the mix.

Programmers are people

Recommendation tools and data analytics certainly will allow for a far greater understanding of my personal TV tastes and give VOD providers the advantage of deep personalisation of offering. The role of the programmer is certainly not dead: the expertise, “gut feel” and ability to seek out the best means that programmers are still needed. 

People love discovery. How often have you tried something new and loved it, just because it was on the TV schedule?

That behaviour is not going to go away.

Design and technology can be always be smarter

In the UK, the BBC has announced the ‘transformational’ iPlayer which includes a lot of what can be seen as Netflix-like features, including cross-device pause and live restart.

Given Australia’s pool of both creative and technical talent, keeping up with emerging technology and design can certainly be achieved by the local adapters.

Business models evolve

Telstra TVThe Telstra TV announcement of a combo streaming service using the Roku2 box (incidentally the number one choice by US consumers) signals the first consumer service bundling most alternatives that could solve the pain of keeping up with multiple subscriptions.

Seven has announced the Rio Olympics app and live streaming of programs across its FTA channels, signifying an emphasis on balancing linear viewing with on demand while simultaneously entering into the subscription space.

These are indicators that the market place will create new business models that will help drive the same simplicity of access to TV which we are accustomed to.

Ultimately I still see a great future for Foxtel and FTA channels, as well as a number of new players.

It is a crowded marketplace right now – and one thing is certain, not all will survive. 

It is likely to be that each will complement the other, and something fresh will emerge as the future norm for TV; but there may well be a lot of conjecture, customer confusion and financial pain until the tipping point for VOD really takes hold.

Paul Whybrow, is the media and entertainment industry practice lead for management consultancy Capgemini.


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