2017 will be a year of enormous change in live video which will present unparalleled opportunities and enormous pitfalls for anyone brave enough to pick up the challenge of our times. Here are the 5 trends to watch in live video in 2017:
1. Facebook dips more than its toes into content.
Expect Facebook video to evolve from just live feeds from people’s phones to live and scripted shows. Facebook already invested in live programming in 2016 with outlets like the New York Times (which recently surpassed 100m Facebook live views), VOX Media and Buzzfeed. Expect these efforts to expand into different categories in 2017.
“[Facebook’s] goal is to kick start an ecosystem of partner content for the tab, so we’re exploring funding some seed video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted, and sports content, that takes advantage of mobile and the social interaction unique to Facebook,” says Ricky Van Even, Facebook’s head of global creative strategy.
It’s too soon to expect Netflix style programming, but smaller scale projects which explore the possibilities of Live are near. “Our goal is to show people what is possible on the platform and learn as we continue to work with video partners around the world.”
Note the emphasis is on the new ecosystem. This is not the ‘same old, same old’ TV on a new platform. This is a new social, mobile TV with new rules, technology and content. I’m focusing on Facebook as my big trend for 2017, but of course Snapchat. Twitter and YouTube (already a video behemoth) will increase their emphasis on live.
2. Cablers become programmers.
Facing increased competition from the big 6 networks: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Apple and Facebook (sorry ABC/NBC/CBS), cable companies are expected to enter the fray as content creators in 2017. Expect them to turn up the heat with original, streaming content and even greater M&A activity.
Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo!/AOL has created a large content production stream at the cable giant. AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner which included the likes of HBO, CNN and TNT makes the joint companies a formidable competitor. “Joining forces will accelerate the evolution of both our companies, going to where the consumers are in the converging world of media and communication,” outgoing Time Warner CEO Tim Bewkes, said at the time of the merger.
The trend of mergers and acquisitions will continue as cord-cutting forces cablers to drive up revenues and cut out the middle man, the traditional TV operators. I expect everyone to start commissioning new multi-platform content in a race to the bottom. Cablers already know the value of live video and 2017 will see them expanding these efforts in order to out-gun the big streamers.
3. Live trumps scripted.
We’ve been living through the frothy years of the golden age of TV. As the business booms, it’s also becoming prohibitively expensive. The number of original scripted TV shows in production in the US climbed 71% to 455 in 2016 from 266 in 2011. The production and promotional costs of a typical hour of scripted programming jumped 20% to more than $4m an hour over that period. Netflix and Amazon have doubled their spending on original programming in three years to $7.5B last year. Golden? Yes. Unsustainable? Sadly so.
The economies of unscripted content are much more efficient. Unscripted and live shows cost less, can be produced at greater volume and have a larger potential to deliver habitual and engaged audiences, develop unique revenue streams and serve niche markets. I sound like a broken record on this but in 2017, you’re either live or you’re dead.
4. Everything old is new again.
After a decade of on-demand content focusing on specific programming, we’ll soon see live redefined as “always on” in the way traditional TV stations provided content. The idea here is that people like to keep something on all the time, even if it’s not always live. CBS News pioneered this approach with their CBSN online news offering and Netflix algorithms have shown us the way for VOD. In 2017, expect more. Artificial intelligence will soon allow distributors to deliver intelligently programmed channels created for your specific interests, behaviors, devices as well as global trends and events. Witness the dawn of AITV.
5. In live, we brand.
Online video ad spend will grow 31% in 2017, with an increased focus on social and mobile. There’s no better way to deliver brand content, inventory-related deals and geo-located savings than reaching consumers live or “as-live” especially when you can reach consumers on their mobile phones and platforms while they are shopping. Already, 78% of US marketers say they increased location-based mobile ad spending based on foot traffic data.
Major brands are already engaging directly with consumers in live Q&As, and I expect this trend to grow in 2017 as this sector revolutionizes advertising as we know it. The opportunities for live are endless. Like last years pop-up stores, live product launches and campaign events will begin to appear everywhere. Also, look for live celebrity-driven infotainment commercials this year.
And the envelope please…
It’s too soon to say who will the hearts and minds of viewers in the new paradigm, but only the brave will even get a shot at the prize. Expect plenty of activity as people experiment in 2017 which means a fairly frothy environment for anyone making content or as Nobel laureate Bob Dylan wrote more than a half a century ago:
“Keep your eyes wide/The chance won’t come again/And don’t speak too soon/For the wheel’s still in spin/And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’/For the loser now will be later to win/The times they are a-changing”.
I wish you and yours have an incredible, prosperous and healthy journey in 2017. Happy New Year!