Home Entertainment Viewing Keeps Growing

“We’ve already agreed that having information about the future can be extremely dangerous. Even if your intentions are good, it can backfire drastically!” – Dr. Emmett Brown, “Back to the Future,” Universal, 1985

Just in case you don’t know it, we live in Silicon Valley and have worked in the technology industry like forever.

It’s good because you get to see new things born and grow rapidly or die … “quickly.”

It’s bad because you’ve lived with the stuff “forever” (O.K., six months) and know that everyone knows it, everyone uses it, everyone enjoys it and everyone is ready for the next great thing.

It’s not until we leave our bubble do, we find:

  • People who have cellphones (the cheap barebones type) because if they need to connect to someone they’ll call instead of text ‘em
  • Folks who drive their car rather than having the vehicle take control
  • People who don’t have computers/email (our dad) because if we want to chat with him, we should “pick up the phone and call”
  • Folks who think reality TV is kinda dumb because if you want reality … go out and experience it
  • People who watch the news at five, six, 10 or 11 p.m. because that’s when it’s on
  • Folks who vacuum their house, turn on/off lights with their fingers, cook food the way they like it by watching the stove/oven and if they don’t want to cook, they go out for dinner or pick it up and come home to eat
  • People who must decide which show they want to watch if two they’re interested in are on at the same time and hope the other one will be repeated … later
A Long Time – We talk up our smartphones, smart TVs and tons of streaming services while all the old technology is left in the dust because “everyone” is where we’re at. The problem is new technology takes a long time in reaching 20 percent usage and old technology takes an even longer time to be replaced.

Back in 1991, Geoffrey Moore in his book, Crossing the Chasm, coalesced the idea that it’s a long way between developing/introducing a product/service and getting to the point where it’s mainstream.

Home video entertainment is a perfect example.

Pay TV has been around forever (O.K., only worth talking about since early in the 20th century) becoming the thing that brought the family together, stimulating such important inventions as the TV tray and TV dinner.

TV networks emerged and prospered around the globe, each fighting to acquire more viewers than the next guy so they could charge more for their advertising space.

It was the battle for the eyeballs.

Count Eyeballs – With entertainment, it’s all about counting the eyeballs to see if content/services are doing just ok, good or great. The problem is counting is still the toughest part of the M&E industry.

And if you wanted to see it best and have the most entertainment options, you signed up for a ridiculously big cable bundle.

Sure, it was a little expensive; but OMG you had 500+ different channels to choose from with thousands of different shows.

All you had to do was be home and in front of the screen at just the right time or you missed the show.

It was okay because you could wait until summer when all the channel folks went on holiday to prepare new shows for the fall, and they showed reruns of all the old stuff you missed on purpose.

It didn’t really matter because you had an endless lineup of video content – game shows of very shape, size, color you can imagine and comedies about families that no one really think exist with titles like The Brady Bunch, Archie Bunker, All in the Family, Maude, All in the Family, Mulberry, The Village, French Fields, Kaboul Kitchen, H, Kaamelott, Mr. Squiggle and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.

If a show was a smash in one country, you can bet one of the networks in another country would franchise and localize it.

Of course, folks have different tastes so, nets and studios would develop blood and mayhem shows; ultra-violent weeklies; murder, gangsters, private eyes, good/bad/marginal cops and then there were the western bad guys, good guys and damsels in distress.

Ah yes, and cartoons–lots of cartoons to serve as the kiddies’ babysitter.

If you couldn’t find a movie you liked, no problem; you simply ran over to Blockbuster and picked something to suit your taste. Better yet, subscribe to the little red envelope company and they’d send the DVDs right to your mailbox; and when you were done, you simply mailed the discs back.

What could be better, more convenient?

First Nob – The first place people turn to for their movies, shows, news, weather and sports is the TV because they know it will be on at a certain time and in a certain place. It’s predictable and that’s really, really important.

But still, TV kept people informed about the world around them with news and weather.

The common denominator?

Sports, lots and lots of sports – football (American), football (rest of the world), baseball, basketball, tennis, bowling, darts, wrestling, cricket, boxing, anything that pits one person against another or one group of folks against another.

The other common denominator?

Ads!

Free, Subsidized – While tons of folks are signing up for ad-free content, it isn’t because they hate ads but rather the volume all at one time and the really bad/boring ads. Good ads engage the viewers instead of screaming at them. In addition, people know they’re “paying” to watch the content by viewing the ads.

As TV spread around the globe, the driving desire of cable bundlers and networks was to monetize their viewers as much as possible.

At the same time, marketers wanted to reach and influence as many of the right people – those who might buy.

For decades, Nielsen has been the de facto judge on how many people watch a particular program, hence how much the network/show could charge marketers for the “privilege” of renting the airtime during a particular period and/or show.

Obviously, it’s more complicated than that including prime time – 8 – 11 p.m. when the peak number of people would be in front of their sets.  Of course, specific shows with higher viewership also meant higher costs for the ad slot as well as the length of the ad.

In addition, major sporting events (world series, super bowls, golf tournaments and others) also had their own set of high-priced rules.

As the ad slots became more valuable, the amount of time devoted to ads per hour slowly inched up like your monthly cable bill for all the marvelous viewing choices they offered.

If you thought your TV shows were getting shorter, you’re sorta, kinda right.  Actually, the time slot hasn’t changed, it’s still an hour (on the average) but networks have gotten creative about how many 15-, 30-, 60-second ads they can squeeze into the hour.  It turns out they can “sell” 20 minutes of your viewing time and you’ll hardly miss it.

That kind of money and money directly into the streamers’ pockets is very inviting.

Still Alive – Streaming folks will quickly tell you that appointment TV is just the walking dead; but the truth is it still represents 70 percent of the global viewing public and will remain an entertainment/information factor for years to come.

Through it all, pay TV viewership continues to remain strong, despite the industry’s detractors.

Newton Minow newly named FCC (Federal Communications Commission) struck the industry the hardest back in 1961 when he testified before a Senate subcommittee, saying:

“When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

It was a wasteland filled with ads that “allowed” folks to watch what the networks decided was best for a specific day and definite timeslot.

In 2007, after seeing how people of all ages flocked to YouTube to watch stuff (2B individuals watching more than 1B videos a month), Reed Hastings and his crew determined they might accomplish two things at once – reach people with ad-free content in the U.S. and around the globe while eliminating a huge bill with the post office.

While Amazon followed suit, Netflix made a strong strategic move in 2012 by doing more of its own originals rather than acquiring content from studios.

At the same time, studios began launching their own SVOD services and BAM! the industry went wild with everyone, everywhere producing new content for people who had cut their cable bundle and subscribed to one or more OTT service.

And demand grew modestly until about 2019 when folks suddenly had more time at home and wanted good stuff to watch.

Headroom – Consumers quickly realized the freedom they have with video on demand (ad and subscription). Watching what you want, when you want, where you want and on the screen, you have close to you is great. And yes, the services open up opportunities for filmmakers everywhere to create, produce and show even more of their visual stories.

“Almost” overnight, networks and studios began launching their own VOD services including Apple, Disney, Warner, Paramount, Peacock, BBC, Canal, iQiyi, Tencent, Hotspot and hundreds of new streaming services everywhere.

Each were touting the fact that they were stripping content and subscribers from cable services and producing dramatic growth with new consumers in every corner of the globe.

The Big Leader – Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney and your usual TV channels have experienced strong growth and penetration in the individual/home viewing arena but the folks who have the largest chunk of the entertainment market are “others.”

And they were … sorta, kinda.

According to Strategy Analytics, the 20 leading global VOD services reached more than 850M; and they project that the industry has a lot of headroom for growth to reach an estimated 1.5B by 2026.

The rapid and continued growth of home entertainment has shown no sign of flagging, creating new opportunities for filmmakers across the board and around the globe to develop new content for general and target market consumers.

New shows – comedies, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, docuseries, dramas, reality, contests – for Gen Zs, millennials, boomers and boomers plus are continually in demand.

Growth Everywhere – Adults and young folks around the globe have quickly embraced digital content delivery as the ideal way to enjoy all of the stories they want to experience and learn from.  For one segment to thrive and prosper the other doesn’t necessarily have to fall into disuse.  Maybe some will disappear, but we’ll just have to see what happens … it’s people’s future to shape.

What is even more important for content creators is that their work is not bound by country borders or a specific entertainment channel.

Indian works by Shah Rukn, Allu Arjun, Priyanka Chopra and others have found followers around the globe.

Spanish thrillers like La Casa de Papal; German titles like Dark; South Korean titles like Kingdom and Squid Squad; Japanese titles like Midnight Diner, Yasuki, Ghost in a Shell and content projects from around the globe are finding opportunities to reach a totally new, interested audience–regardless of their origin.

If it’s a video story that entertains folks at home, there’s an opportunity for individuals and organizations to come together profitably and make people laugh, cry, scream and enjoy the story.

As for the cable bundle folks, they don’t really care what kind of stuff people want to watch or who’s service they want to sign up for because they’re still the last 100-ft connection to the household TV set and other screens.

They aren’t exactly certain what you want to watch, which makes them a little like Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future when he said, “Whatever you’ve got to tell me, I’ll find out through the natural course of time.”

And if you want to get out of the house and enjoy a flick at the movie house periodically, that’s alright with them.

They’ll be waiting to deliver new stuff when you’re ready.

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Andy Marken – andy@markencom.com – is an author of more than 700 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications. Internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields. Extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media and industry analysts/consultants.