Co-founder & CEO @ Flyx – A new kind of streaming social platform
These are challenging times for businesses across industries, especially the entertainment industry. While big screens are expected to be closed for the foreseeable future, the unprecedented growth and breakthrough of OTT platforms have been undeniably unparalleled. Even though the charm of cinemas and going to a theater can never be replaced by streaming platforms, it is interesting to acknowledge how far we have come along in our content-viewing journey.
As CEO and co-founder of a streaming-based social network aggregating all streaming options, I am working with consumers of the OTT media while watching trends and behavioral changes very closely. During the past few months of the global pandemic, people staying at home around the world have turned to various streaming services for entertainment.
The once advocated hypothesis that there are not enough hours in the day to consume content has changed, and streaming services worldwide are seeing a huge spike in traffic. People have found new ways to create social communities and find comfort in their TV.
The streaming wars were already getting hotter but under Covid-19 lockdowns, it has come to the forefront. In the last five years, per The Economist (paywall), the streaming industry has spent more than $650 billion in acquisitions and content creation to woo consumers. All this has done is to add more content in front of users and has created a content overload. Content and cost do represent the biggest factors in what makes people subscribe to a streaming video service, but another equally important factor is the ease of use where technology becomes the differentiating factor.
Applying Technology To Solve Streaming Problems
Deloitte in its recent digital trends survey found that streaming during Covid-19 compared to the pre-pandemic market is not so much “before and after” as it is “before and faster.” People are signing up for services quickly and are leaving services even faster. With almost every streaming service offering free trials, consumers are lapping up the trials, but the real test is retention with not just great content but also great technology.
On the technology front, streaming providers have to create a seamless experience for content viewing, and it starts with content discovery. From my perspective, leaders in this market should look to invest more in technology by offering a great search experience by not only making it fast but also very personalized.
Search ranking should not only be based on personal taste but also on other factors I’ll discuss later. This means applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand the consumer’s intent and offering the right content at the right time. This is going to be very critical in retaining customers since now there are a plethora of choices not only when it comes to content but also providers.
Another aspect that many of these streaming services are missing is the social aspect of our watching habits. Neilsen found that roughly 66% of our video streaming habits are influenced by friends and family. This is a huge gap, and I am confident that most of these streaming services will begin adding various social features into their services as a key differentiator.
Streaming Content And Censorship In Other Countries
With so much content being produced and added to streaming platforms every day, there has been a growing issue about content censorship across the world in many countries outside the U.S. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon, among others, are receiving content removal notices from various governments and authorities. Content censorship is generally based on defamation, hate speech, national security, cultural insensitivity, political compulsion, and so on. This is somewhat similar to the problem faced by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various social networks on moderating the user content.
Recently, the debate about regulation and censorship is heating up in India and there has been lots of discussion around it among netizens. Some believe OTT content has gone too far and needs to be regulated and censored. There is the other side of the argument where others believe there should not be any censorship on the internet.
Already, there has been a fair share of content censorship such as Netflix’s decision to remove the episode of the Patriot Act, which was critical of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. In another instance, Netflix released a censored version of Angry Indian Goddesses in India, while releasing an uncensored version internationally. There are many similar instances, and I believe this trend will only grow.
Being absolutely close to this field both personally and professionally, I have seen that many OTT platforms have taken their sweet time to completely disrupt this space, not just in India or the United States but across the globe.
The factors fueling this growth are not only the innovation in technology but also innovation in the storyline, which is currently free from any regulation or censorship before it hits your favorite device. Censorship kills creativity, and I believe this can be easily seen by how good the content of new streaming shows is versus content released in theaters, especially in the Indian market where censorship is rampant.
Streaming content, in my opinion, should follow the food industry model, meaning content should have full disclosures about its contents and allow the consumer to decide if they want to purchase or watch it. Currently, all major streaming players are following their own standards, but in the future, I expect we will need a regulatory body that standardizes these disclosures and uses technology to audit for compliance, without censoring any content.
Here again, artificial intelligence and machine learning could play a big role in automatically classifying the content and generating full disclosures about the content about to be consumed.
I expect the next decade in streaming will be very exciting and also very challenging. Winners will not only be decided by who has the best content but also who has the most advanced technology to make the service more intelligent and super easy to use. Ultimately, the streaming wars will empower consumers and also revolutionize how they consume media.
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