It’s always fun to watch mainstream or Old Media thinkers catch up on things the interwebs already have known. Case in point:
by Joel Espelien
As novelist William Gibson once said, the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed. Consider that in the U.S., revenue from the top 10 video streaming apps more than tripled during the year ending in July, driven by HBO Now, Netflix and Hulu. And in early September, Apple CEOTim Cook made it official, proclaiming in support of the new (more app-friendly) Apple TV device that, “The future of TV is apps.”
If the future of TV is indeed an app, who wins and who loses?
From its inception, TV has been tied to geography. Broadcasters and channels emerged in specific cities and countries, each offering viewers different content (and paying for the right to deliver that content to a geographically defined audience). Today, cross-border availability of TV content remains the exception rather than the rule. But the presence of global app stores changes this equation, opening up competition to TV providers of all stripes from every corner of the globe. The result will be a winner-take-all TV economy in which the strongest brands become global superpowers while the mediocre die on the vine.
Today the winners would include HBO, Netflix and Disney, all of which have the scale to create their own flavors of big-budget blockbuster TV shows and market them in 100-plus countries. In addition, the best global sports leagues — including the English Premier League, the NBA and others — are entering a new golden age of broadband. ESPN and Discovery (following its acquisition of Eurosport) are forces as well. You can find kids and teens in every city on Earth wearing LeBron James and Lionel Messi jerseys — and for good reason. Why watch a second-tier domestic team when you can watch the best athletes in the world wherever you might be?
In terms of content discovery and distribution, the big winners of an app-driven TV industry will be search (Google), social (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and the app stores (the “Big Four”: Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon). Online advertising platforms like BrightRoll, LiveRail and AOL that can monetize all this new viewing should also do well. Shows with significant social reach like NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver are well positioned to thrive as well.
Finally, TV-as-an-app benefits humans-as-brands. As Amazon’s $250 million deal with ex-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson indicates, the future of TV will be defined by a barbell economy in which value accrues at the extremes. On one end are the search engines, app stores and social networks that drive discovery and distribution. At the other end are celebrities. Anyone famous, talented and attractive enough to sustain his or her own TV app is poised to do well in this new ecosystem. From Oprah to Beyonce, Donald Trump to Dr. Phil, celebrity increasingly will be untethered from the strictures of traditional media….