To close out 2015, VideoInk is calling on some of the top execs in the online video business to give us their take on the most significant developments in the industry in the past year, as well as where it might be going in 2016..
First up is Peter Csathy. As the CEO of business consulting and legal services firm Manatt Digital Media, Csathy has been an agent of change and passionate proponent of digital transformation and opportunity. He’s also been keen a keen observer of the rapid changes in the streaming space, offering up regular industry analysis in his Digital Media Update blog.
What was the most important trend in the online video industry in 2015?
The push of “traditional” media companies to place big bets in digital-first media. A seemingly endless array of standalone subscription-based OTT services (including NBCUniversal’s upcoming Seeso) followed HBO Now’s path and launched or announced this past year. NBCU made other significant moves — investing $200 million each in BuzzFeed and Vox Media — and parent company Comcast launched its mobile-first video service Watchable.
What single deal, launch or failure in 2015 was the biggest game-changer for the industry?
Facebook’s focus on video changed the online video game this year, in one stroke transforming the “YouTube Economy” into a “Multi-Platform Video Economy.” Now, for the first time, YouTube has real competition and creators have choice. On the flip-side, Yahoo!’s failure to launch its YouTube “killer” service earlier this year and it’s recent exit from premium video represent a cautionary tale about the need for focus and speed. Yahoo!’s assets, together with focused media aspirations, could be impactful.
What surprised you the most in terms of hits or misses?
VR was the biggest surprise hit this year in terms of sheer audacity and investment. While I expected VR to be a significant story in 2015, the speed at which that market is growing and in the minds of business is remarkable. 2016 will see the early mainstreaming of VR with millions of premium headsets sold. The biggest “miss” — if you can call it that — is that the MCN/MPN M&A market slowed this year. Things will heat up again in 2016, and we will see several M&A exits for those remaining MPNs with scale.
What’s the most common mistake you saw this year in the biz, whether they were made by studios or individuals?
To underestimate the speed at which everything is moving — and the need for focused action in this brave new digital world order. This is no time to churn endless spreadsheets. The world has changed. You see it all around you. For millennials in particular (the bodies marketers need to reach), media is mobile and social-first. So, a central focus on mobile and social are necessary … yesterday. No time to overthink it. It’s time to act.
Is there a sector of the streaming industry that you feel is chronically undervalued or ignored?
Yes, those companies and technologies that can help consumers find precisely what they want and navigate intelligently through the endless and expanding flood of content.
What do you think will be the big story for the streaming space in 2016?
If you consider VR as part of your coverage, then the early mainstreaming of VR will be a massive story in 2016. Separately, on the streaming/digital media side, significant M&A and consolidation will grab headlines throughout the year. Be prepared to be unprepared for the news to come. Everyone is scheming as we speak.
Virtual reality/360-degree video — fad or future? Why?
VR is no fad. Virtual reality is actual reality here and now — a transformative technology that facilitates entirely new experiences, most of which we have yet to even imagine. The sheer billions already invested to date — and will continue to be invested at an accelerating pace in 2016 — will make it so. If they build it (VR), we will come. And we will be amazed.
Mobile-first distribution — overhyped or undervalued? Why?
Mobile is the first screen for millennials, plain and simple. Look around you. That’s where the kids are. And that means that all media and marketing companies need to be there, right here, right now. And not timidly, either.