Helping media companies navigate the new streaming normal
Managing Director, Media & Entertainment Industry Solutions, Google Cloud
From the explosion of new programming to the launch of high-profile streaming services, 2020 was on track to be a transformational year in media and entertainment. But at the same time, the industry fully expected many of its foundational elements—windowing strategies, live events, production standards—to stay the same.
All that changed with COVID-19. Suddenly, the future came early to the industry, with many facing difficult challenges like accelerating and evolving direct-to-consumer business models while at the same time keeping workers and productions physically distanced.
As media companies transition from short-term response to long-term planning, many are contemplating how different the industry might look in the months and years to come.
All this is the topic of our new guide, Accelerated Media Evolution In The Time Of COVID, and the focus of our Media OnAir events, where we’ll share insights from our work with leading media companies. For these organizations and others, we recommend keeping new audience behaviors top of mind and focusing on driving three key changes.
1. Scale new monetization channels and engage audiences through data
As audiences were stuck at home during the early stages of the pandemic, linear viewing saw a temporary increase in consumption—driven by specific formats such as news. But that consumption returned to pre-lockdown levels as restrictions were lifted in certain regions.
By contrast, many streaming subscription services saw consistent increased adoption. Nine percent of U.S. households took up a new SVOD service in Q2 2020.1 The surge in streaming consumption seems to be more resilient than its linear counterpart, as U.S. time spent with streaming services in June 2020 was roughly 50 percent above its 2019 level.2
In contrast to the Pay TV bundle, today’s streaming audiences have access to much more choice and freedom in their entertainment options. These viewers have shown both a preference to stack multiple services and a higher propensity to churn. As the pandemic affects discretionary spending across the world, audiences will look to save on entertainment costs, making SVOD services more attractive than traditional Pay TV bundles, as well as driving an increased adoption of AVOD services.
As a result, media organizations need to reassess how to streamline existing broadcast operations and costs. They must invest in building technology platforms that can handle unpredictable streaming demand seamlessly, while also deriving deeper audience insights from their data in order to drive audience engagement, retention, and monetization. For example, leading British broadcaster ITV built a video analytics solution on Google Cloud so they could better monitor events on their VOD service, ITV Hub.
2. Produce new content remotely and maximize the value of library content
While distribution channels may change, content still remains the industry’s crown jewel. Content breadth, exclusivity, and original content are the top three reasons that audiences adopt streaming services, and maximizing the value of both library and new content has never been more critical.
Content production has also been disrupted by the pandemic. Physical productions have paused across the world, only slowly starting to resume once again. And for content that has made it through the complex post-production process, the global shuttering of theatrical exhibition has forced many blockbuster titles to debut on streaming services—radically altering windowing strategies and the economic models that come with it.
Media companies have resorted to boundless creative strategies to keep content production lines open. Formats that can be created remotely such as animation are experiencing a boom, and live events such as news and sports have established new remote working processes in record time.
Content production has been on the rise for years, but the temporary halt in production has been a silver lining for media companies; this pause has presented an opportunity to step back and implement more digital, collaborative, streamlined, and global production and management processes, supported by the cloud. Media companies like ViacomCBS have also accelerated the digitization and enrichment of their extensive back catalogs and archives, to help fill the content gap.
3. Reimagine the workplace for the future of productivity
Finally, the biggest challenge many companies and industries face has been the shift to remote work. Innovative companies like Yahoo Finance, for example, utilized our video conferencing solution to keep their broadcast team’s content flowing and audiences engaged. 150 of Yahoo Finance’s editors, reporters, and anchors used Google Meet to deliver news and video streams on air from locations across the U.S. and London to tens of millions of viewers live, transitioning to a 100 percent remote broadcast model overnight.
As the industry navigates a new working norm, many media company offices will require thoughtful consideration of which tasks can be automated or done remotely, and exactly how much real estate is required to maintain operations.
Decisions are likely to be different by functions. Post-production staff, visual effects artists, and video editors can utilize virtual workstations and editing applications to complete their work remotely, while central teams such as finance, sales, and marketing can utilize video conferencing services like Meet to stay connected no matter where they are. But some essential personnel—lightweight studio production teams and on- prem playout teams—will need to still come into the office.
Continued innovation in the face of unprecedented change
Many media and entertainment companies are choosing Google Cloud operations modernization—all to thrive and remain relevant within this new era. For example, Major League Baseball adopted Anthos as the vehicle to run their applications anywhere, utilized BigQuery to upgrade their Statcast platform, and launched new fan friendly initiatives like Film Room using our machine learning technologies—all in the service of becoming more agile and delivering more innovative fan experiences in a competitive media ecosystem.
This year has been one of unexpected and accelerated change for all, but the ingenuity, innovation, and determination of media companies to continue delivering critical news, information, and entertainment to audiences across the world has been extraordinary. Google Cloud is committed to bringing forward technologies that the media industry needs and to partner with our customers to help them continue to innovate in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Sources:1. Kantar, Amazon tops Disney, Netflix with surge in video service (August 2020)
2. Nielsen; The Hollywood Reporter, The Quarantine TV Ratings Spike Is Over (June 2020)