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Who will win the streaming wars?

There are many streaming services to choose from today and many subscribers have subscriptions with two or three of them, probably four.

Some are just happy with Netflix, some others pay for Disney plus while others are in the habit of sharing their Amazon prime account.

But are we willing to burn our pockets for each of these streaming services?

Well most people would say It’s a choice. But then, what defines this choice? Is it the money or the content? And this question is pertinent because your choice is running a multi-billion dollar industry. This industry produces both the best of cinema and the very worst. Above all else, this industry may be killing the older modes of entertainment.

Television viewing is eroding and cable boxes are becoming outdated. The world is switching to internet-based streaming over the top (OTT) platforms entertainment.

Twenty-twenty was a game-changer for this industry as cinema halls gathered dust and streaming platforms penetrated our lives.

There were predictions that this would happen but the pandemic accelerated the switch. The OTT market has grown from 1.9 billion users worldwide in 2019 to 2.1 billion users in 2020 and this figure is expected to reach 2.2 billion users this year (2021) and 2.7 billion users in 2025.

Read Also: Netflix treats employees like adults, they get results, more Nigerian firms should

For the sake of perspective, that is more than the combined population of Africa. And this is how the revenue has grown; it has grown from $83 billion in 2019 to $99 billion in 2020. By 2025, this figure is expected to reach $167 billion (this is more than the GDP of Nepal [$36.8 billion] and Sri Lanka [$86.69 billion] combined).

Therefore, streaming services have become the new-age cable companies or even bigger; they have every language, every genre and something for every age. Plus they are convenient, ad-free and the options are tailored to your taste and you don’t have to watch the same film every alternate Sunday (you can choose).

You can pick from a pool of original and never seen before binge-able content, TV-shows you wouldn’t have even heard of otherwise.

Take MONEY HEIST, for example, a Spanish thriller that initially flopped on television, today it has become a cultural currency of sorts, attracting millions of viewers in almost every language.

Now you would be forgiven for thinking that the platforms these shows are airing on are only used by the younger generation but statistics from a survey that asked, “Do you prefer streaming platforms over TV during this pandemic?” conducted for the age groups of 45-65 years during the pandemic last year in Nigeria indicated that at least 65.70 percent of the respondents said they did, mostly for news channels and classics from their younger days while the remaining 34.30 percent picked TV as a result of their lack of IT orientation but also stated that they are usually interested when their kids or grand-kids set it up for them.

So, what does this tell us?

Streaming is no longer limited to certain age groups or to certain countries. Yes, the United States is far ahead, Netflix is the topper in the classroom, indeed but it is not the undisputed king, others are catching up.

In France, Germany, India, Spain, China and so on, OTT platforms are gaining popularity and almost cannibalising television. India too is experiencing an impressive expansion.

In the last 5-6 years, a host of streaming platforms have emerged. Some of the major OTT platforms that have emerged from Nigeria include the OyaWatch, RokuTV, NdaniTV with over 10 million YouTube views and over 52,000 subscribers, rareTV with 25,000 subscribers, IrokoTV with viewers in 178 countries worldwide and many more platforms which are slated to launch in the days ahead.

It is like a global streaming war that has begun. Every country is laying out its cards, however; the question is ‘Who will win this war? And what will win this war?’ Is it content or data? Perhaps a mix of both.

Content is king

Let’ start with content. You see, storytelling is not a commodity, it’s an art and not everyone can do it well, not every filmmaker is Kunle Afolayan, not every film is an immersive experience.

If you do not have something new to offer, you stand to lose. Platforms like Netflix, Prime and Disney plus understand this and they are investing in new talent and new stories. They are attracting local producers and independent filmmakers to stay relevant. They have the skill and the money to pull this off.

They also have the expertise and this is where data comes into the picture. The streaming giants are personalising the customer experience, thus, using your viewing patterns to customize their content.

According to a report by Capgemini, Netflix is using 2000 taste communities. This is to curate content based on the preferences in different regions and this helps them in coming up with shows that match your taste, suggestions that would intrigue you, thumbnails and teasers that grab your attention or simply a list of what is trending in your country.

The company is making smart use of data to enrich its platforms. It is no longer just about the brand, the platform or the price but rather about what these platforms have to offer. Once one has learnt how to navigate the space, they would find a way to watch what they want. For most, the platform itself does not really matter.

So most streaming giants are pitching shows with a USP (Unique Selling Point). For instance, HBO max is coming up with a ‘FRIENDS re-union’.

It is a show that stopped airing in 2004 so, why are they showing it now? The answer is because we are still watching it.

According to a report by Nielsen, FRIENDS was the most-watched sitcom during the pandemic with 96.7 billion minutes being viewed. The fact is that the world was never on a break with this show.

What do these trends show?

The streaming giants are in ‘it’ to win ‘it’. They will buy anything and do anything to keep the audiences engaged. They would also join forces if they have to and some of them already have.

In many countries, broadcasters and OTT platforms have launched joint ventures. In France, M6, France.tv and TF1have come up with ‘SALTO’.

In Britain, BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have mended fences and launched ‘BRITBOX’.

It’s a similar story in Germany where Discovery has partnered with a mass media company and launched ‘JOYN’ and the same story in Spain where 3 leading companies by the names of Atresmedia, MEDIASETespana and rtve have partnered to launch ‘LOVEStv’.

The streaming wars are slowly becoming take-over wars. The mother of all take-overs, that could change the landscape of the industry is just around the corner. You might have heard about it.

AT&T (the owner of HBO), WARNER Bros studios and CNN are teaming up with Discovery (which is home to Channels like Animal Planet and TLC) to form a stand-alone global entertainment and media business.

This would by far be the biggest of its ‘kind’ venture and it would come to life in 2022 with its name to be disclosed next week.

Looking at the share-scale of this merger could be identified in the potency of their assets. They have two of the most powerful movie studios in Hollywood that are behind the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Batman’ franchises. They also have a news network that claims to be present in 212 countries and regions and they have a television company that runs shows on science, history and nature.

Now look at the services that they have employed for this merger. They are using the expertise of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Lion Tree, three of the biggest financial firms in the world. Is this the future of media and entertainment?

A multipurpose, multi-genre hybrid streaming platform that offers everything one can think of.

There are already reports of more of such mergers. Amazon is reportedly in talks for a merger with MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) whose roaring lion has been the introduction to some of the greatest films ever made. This deal will turn prime video into an even bigger platform.

Where would these mergers leave the others?

This plan will obviously make the field more competitive; it might also kill the competition.

With the streaming giants taking away all the big studios, the choices for others will be limited. Most of them will be restricted to certain languages and certain countries and to survive, these platforms would have to ‘UP’ their game and re-invent constantly. They can do this either through investment in mergers or by producing contents that are fresh and meaningful.

New experiments have been welcomed by the audience. You don’t have to be a mega-star to be a super-hit anymore; you also don’t need expensive production.

New ideas and imaginative execution are doing the trick, disruptors are winning big, old formulas are failing to click, and new revenue models are being explored.

People have shown that they would pay for content that is worthwhile. The entertainment industry all over the world is in a flux and as it consolidates with big players making their moves, new rules are sure to be set. The future of entertainment is as much about technology as it is about content, if not more.

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