2016 will see further evolution in digital video, content and virtual reality



9 February 2016

By: Bryan Hill

The growth of digital media over the past several years has been staggering. While 2015 saw digital video/ streaming start to really eat into the traditional cable TV model – with print media falling victim to digital in the few years prior – what avenues of disruption and innovation will digital media herald in 2016?

Digital Video Flourishes While Cable’s Foothold Wavers

There will be continued evolution of digital video. The writing has been on the wall for years: viewers rely on an internet connection and a mobile device – no longer a cable box and television– to deliver the video content they consume.

Traditional network television isn’t sitting idly by. This is perhaps most evidenced by the fact that CBS live streamed this year’s Super Bowl across the globe for the first time in the game’s 50-year history.

What’s so significant about this step is that sporting events are currently one of the last frontiers for ad revenues – and there is no bigger ad space than the Super Bowl. By streaming the event online, CBS brought the big game along with the highly-lucrative ads to viewers who don’t even own televisions, let alone cable boxes or antennas. The success of this campaign will also have hinged on how well the infrastructure carrying the Super Bowl was able to handle such high volumes of streaming traffic, making this a major test for the broadcast network as it adapts its services.

This will also be where the battle lines are drawn between broadcast and streaming services, as the latter may look to bid for the option to host sporting events lives on their sites, giving audiences the option to de-bundle from cable packages entirely.

This could even trickle down to once-venerable areas of broadcast such as live news, with Apple facilitating local TV affiliates to host their broadcasts on Apple’s increasingly popular –recently overhauled and soon to be relaunched– Apple TV service.

Digital Content Will See Fewer Borders

The breaking down of borders for content delivery will also expand on an international level, as content and subscriptions will soon be portable across the European Union. The European Digital Single Market initiative made it so that geo-blocking will no longer be an issue on the continent, as pan-European digital rights for content will replace nation-specific operations.

This makes things more complex and less lucrative for providers/content owners like Sky and Netflix, who have rights to content in some EU nations but not others. This may, however, play into the hands of the global large media players (Amazon, Netflix, Google, Facebook)who can afford to facilitate pan-Euro coverage and crucially have the cash on hand to make very expensive sports rights seem insignificant. Essentially, if a company is able to lay down their own infrastructure for content delivery, they will see fewer conflicts regarding territory rights for services offered.

Virtual Reality Will Shed Some of the Mystery

While digital video will see its availability boom over the next year, the same can’t be said for augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR, respectively) as its still in its early stages. Although both have been buzzing for some time – and there are already vendors either on the market or unveiling their products in the months to come (HTC Vive and Oculus Rift) – items like Magic Leap still haven’t materialised and are shrouded in mystery.

Unfortunately, AR and VR still haven’t blossomed into technologies that can offer more than just unique, multi-sensory experiences. What services can be offered through these channels other than gaming – and whether they are worth the investment/exploration –aren’t likely to be proven as 2016 continues.

Whether or not any of these predictions come to fruition hinges on connectivity and whether or not audiences can interact with digital media at a pace that is in line with the technology’s potential. If the infrastructure to deliver upon latency, quality of service and improved public internet access are there, the possibilities could be endless. Without the right pipes, however, water can’t flow – and the same is true for digital media delivery and the pathways to consumers.