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What Should I Watch Tonight? I Have Tens of Thousands of On-Demand Media Options

Written by

Shane Keats

September 17, 2021

When I was a kid in the late 1970s, the ABC Television Network had the top three most watched shows in the United States, and I was one of those viewers. For example, on Tuesday nights, prime time” started for me at 8 PM with Happy Days and was over at 9:30 PM after Laverne & Shirley and Three’s Company. But if I was busy and couldn’t watch, I had to wait for summer reruns and hope that any episodes I missed were aired.

Contrast yesterday’s television with today’s video on demand revolution

During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, my wife and I watched all 31 episodes of Bordertown, an excellent police procedural. Here’s the thing: We binged these three seasons, thanks to the magic of on-demand streaming, in just two weeks. Here’s the other thing: The show was originally produced for YLE, Finland’s state broadcaster.

During the same time, my daughter, then a university senior, was looking for ways to pass the time given that college life was effectively shut down, so she started making TikTok videos. She made a clip of herself playing a waitress with a unique method for pouring wine. It earned more than 1.6 million views.

Television, if we can still call it that, has changed almost beyond recognition, and so have the entertainment lives of the nearly five billion people who use the internet, their mobile devices, and streaming boxes to “watch TV.” Viewing schedules have been completely disrupted. So has viewing itself. And device delivery. Even story creation. Along with our experiences as viewers, nearly every aspect of the television value chain has also been innovated beyond recognition.

However, one aspect of viewing that hasn’t changed since the heyday of that ABC lineup is the need for good audience measurement. According to eMarketer, the average person in the United States now spends more time consuming digital media than traditional media. The people in the rest of the world’s largest economies are not far behind.

This disruption in viewing patterns requires services to innovate in response, whether they call themselves FAST, SVOD, DTC, or a public service broadcaster’s OTT offering. For example, how can a on-demand streaming service measure this transformed always-online audience? Especially for advertising-supported services, getting this right is mission critical when it comes to the profit and loss statement. Here in the United States, the Nielsen Company has provided this measurement for traditional TV viewership since 1950. As services and audiences began moving online, Nielsen developed a Total Audience rubric to capture this monumental shift.

For services with both traditional and streaming audiences, such as Crown Media Family Networks’ Hallmark Channel, the ability to integrate with Nielsen’s streaming measurement tools is critical. In video workflow terms, this means a Nielsen-certified media player, and ideally, a player that works with desktop and mobile browsers, iOS and Android apps, and the operating systems of on-demand streaming devices like tvOS and Roku OS. Without this certification, as much as half of a service’s revenue can be left on the table. And without the ease of integration in today’s incredibly complex consumer device market, the service would have to devote enormous technical resources to solve the problem.

It is this need to marry the human desire for story with the technical requirements of serving today’s connected viewer that is driving so much incredible innovation in the video industry.

So what does the future of that industry look like? One company among the many that are driving innovation is iQIYI, the streaming video giant that many call the Netflix of China. iQIYI has more than 100 million paying subscribers. As noted in my colleague Jonathan Singer’s post, egaming has created an entirely new industry by merging sports and video gaming, and companies like iQIYI (and Netflix) are moving into this new industry. To do that, iQIYI has built a unique culture. Danming Xie, Vice President of Technology at iQIYI, says, “Our CEO always says we have two types of genes, entertainment genes and technology genes. So engineers are working with the artists in our company. It's a great collaboration.”

This collaboration that Xie speaks of is part and parcel to the business and technical innovations currently driving the industry. The race is on to invent the next generation of video entertainment. And I can’t wait to see what my children suggest I watch 10 years, or even 5 years, from now. Perhaps an entire video series about what it’s like to be a waitress in the streaming video era — with interactivity, gamification, and competition. And... we’ll be watching!

Read more about what Akamai helps make possible in the media and entertainment industry.



Written by

Shane Keats

September 17, 2021