A Smart Look at the Future of Television // In Collaboration With Quinnipiac University's School of Communications
The first few weeks of this calendar year have offered a glimpse into what to expect while sitting in your living room, on a train or on a bench over the next four years.
This is a very, very good thing if you consume—and produce—content.
The viewing experience has irrevocably changed and players like Google continue to alter consumption barriers. The announcement that YouTube now streams four billion videos per day globally (a 25 percent increase over the last eight months) means there is plenty of room for someone to carve a niche about sitting on a bench — or promoting boots while sitting on a bench. Perhaps this is avant-garde but 4,000 other people viewed this one-minute video and probably had the same idea—there is little redeeming value, give me that minute back.
However, there is an audience, which allows YouTube to take programming to another level. Coupled with a push to rebrand itself as an original-content provider, YouTube will now emerge as a platform for quality.
Yes, the major play by Google and YouTube—and a $100 million infusion into original programming—will mean less sitting on a bench and more quality programming. More importantly, this means people will truly push the limits of Sturgeon’s Law, which means 90 percent of everything truly is garbage. Ask most, and the number will most likely be closer to triple digits.
Between Forrester Research’s unveiling that by 2016 half of all households will have Wi-Fi-enabled devices on their televisions (this number will be higher) and Clay Shirky’s Ted Talk on PIPA/SOPA, the push for quality programming came full circle this month from the early days of Paley and Co. The most significant takeaway from Shirky’s talk was his conclusion about early television content. He is correct. Decades ago, networks did not have to produce quality programming. The program just had to be better than the other two programs competing on the other networks in the same time slot.
Competition is good. Competition is healthy. But what competition serves as in this case is a barometer for quality viewing content as thousands of original digital niches and channels are carved over the next four years. That avant-garde look at someone sitting on a bench will ultimately evolve into a YouTube channel solely focused on boots replete with product placement, an e-commerce solution, sponsorship and serial dramas focused on boots.
In the process, other videos focused on boots will wane in popularity because the channel or concept is not as compelling as another niche channel. Even though my household will not be streaming this content in the newly minted platform-agnostic world, thousands, if not millions, will gravitate toward this original programming. In some markets, this is viewed as quality content and that is all that matters to the producer and YouTube as a platform. The 50-50 revenue sharing model through advertising is not a new concept, but divide an audience consuming four billion streams daily and there are dollars to be made.
What this move will undoubtedly also do is change the way legacy cable companies charge customers and change the way high-wage, Hollywood unions operate. The era of the middleman continues to fade thanks to dynamic distribution platforms. In the process, the distribution of new revenue streams straight to the content producer—and not solely to provider—ushers in a new era of creativity and opportunity.
The days of talking cats (plenty of those), mediocre comedians (too many of those) and self-serving video diatribes will still exist but they will fall further down the pecking order of views. When money is involved, competition increases and so does the level of creativity. The same thinking will continue to exist—be better than the others—but the next four years will welcome a new level of content with an extra level of interactivity that we have yet to see.
YouTube will celebrate the seventh anniversary of its 2005 BETA test in May, and the pace of viewing progress will only accelerate in the next four years. As the streaming experience improves, so will the quality of content.
YouTube will always welcome everyone into the pool. This time the boots—and the programming surrounding any niche concept—will be more compelling.
[Image Credits: "YouTube Play at The Guggenheim" cc by-nc-nd Katie Killary]
-Contributed by Brett Orzechowski, -