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The Year Ahead. Our Fearless Predictions For 2019, Part 2 of 2

Picking up where we left off with Part 1, here are our last six predictions for 2019.

7.  As the content bubble explodes, a lot of great shows get lost in the shuffle

There will likely be somewhere over $15 billion spent on original content in 2019 between all six major Flixes. And as we’ve noted previously, the laws of physics are such that most of it will go unwatched, because time and sleep.

That’s too bad, as it’s likely that a lot of really great shows will go unwatched.

Marketing is going to be key here and it’s unlikely that algorithms will be of much help. Yes, they’ll bring some people to shows, but it’s more likely that people will increasingly dip in and out of apps to binge the shows they have on what we’re calling their “mental binge list”—the half dozen or so shows they’ve got lined up because their friends recommended them or because they read a review that looked promising. And as they are dipping, they’re not any real attention to what the algorithm is recommending, and if they do, they won’t have time to act on it.

Netflix, Amazon and services that release all episodes of a series at once are going to be at a disadvantage here in terms of marketing in that they have much smaller windows in which to promote their shows—they will need to resort to movie-like tactics rather than the “new episode this week” plan that their competitors can still rely on. (There are benefits to the all-at-once release schedule, but marketing is not one of them.)

Disney will have an advantage here too as it seems many of the shows they’re releasing are based on familiar characters or concepts. That means that rather then explain the plot of the High School Musical TV series in their promos, all they have to do is let the existing fan base know that it premieres next week.

PRO TIP: Look for a massive increase in marketing spend—including on-air promos, radio, digital, billboards and ads on traditional TV—a lot of pressure on the marketing team, but that’s because there’s so much at stake.

8.  Cord cutting increases but not nearly to the levels many expect and bundles make a comeback.

Anyone who reads TVREV knows how much we feel about the cord cutting myth. (TL;DR: it’s mostly #FakeNews based on unscientific surveys, and when you factor in the people switching from MVPDs to vMVPDs, it’s been at around 1% a year.)

That number is likely to shoot up following the launch of the Flixes as viewers realize they get enough TV from the streaming services (and are spending enough money on their subscriptions to boot.)

A percentage of those viewers will come back, however, when they realize they miss news and sports and Property Brothers, or when they realize that the reason pay TV penetration in America is so high is because over the air reception sucks. (We’re a big country with a lot of tall buildings.)

So that 1% cord cutting rate may increase to 6% or 7%, but it’s not going much deeper than that, at least not in 2019, and, as noted, a good number of those initial cord-cutter can be brought back by offering them some sort of actual skinny bundle with news and sports as the centerpiece. (Sorry Philo.)

In fact, we can easily see new bundles being created by the likes of Amazon, Apple and Roku, all of whom are now managing subscriptions for viewers. It’s not too much of a leap to see them bundling a vMVPD service together with some Flixes and some premium network apps (e.g. Showtime) and offering it at a 20% discount provided the user signs up for a full year. The benefit for the bundle-ees would be a reduction in churn (which promises to be massive) along with the chance to build up some loyalty.

PRO TIP: The new bundles are likely to include things other than TV. Think Spotify, newspaper subscriptions, monthly delivery, even cloud storage. Pretty much anything that can be billed on a monthly basis.

9. OTT advertising starts to get a little less confusing

In case we hadn’t mentioned it, TVREV is releasing a report on ad-supported OTT later this month, and if there’s one thing that every single one of the media and marketing executives we spoke with told us, it’s that OTT advertising is confusing AF.

There’s little (if any) consistency from platform to platform around things like measurement, segmentation, buying processes, or reporting.

But that’s all going to change this year thanks to the TVREV report.

Okay, not really, but it will change because more and more people are going to be watching ad-supported OTT, which means that more ad dollars will be spent on it, which means that it will stop being just “experimental budget,” which means that TPTB will have much incentive to simplify things.

Or, as my friend Shereta Williams, the President of Videa noted, “These artificial separations make TV more complicated because there are all these different ways to access a screen and the viewer. Ad tech solutions will continue to help alleviate this complication and will become more necessary as inventory continues to grow.”

PRO TIP: Watch for our special report. It’s a comprehensive look at how OTT advertising is bought, sold, served and measured, who’s doing the buying, selling, serving and measuring, and how TVREV sees the next few years shaking out. All written in our usual readable non-jargon-laden style.

10. Networks insist on adding ACR data to Nielsen

It’s not much of a secret that the industry has viewed Nielsen’s panels as a useful fiction for quite some time now. Useful in that they provided a standard of measurement that everyone could agree on. But as ACR data (automatic content recognition) from smart TV’s becomes more widely accepted for OTT and beyond there will be increased pressure to make ACR data an official part of the data reporting set.

This will not come as a shock to anyone. Nielsen, in fact already owns ACR-data firm Gracenote, whose publicly available data is second only to Vizio’s Inscape. (While Gracenote collects data from Samsung and Roku, that data is not available to third parties.). And given that ACR data provides second-by-second viewing records for millions of viewers (versus 40,000 Nielsen panelists), we’re thinking this is the year that networks Just Say No to panels-only measurement. Especially if they want to continue to grab dollars back from digital.

CBS’s recent rebellion is just the first step. We expect other networks to follow suit and start demanding systems that take more data into account and ACR is sure to be a part of the solution.

PRO TIP: Watch for various forms of multitouch attribution to make a splash at this year’s upfronts. Companies like iSpot and Data+Math have done a great job of using ACR and other data to track consumer’s voyages through the sales funnel, which allows brands to better gauge which creative is working and where. On a macro level, multitouch attribution offers a compelling “You want numbers? We got numbers!” way to prove TV’s effectiveness.

11. Creative makes a comeback

In the pre-internet days, a brand’s creative output—how clever, engaging and ultimately persuasive its commercials were—was the key measure of an agency’s success. But the growth of digital advertising flipped that on its head and the Math Men replaced the Mad Men as the ability to manipulate data and figure out where and when an ad should run became much more important than the ad itself.

We think that’s going to change this year, as everyone seems to have figured the data thing out. And when knowing how to manipulate data is just table stakes, we’re back to creative making a difference again. Look for brands winning kudos for more engaging executions that make use of the way people watch TV today—more binging, less channel surfing. (A series of ads that Farmers Insurance has been running on Hulu that tells a story over the course of the episode is a good example of this.)

Ads will have to work harder because there will be fewer of them, which means that people will actually kinda sorta not mind sitting through the more entertaining ones which, when done right, can feel like clever mini-movies, rather than just annoying shillery. 

PRO TIP: Watch for networks and SVOD platforms collaborating with brands and brands, new, hipper DTC brands in particular, hiring Hollywood production companies to create their campaigns rather than relying on traditional agencies.

12. 5G puts an end to America’s broadband monopolies

This isn’t so much a prediction as a fact—5G broadband is indeed putting an end to monopoly conditions in much of the  market —and there will be positive ramifications from the end of those monopolies.

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are all going to be rolling out 5G this year (they’ve already started) and the initial rollouts will take the form of fixed broadband to the home. (Again, this is per their announcements, not our predictions.)

For consumers, this means that broadband prices are about to head south, as competition tends to do that.

It means that T-Mobile will launch its own vMVPD (they’re planning on it) as part of a double-play bundle that takes on the existing players.

But mostly it means that OTT is going to grow even faster, because all of those people switching to 5G broadband are also going to be switching to a vMVPD or all-OTT menu. That’s going accelerate the growth of vMVPDs and OTT advertising in general. It’s going to put pressure on all those cable companies to step up their games so that they can actually compete. (It may be too late for some of them.)

PRO TIP: The rapid adoption of 5G broadband should also quell fears around net neutrality. As we’d noted earlier in the year, net neutrality was a real problem in areas where broadband was a monopoly: If that single provider decided to eschew net neutrality, then users had no Plan B. But in a market that will now have at least four providers in any given region, net neutrality is unlikely to be an issue. Users can express their displeasure with a provider’s attempt to do away with it simply by taking their business elsewhere.