This time of the year is peculiar and good because a lot of people begin spilling their predictions for the year ahead. I like these things because, depending, they’re safe, silly or sagacious but you don’t necessarily know which until you look closer about a year later. It’s a little like reading an eye chart.
David Carr, the Media Equations columnist for The New York Times, picked a bunch of executives and companies he thinks will have difficult years in 2015, which included a lot of old media types, and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, who was so thoroughly shredded in the Times’ Sunday magazine a couple weeks ago. He also said something less than flattering about Netflix, which is an attitude you don’t see on display very much in big media.
I’ve been looking at five predictions for 2015 from Chris Knowlton, vice president and video streaming evangelist (an official title) for Wowza Media Systems, who has some eye-opening observations published by TechZone360.com. They aren’t the showiest ones, but they’re substantial enough to think about.
First of all, he says, “Content owners will bypass distributors” which is already happening but he says, likely to accelerate. While Knowlton points to HBO’s new online service, coming next year, and CBS All Access, he could have noted such direct-to-consumer experiments like Louis CK’s videos, and just last week, the emergence of “The Interview” as a downloadable event. That was unplanned, apparently, but it must give inspiration to lots of filmmakers (and studios with movies that may only satisfy niche audiences) to try that again and again. It was downloaded two million times and made $15 million from various online platforms since last Wednesday, AppleInsider.com reports. It was also illegally downloaded almost as much, says Business Insider.com. Fix that and you've got a business. The whole Cineplex experience thing was wavering even before Sony began pretend-killing dictators; this will just speed it along. And it makes sense. Less than a decade ago, “movie stars” only made movies. Now, they mostly do voice-overs for cartoons.
Knowlton also predicts more live-event streaming, which is pretty standard-issue crystal ball gazing. So is his prediction that mobile video consumption will increase, and that’s on a lot of lists. I don’t doubt it, but I wonder where that ends. Knowlton suggests businesses will start using mobile platforms for employee communications and sales calls. But unless a lot of premium content--with a higher bar to be called “premium”--develops, I still can’t get my arms around mobile video that is used for much more than viewing-while-in-transit. And no doubt, I’m just dead wrong.
Another Knowlton prediction seems intriguing. Online video for distance learning has been around for awhile, but now, Knowlton says, “ ‘Flipped classroom’ experiences allow teachers to assign lecture videos for students to watch on their own time, allowing them to spend more quality group and individual time with students in the classroom.” That's a movement already in progress.
That seems so utterly practical and expandable, you could imagine a time when the concept is more the norm than the exception, which will either be disastrous or a triumph. Which, pretty much, is where online video is as an industry at this point. And that's why it's a fun business. It's still quite unpredictable.