ONE: Virtual Reality – the New Second Screen
We’ve been promised a breakthrough in virtual reality many times over the years, but in 2016 it arrives with no ambiguity as a mainstream consumer content platform. Facebook-backed Oculus launches this year, as does PlayStation’s VR headset. The truth is that VR is already on the market – and increasingly popular – thanks to head-mounted displays, or HMDs, which use customer’s own mobile devices.
Not only is this where the big marketing money is being spent, it’s also where TV can most readily take advantage, as early movers such as Discovery have shown. VR is not a replacement for traditional viewing, but a supplement – the ultimate evolution of the second screen mentality. The key to establishing any new tech platform is to normalise it, and by leaning towards cheap headsets and mobile apps, that’s what will happen over the next 12 months.
TWO: Eastern European Drama Continues to Thrive
Following MIPCOM in October 2015, we identified Central and Eastern Europe as a likely candidate for the next breakout region where scripted content was concerned. Nothing we’ve seen in the months since has caused us to doubt that, as drama output in places such as Czech Republic and Ukraine continues to rise in both volume and polish as domestic production companies are emboldened by the likes of HBO Europe investing more in local shows.
More importantly, the shows coming out of these countries are often built around immediate and appealing concepts that travel well. There is already a healthy market within the CEE territory, with shows selling across borders, and we expect those sales to expand to larger markets in 2016.
2016 should leave entertainment producers with plenty to smile about.
THREE: The Gradual Rebirth of Game Shows
The game show has endured a rollercoaster existence on the international market in the last few years, still on the ascendant in some territories, all but extinct in others, while that great white whale of the next breakout hit remains typically elusive. The game show genre never died, but it has certainly lost its place as the crown jewel of the primetime schedule. Will 2016 be the year that changes? Possibly. As with any TV genre, it is only ever one success story away from redemption. We suspect it will be a longer, slower revival, as broadcasters work towards large scale event-driven formats that can engage viewers in a more crowded and timeshifted ecosystem.
The good news is that investment in game shows isn’t drying up, with NBC preparing its app-based Quiz Up in the US for a Spring launch, while Warner format 500 Questions is picked up in the UK. Israel has two promising formats in Who’s On Top and Fast Cash, while Talpa’s The Big Picture has been renewed. It won’t be an overnight shift, we feel, but 2016 should still leave entertainment producers with plenty to smile about.
FOUR: New Ways of Distribution
In the new wonderland of SVOD and OTT sales, the importance of a bulging back catalogue of proven shows has never been higher. It’s strange, then, that even as digital technology is offering dozens of new content buyers, the methods by which those deals are done remains in the Stone Age of pen and paper contracts and telephone agreements.
Back in October 2015 the K7 blog interviewed Matthew Frank about his new venture, the digital content marketplace The RightsXchange. That service launches in spring 2016, but we believe it will mark a tidal shift in the way catalogue sales are handled. People will still want the face to face negotiation to snag the latest format or hit drama, of course, but with a shift to a high volume viewing model, we think that the majority of the industry’s bread and butter content deals will be handled digitally.
FIVE: Bingeable Dramatic Factual
In our Trends for 2015 post last year, we identified true crime as a factual genre that was coming back in a big way. That certainly came to pass, but in doing so it has revealed another ongoing trend. Increasingly, factual television is adopting the pace, rhythm and tone of drama. The shows still use authentic contemporary real life footage, but are assembled into narratives that are as compelling as any big name scripted title.
Shows such as The Detectives and Murder Detectives aren’t just interesting, they’re thrilling. Netflix hit Making a Murderer has inspired as many editorials, thinkpieces and watercooler conversations as Breaking Bad. This is the new shape of factual programming: addictive, bingeable shows that become part of the cultural conversation. Crime documentary is an obvious early adopter, but this approach can potentially work for any subject. In 2016, we think it will.
SIX: The Talent Crunch
It’s no secret that the number of platforms for TV content has exploded in the last few years. Those producing both scripted and unscripted shows are faced with far more potential customers than ever before. The downside to this apparent feast is that this demand for content – and often exclusive content to boot – risks outstripping the supply of people capable of delivering the goods.
The strain is most noticeable in high end drama, where the collapse of barriers between TV and film acting have resulted in a small pool of marketable names headlining multiple shows. But it’s evident behind the camera as well, where the excess of eager new industry entrants isn’t always matched by numbers of experienced producers, showrunners and directors who can successfully shepherd new shows to completion. With SVOD companies ramping up their own production pipelines, 2016 could be the year of a major talent crunch.
2016 is the year that content becomes platform agnostic.
SEVEN: No Division Between SVOD and Linear
The line between SVOD and traditional TV viewing has been blurring for a while, but expect to see the distinction vanish completely by the end of 2016. Certainly for audiences, the difference between switching to a linear channel and firing up an app will be academic at best. Both Netflix and Amazon have made no secret of their global ambitions, and are investing heavily in their own original content, making them viable new production partners in many major territories.
While that notion was a novelty just a few years ago, it is now completely normal and as a result the traditional sales cycle that saw content feed down from TV to SVOD is already out of date. More shows will debut on SVOD in some territories, and go linear in others. Some will be made for SVOD and be sold to traditional channels later. And with Netflix gaining headlines with documentaries such as Making a Murderer, and Amazon preparing its rival to the BBC’s Top Gear, this trend is no longer restricted to high end drama and comedy. 2016 is the year that content becomes platform agnostic.