Sunday, May 19, 2024

    EDITORIAL More content streaming – but who’s paying?

    The coronavirus pandemic has seen more people than ever turn to digital services to entertain and sustain them during lockdown – but many feel they are missing out on content because they don’t want to subscribe to everything all the time.

    Research out this week by Rakuten Marketing suggests that nearly two-thirds of consumers globally feel that they are missing out on content they like because there are so many subscription streaming services and they don’t want to subscribe to them all.

    While Rakuten looks primarily at video streamers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime for its research, the problem is one that goes far deeper than that: it is an inherent problem with having a competitive streaming market for all content.

    The surge in demand for content prompted by lockdown has only accelerated a problem that was already starting to impact the content and media business. With music, video, news and magazine, as well as books and games all now being beamed to subscribers via a myriad of competing and closed-off providers, every one of us is missing out on something, somewhere.

    Sport has long been an example of this. For years, football (that’s soccer to our American readers) was on national TV for everyone to watch. Then came Sky Sports and Eurosport et al, and suddenly if you wanted to watch your team’s matches, you had to subscribe.

    With the entry of many other sports subscription services – so, here in the UK, BT Sport taking on Sky, though the problem is pretty universal – suddenly you find that not even all the matches your team plays are on one channel.

    This has long meant having several expensive subscriptions to several channels just to watch some games.

    The same now applies to TV, movies and other video content: and as the majority have now found in lockdown, they don’t get everything they want to watch, even if they pay.

    The birth of AVOD

    Rakuten Marketing’s answer is that there should be advertising-funded video on demand (AVOD) services available, so that consumers can watch what they like on whichever channel they want, they just have to watch some ads to do it.

    While a marketing company such as Rakuten would say that, it does have a point. If you really like something – or really cannot stand the ads – then you subscribe. If you are more of a digital dabbler in some content, then you’d probably suffer through some ads.

    The idea is gaining some credence and consumers are increasingly becoming aware of what AVOD can offer. According to Rakuten, 37% of UK consumers are aware of AVOD offerings. 74% believe their use of AVOD will remain at the level established during lockdown and 60% say they are likely to sign up to AVOD offerings when the service is described to them.

    For those consumers that watch major sporting events, now presents an exciting moment as the broadcast of football, golf and horseracing starts again with the easing of lockdown. Across Europe, 26% would be interested in streaming sport on an AVOD service, placing this ahead of all other streaming options, including pay-per-view and monthly subscription services.

    The role of carrier billing

    While I wholeheartedly agree that there is a place for AVOD in this new subscriptions melee, I also think that there is also room for a third option – and it is an option that could well be a boon for carrier billing.

    As I have argued before, sometimes you just want to pay a one-off fee to access something just the once. And this is ideally suited to DCB.

    To go back to football example: say I want to watch Manchester City thrash Liverpool in the Champions League (it could happen!) but really I am otherwise not bothered or subscribed to another channel that isn’t showing it, I would pay to watch it once, live, or even just the highlights on my mobile from another provider.

    This model could apply to all subscription media and content services, giving interested non-subscribers the option of either watching some ads to see what they want or paying a one-off access fee to watch it without.

    Of course, as with all DCB services it also lends itself to upselling them to a subscription, but for many content providers it is purely lovely incremental revenue.

    It also works for other, emerging, subs services such as elearning. Any of you with kids off school will know that they need more than the schools are giving them  and so there is going to be an explosion in the coming months of elearning subscription services.

    Now, most parents aren’t going to want their little cherubs to have to sit though tons of ads, so again for those that want to try-before-they buy or simple want to dip in and out of these services, there is an ideal opportunity for one off charges.

    Maybe something that will get some air time at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2021 or one of the spin-off events expected to take place around it next year.

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