For Hollywood, the beginning of the year means one thing: awards season. From the Golden Globes to the Oscars, contributions in film and television are honored and celebrities put on their black-tie best. As viewers, it’s fun to spend Sunday nights speculating on which film is going to win big. (La La Land is the one to beat this year, in case you haven’t heard).
Ahead of next week’s Oscars, I’m reflecting on how much has changed in the way we watch award ceremonies and live events more broadly.
Next year will mark the 90th anniversary of the Oscars. But back in 1930, it was broadcast over radio for the first time. 1953 saw the first televised broadcast, while 1970 was the first time the awards show was broadcast internationally, via satellite.
Fast forward to 2017— the Oscar nominations announcement was live streamed on YouTube. Fans immediately took to Twitter to react. And on Sunday, the red carpet show and the ceremony will be available for live streaming, with viewers sounding off in real-time via social media.
Why is this evolution significant?
It speaks to the broader content viewing experience Internet TV customers now expect. While on-demand video consumption is still growing, live linear will continue to become an important staple in the future.
The rise of live linear
According to research, 24 percent of Americans no longer subscribe to cable or satellite TV in their homes. While they may rely on streaming platforms such as Hulu or Netflix for their content needs, for live events such as sports or award shows they are left scrambling to find a way to watch. Often streaming is only available with a cable login, or the stream cuts out due to heavy traffic, leaving consumers frustrated.
Take this year’s Golden Globes— NBC did not stream the ceremony online because it couldn’t obtain the rights. But unfortunately for the network, a bit of a backlash ensued—consumers were simply expecting to be able to stream the telecast, leaving some unhappy customers venting on Twitter.
Live linear TV is becoming an important part of the overall content experience. For viewers, it’s increasingly becoming table stakes, a functionality they assume providers already have.
Beyond award shows, from the Euro Cup soccer finals to the Rio Olympics to even the US election coverage, consumers continue to show that they want current, compelling, live content delivered to their device of choice.
The power of choice: best practices for incorporating live linear
Consumers don’t get everything they want from Netflix or Hulu; there is still an enormous appetite for live viewing, whether it’s sports, the news or the Oscars – essentially, the ability to watch live TV as it happens, on any device. But it’s really the combination of live and on-demand content that is powerful. Live linear bundles the immediacy and accessibility of streaming to meet the still robust demand for live content.
For operators, it’s about creating the ultimate level of choice in viewing. This entails providing a multi-platform experience that combines live linear with other options such as streaming, renting or purchasing video content, and enhanced live linear (with features such as start over, catch-up or cloud PVR). It also means providing these services across all devices for the on-the-go consumer.
One major challenge for providers will be monetizing and delivering live content instantly, without sacrificing quality across any format or device. There are some back office considerations as well, such as managing live linear channels, airings, blackouts and viewing policies that differ from on-demand content. Figuring out how to incorporate social media into the live experience will also be important.
Bridging traditional cable services with a multi-platform experience through OTT won’t be easy, but it will be critical to gaining share of wallet. Today’s consumers expect choice, and blending live linear with on demand is critical to matching expectations.
With high-demand live viewing opportunities and the Internet TV customer in mind, providers can’t afford to disappoint by not providing the whole package.
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