Industry Voices—Ring: 16 of the biggest things in video and TV tech from 2020

Brian Ring Industry Voices

A heartfelt “Thank you!” for those readers that have commented, subscribed, downloaded, shared, liked, or just plain read the whole post this year. Happy holidays and may 2021 be filled with peace, health and prosperity for humankind.

This was going to be a top 10 post, but it’s 2020 so, here’s my point of view on 16 video and TV tech things that happened this year.

  1. Peacock flies, Disney pluses a win and HBO Maxes out. The media companies are all in on direct-to-consumer streaming and these important new entrants found their market footing. Next up is CBS All Access’s relaunch with more sports, news and Paramount films. Ultimately, the big question is this: How many apps will we subscribe to? My guess is a lot!
  2. The virtual MVPD market recovered and was joined by channels, AVOD and FAST in a new connected TV land grab. 2019 wasn’t a good year for the vMVPD. Sony’s PlayStation Vue threw in the towel while AT&T TV Now continued to bleed money and subscribers. But for those that stayed in the game, 2020 cemented some winners including YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV. FuboTV, Pluto TV, Philo and many others are hungry and growing. The Streaming Wars are just getting started.
  3. Smart TVs exploded. Roku achieved world domination and launched a free, live linear channel guide while flexing its gatekeeping abs. Amazon Fire TV continued to execute well while Android TV became Google TV and relaunched with a good looking remote control – which is super important, as I wrote about here.
  4. Major leagues, streaming services and TV networks fully embraced Twitch-ified streams and Watch Parties. Zoom and Teams played leading roles in virtual fandom experiences along with WebRTC, emojis, and gamification. Two-screen still hasn’t happened just yet but maybe 2021 will be its year.
  5. Live 4K HDR streaming came to the World Series and the Super Bowl. The crystal clear picture proved that 4K is real, and it’s spectacular.
  6. ABR 2.0 is here, and her name is Apple Low-Latency HLS. Look, latency is an obscure, nerdy topic that consumers don’t care about, but – and I say this with all due respect for the viewers – they can’t possibly understand why and how it’s going to advance their television experience. But it will so, this Apple release is news, even though, yes, it’s very geeky. To understand why it’s important, read The Curb Cut Effect: How Low Latency Streaming Benefits Everybody.
  7. Public market valuations of sports betting apps DraftKings and FanDuel have rocketed -- along with related gamification, data and media business innovation partnerships. It’s a good thing, too, as sports TV networks and RSNs saw ratings sag along with a more urgent need to rebuild their value proposition for younger audiences. Legalized sports betting will help with that.
  8. Virtual backgrounds, virtual cameras and virtual production has exploded onto the scene in 2020. Unity and Unreal Engine are two names to know, but in my view, one of the most important milestones here was the fact that OBS Studio’s version 26 release included Virtual Camera as a standard feature. Cloud graphics and interactivity roared ahead in 2020, but virtual camera and AR and XR – that’s where the puck is headed.
  9. Exactly as predicted by nearly every media analyst, Quibi failed. In truth, one of Wall Street’s most important analysts got this one wrong but many foresaw the demise of the mobile-focused, short-form streaming service.
  10. WarnerMedia put Jason Kilar in charge. He did the impossible at Hulu and he’s got it in him to do it again at WarnerMedia.
  11. Video tech VCs gone wild. Descript, Mux, Pixellot, Restream, Maestro, Buzzer, Kiswe, PicoGP, Streamlabs, Stream Elements, LiveLike, Loom, Mmhmm are some of the brightest innovators and examples of what video tech is officially a hot investment sector. I’m sure I’ve been remiss in leaving other mega-funded video startups off this list. Feel free to write the names of your favorites.
  12. Video gaming grew exponentially ... again. Esports has grown into a real media business, and a big one. But when Covid gave it an outsized stage of captured, bored mainstream audiences, it didn’t achieve broad appeal. It’s mostly anecdotal evidence backing this up but one such anecdote was revealed with real data conveyed by fuboTV CEO David Gandler at Fierce Video’s OTT Blitz Week.
  13. Major League Baseball launched MLB Film Room, an innovative and very well-built video product that nurtures the growth of sports highlights consumption on social media. This is a first by MLB for embracing the power of fandom as a distribution asset.
  14. No surprise here, but AWS continued to crush it on customer and innovation fronts. AWS IVS essentially made Twitch’s backend available for purchase and AWS Kinesis Video Streams provided a dead-simple WebRTC-as-a-service.
  15. COVID-19 blew up uncomfortable emotional, psychosocial walls that were holding back video conferencing from achieving mass adoption. The pandemic did not merely “accelerate” this trend and the wall was not inevitably going to fall. But it has and Zoom has rocketed to platform status, and now people are going to have to learn how to be a proper video presenter and meeting facilitator. 2020 saw human communication transform and it turned as all into technical directors on a vast global production, remotely.
  16. The enterprise video market mushroomed like a nuclear cloud this year. The next decade will see convergence, collision and innovation between Pro AV, streaming TV video conferencing and broadcast production tech that will should provide rich terrain for value creation.

Thanks for reading! Access all of my #FutureOfTV D2C TV surveys here.

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Brian Ring is principal analyst at Ring Digital llc, a revenue growth agency that uses consumer surveys to understand changing viewing behaviors, brainstorm product strategies and execute go-to-market thought leadership on behalf of clients serving the media & TV industry globally.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceVideo staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceVideo.

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