The way we consume video has evolved dramatically over the last 30 years. When I think back to my childhood, my family always had a TV with a cable package, but we also had a wonderful machine called a VCR. There was this amazing store nearby called Blockbuster Video, and every weekend my friends and I would ride our bikes to rent the latest movie Jim Carrey put out because nothing made 11-year-olds laugh more than a guy overacting while trying to find a dolphin named Snowflake. Fast forward to the turn of the century and the TV was still there, but the VCR had been replaced by something called a DVD player, which allowed me to watch Ben Stiller meet his future in-laws in hilarious fashion, over and over again. And then came the Blu-Ray player, which was really just a DVD player that had a clearer picture.
Throughout that time period, there were always two primary forms of home entertainment for me; the television I got through my cable provider, and whatever movies I was watching on my VCR/DVD/Blu-Ray player. While this was going on in my living room, some really exciting things were happening on my computer, and then my phone. The internet showed up and provided a venue for short, digestible clips that fit perfectly into the life of the modern adult, who is always on the go and has the attention span of a gnat. When I don’t have time to watch an episode of Chopped on my television, I can watch a 2-minute video on my phone that tells me how to make a birthday cake with whatever I have lying around in my refrigerator. The linear television world and the digital world lived separately for a very long time, but in the last few years, worlds have collided.
With the adoption of connected televisions and set-top boxes, all these worlds are coming together in your living room, and for us as consumers, it’s absolutely fantastic. My Blu-Ray player has largely been replaced by my Roku box, which can do so much more than the Blu-Ray player, DVD player and VCR ever could. The content that I used to consume on YouTube now lives on Virtual MVPDs and app-based streaming TV services, and it’s opened up a world of options for me. I can still keep my cable subscription and use the vMVPDs as a supplement to let me watch content that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to view on my biggest screen, my television. Or if I’m really ambitious, I can cut the cord altogether, and rely only on virtual MVPDs and app-based streaming services for my content needs. All of these options mean that content providers are forced to compete for my attention, and subsequently the quality of their content is improving by leaps and bounds. It’s seamless for me, all this increased competition means that whatever I pick is going to be something I’ll really enjoy.
What does this mean for a content creator who used to rely on YouTube? What do they need to do in order to thrive as the digital and linear worlds converge? Well, YouTube isn’t going anywhere, so it still makes sense for me to create my short-form content. But if they want to compete with the three letter networks who’ve traditionally owned the television, they also need to create and curate content that caters to the lean back experience that this new ecosystem provides. That means creating full episodic content that is compelling enough to draw eyeballs away from the usual suspects who have historically dominated the living room. Does that require an investment? Absolutely! But if digital content creators do it well, they’ll find themselves competing for a sizeable, unique pool of advertising dollars that wouldn’t be available to them if they only focused on creating content for the YouTube ecosystem. If you want to reap the benefits, you have to make the investment.
This article was written by Dustin Perlberg, director of platform services at SpotX.