10 Media Predictions for 2023
“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.”
An evocative simile from management guru Peter Drucker, which I am going to borrow as a disclaimer for my 10 media predictions for 2023.
Before diving in, however, how on the money were my predictions for 2022? I’m going to give myself 8 out of 10 (talkTV hasn’t outperformed GB News and NFTs, Web 3 & the Metaverse descended more quickly into the trough of disillusionment than I’d anticipated).
So, without further ado, here are my 10 media predictions for 2023:
1.) Content spend slows but doesn’t decline
I predicted content spend would continue to climb in 2022. It did and and, despite the global economic situation, 2023 looks set to be as big, if not bigger, thanks to a combination of production lag and inflation. Whilst Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are reducing their content spend and Netflix are holding theirs steady at $17m, Amazon and Apple don’t appear to be taking their foot off the accelerator and may see 2023 as an opportunity to gain ground on the more established players. There’s also sports rights to factor in, with Google recently beating Apple and Amazon to the NFL Sunday Ticket, for a cool $14bn ($2bn pa for 7 years). The NBA is also reportedly poised to sell a billion-dollar package of streaming-only games under its next media rights package.
2.) A period of consolidation in the streaming sector
After a period of proliferation in streaming services, the pendulum is set to swing towards consolidation. This will be partly a result of smaller streaming players accepting they can’t afford to go it alone and that their catalogues will have to be expressed as channels on bigger streaming services and partly a result of companies with multiple streaming services deciding to merge them. Warner Bros Discovery has already announced they’re going to merge HBO Max and Discovery+ and Disney may decide to merge Hulu and/or ESPN+ with Disney+ (although they would need to buy out Comcast on Hulu).
3.) A good year for unscripted, event TV and returning formats
As content budget belts are tightened, we’re likely to see a reduction in scripted content and more bets placed on cheaper, unscripted series. There’s a slew of format resurrections coming down the track (Big Brother, Gladiators, Survivor). Tougher economic times is also likely to prove fertile ground for event TV, where you feel compelled to watch live, or soon after, to be part of the water cooler conversation and avoid spoilers. The BBC’s exquisite execution of The Traitors, based on a Dutch format and stripped across 4 weeks on BBC One in the run up to Christmas, was a great example of this. The delayed (thanks Covid) return of Race Across The World for a third series is likely to be another.
4.) More video game and TV/film IP cross-pollination
One way of trying to increase your content hit rate in tough economic times is by leveraging established IP (fun fact: all ten of 2022’s highest grossing movies were sequels, spin-offs or reboots). 2023 looks set to be a rich year for video game adaptations, both to TV (HBO’s The Last of Us, Sony’s Twisted Metal, Amazon’s Fallout) and film (Borderlands, Gran Turismo, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Knuckles) and there’s no shortage of IP moving in the other direction (Vikings: Valhalla, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Hogwarts Legacy, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Star Trek: Resurgence, RoboCop: Rogue City). Expect more of this, especially from Netflix as it doubles down on its push into gaming.
5.) Apple TV+ will introduce an ad-supported tier
Apple has recently put up the cost of TV+ from from £4.99 to £6.99, leaving scope for the introduction of an ad-supported tier at £4.99 or cheaper. Once Apple was a hardware company, then it became a services company, now it’s an ad-company too. After kneecapping advertising for iOS app developers with the release of iOS 14.5 in 2021, it ramped up its own ad-serving capabilities on the App Store in 2022. The Jobs-era Apple may have been too purist about user experience to introduce ads into its video service, but not the Cook-era Apple, which appears laser-focused on ensuring the profit line continues to trend upwards.
6.) TikTok’s growth will continue
Despite renewed calls for TikTok to be banned in the US, fuelled by the news that its parent company, Bytedance, has used the app to track journalists, its rapid growth looks set to continue in 2023. And it’s not just a question of reach - its share of screen time will continue to eat into other media, not least long-form TV (see earlier post). If TikTok does get banned in the US, YouTube is likely to be the main beneficiary, as many TikTok creators will turn to YouTube Shorts (as they have in India, which banned TikTok in 2020), especially now monetisation is imminent.
7.) AI will play a bigger role in media production processes
The public release of deep learning, text-to-image model Stable Diffusion in August and of large language model chatbot ChatGPT in November felt like major milestones in those outside of the field understanding the potential of AI in creative media. After a predictable round of Chicken Little reactions, forecasting imminent doom for countless professions, some more nuanced responses emerged (Benedict Evans and Gary Andrews are both worth a read), considering the implications of levels of accuracy in different domains and the lack of visibility of/attribution to the inputs being drawn upon. Like industrialisation, there’s no doubt the widespread application of AI is going to have profound implications on many aspects of our lives and work and like industrialisation, there’s really no point trying to put the genie back in the bottle. As per my post following the release of Stable Diffusion, I believe the new generation of learning models will become another (admittedly very powerful) tool in the toolbox of content creators, used for inspiration, for inclusion in wider pieces and at times, to standalone. Instead of trying to put the genie back in the bottle, the focus should be on working out what guardrails need to be in place and on fostering a new level of scepticism when assessing the provenance and authenticity of digital media.
8.) Elon Musk’s Twitter will continue limping along
Unlike a lot of people, I’m not expecting Twitter to suddenly implode. I think it’s much more likely to continue to lose money and become increasingly toxic. Regardless of whether he finds someone mug enough to take on the role of CEO, Musk will continue to be hands on with Twitter and personally use the platform to do almost anything to get attention. Talking of getting attention, I suspect Donald Trump will tweet again, if not before, then during the presidential primaries. On his own social-media platform, Truth Social, Trump has 4.6 million followers (vs 88m on Twitter) - he’s going to want a bigger megaphone.
9.) Apple’s mixed-reality headset will give Zuckerberg a migraine
Apple will finally unveil it’s mixed-reality (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality) headset in 2023. It will be expensive but it will showcase some compelling use cases outside of gaming and pave the way for Apple’s AR glasses in a future year, which will be more affordable and more game-changing. Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook isn’t betting the farm on XR and will underpromise and overdeliver.
10.) Jeff Bezos will return as CEO at Amazon
A slightly more wildcard prediction. However, like Bob Chapek at Disney, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has been dealt a tough hand since taking the reins last year. And like Bob Iger at Disney, Bezos transferred to the role of Executive Chairman after vacating the CEO chair, rather than exiting completely. Amazon has since lost a trillion dollars in market valuation and announced it will be shedding 18,000 jobs. Like any self-respecting tech CEO with a God complex, I’m not sure Bezos will be able to resist.
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