10 media trends for 2022
Matt (whose Substack you should subscribe to if you’re interested in audio) asked me to share some thoughts on the year ahead in media on this week’s episode of The Media Podcast. There was only time to touch on a few areas, so here’s a slightly wider - but by no means exhaustive - view of media trends for 2022:
1.) Content spend will continue to climb
Global content spend from nine of the leading media and tech companies is set to exceed $140bn in 2022. Disney alone is planning to spend an eye-watering $33bn on content in 2022 - a $8bn increase on 2021. The spend on individual series also continues to climb - Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which is due to drop in September, has a budget of $465m (making the $100m Netflix reportedly spent on the first 2 seasons of House of Cards in 2013 seem positively frugal).
Like Premier League transfer fees, these figures are destined to keep going up due to the depth of pockets of the new band of mega media conglomerates (Comcast, Disney) and trillion dollar tech giants (Amazon, Apple), who can afford some very big loss leaders.
2.) SVOD churn will increase
After the glut of on-demand subscription services launching at the end of 2019 (Disney+, Apple TV+, BritBox) and Discovery+ last year, we’re unlikely to see any major new SVOD services launching in the UK in 2022 (HBO Max won’t arrive in the UK until 2025 due to HBO’s content licensing deal with Sky and the Discovery / Warner Media merger won’t have an impact on the consumer offer this year).
However, we will see more churn in subscriptions to existing services, as providers push up prices and viewers increasingly cancel and renew services based on major content releases; the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, on NOW being a prime example.
3.) Ad-supported streaming will grow
As many viewers reach the limit of how many video subscriptions they’re willing to fork out for each month, ad-supported streaming will continue to grow, with more players joining the likes of Pluto TV, Plex, Roku, Rakuten, Samsung TV Plus and Amazon’s IMDb TV in offering ad-supported streaming.
Presenting these streams as live channels taps into a mental modal in which viewers actively expect one programme after another to automatically play (vs an on-demand context where this still feels like an imposition of the part of the service provider), where they must make an active choice to stop watching (vs on-demand where the active choice is to start watching) and where the knowledge that others are watching the same show at the same time increases its appeal (a phenomenon very successfully leveraged by Wordle).
4.) Live streaming will grow, especially for sport
Amazon and Discovery are both investing heavily here, not only in terms of rights and production capabilities but also in terms of optimising the product experience. Meanwhile, DAZN is reportedly close to buying BT Sport, which would transform their offer in the UK.
England’s FIFA World Cup matches will set a new record for live viewing in BBC iPlayer, helped by the time difference which means a lot of matches will take place in the working day in the UK when people are less likely to be in front of a broadcast TV set.
5.) There will be another ‘surprise’ hit series (a la Tiger King in 2020 & Squid Game in 2021)
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and Disney’s Obi-wan Kenobi are expensive bankers from established storyworlds, but what’s going to punch way above its budget and get ushered into the ‘Must Watch’ category?
It wasn’t produced on a shoe-string (although neither was Squid Game), but my money’s on Shonda Rhimes’ Inventing Anna on Netflix, if it’s anything like as compelling as the BBC podcast based on the same true story.
6.) talkTV will outperform GB News and attempt a ‘360’ with Piers Morgan
The launch of talkTV this spring will outperform nearest neighbour GB News. More interesting will be the extent to which is succeeds in creating connections across the News Corp portfolio (talkRadio, The Sun, HarperCollins), with Piers Morgan being the big test case of what 15 years ago would have been called ‘360’ or ‘multiplatform’ commissioning…
7.) Google & Amazon will step up their fight for control of the TV UI
More TVs will ship with a Google or Amazon operating system as the battle for control of the TV discovery interface hots up. At CES a couple of weeks ago, Google claimed there are now 110 million active Android TV devices, 30 million of which have been added since last May. Google TV is the UI layer that can sit on top of Android TV, which most of the mid-tier TV manufacturers can see the sense in adopting (whilst top-tier manufacturers, such as Samsung, will continue to hold out).
Of course, it’s not just the tech giants who want control of the TV discovery UI. Established TV platforms such as Sky, Virgin and Freeview are all trying to cling onto control, although Sky Glass may face an uphill battle to get scale as viewers don’t currently associate the purchase of a new TV set with a subscription.
The relatively slow replacement cycle of TV sets (vs mobile phones) means it will take a good few years for this battle to play out.
8.) Google & Amazon will step up their fight for control of in-car entertainment
Another battleground for the tech giants which is set to heat up in 2022 is in-car. Google is working hard to incentivise car manufacturers to adopt its Android Automotive operating system, which (unlike the similarly named Android Auto) won’t rely on your smartphone for convectivity.
Amazon is likely to have another bite of the in-car cherry after the underwhelming Echo Auto. Meanwhile, Apple may finally make an announcement about its car plans in 2022, although we’re likely still a few years off seeing anything in market.
9.) Voice will move further down the hype curve
Following the leak of some sobering (but entirely predictable) Alexa usage data, Voice will continue to move further down the hype curve (through the Trough of Disillusionment into the Slope of Enlightenment), to be recognised as one modality that’s more effective than your hands for certain tasks (e.g. launching your favourite radio station, setting a kitchen timer, turning lights off and on) rather than the harbinger of a “post-GUI world” (as one ex-colleague attempted to position it).
10.) NFTs, Web 3 & the Metaverse will continue to climb the hype curve
Not as far along in their hype curve journey as Voice, NFTs, Web3 and ‘the metaverse’ will continue to generate more heat than light, as true believers continue to dig in on the transformative potential of decentralised blockchains, whilst skeptics continue to point out the high barrier to entry for mainstream users, the centralised enabling services and the uneven distribution of crypto wealth.
‘The metaverse’ will continue to suggest a singular, cohesive experience that doesn’t exist, whilst Roblox, Fortnite and similarly discrete virtual worlds continue to grow.