Demography is Why OTT Video Wins, in the End
The way younger users consume entertainment video tells you most of what you need to know about the inevitability of over the top, streamed video that competes directly with linear video subscriptions, even if, in an interim period, it might well turn out that linear video subscription providers emerge as key purveyors of such services.
In what linear video service providers might consider an ideal scenario, consumers would be able to stream only the shows and programs they want to watch, on demand, if they also purchase a linear video service that accompanies the over the top access, even if they do not want to watch linear video, or possibly even do not own televisions.
That is the direction major linear video suppliers already are headed, at least for the major television networks, essentially adding “on the go” access to some of the channels and content subscribers already pay for as part of their linear video subscriptions.
How successful such approaches might be in a future market is not so clear, but, in principle, many consumers might accept new packages supporting both on demand streamed access as well as linear TV access, if the retail pricing questions can be addressed.
In other words, many users will refuse to pay $100 or more for linear access, only to get streamed access as part of the package. Whether they might be willing to pay lower amounts, for smaller channel packages, plus streamed access, is not yet clear.
Of course, it never is easy to convince consumers they have to pay one product they don’t want, to get access to another product they do want. Requirements to buy fixed voice service in order to get high speed access provide one recent example of that sort of retail packaging.
Likewise, video service providers typically require consumers to buy basic cable first, in order to buy a premium channel such as HBO.
Movie services already are well down the path of mass adoption, by way of contrast, as consumers have grown accustomed first to renting videocassette tapes, then DVDs, and now streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime and other content.
Perhaps 45 percent to 50 percent of U.S. broadband households now use paid over-the-top (OTT) video services, either subscription or transactional, according to Parks Associates. That is up slightly over about a year’s time.
Including “free” sources such as YouTube, perhaps 70 percent of Internet users watch at least some over the top video.
Parks Associates also notes that 37 percent of consumers 18 to 24 view online video is their most important video source.
More than 40 percent of U.S. broadband households selected online video as one of the top three important sources of video, topping rental DVDs at 25 percent and 13 percent who said owned Blu-ray discs were among the top three sources.
The key observation is the huge difference in video entertainment preferences between the oldest and the youngest age cohorts, with roughly linear correlations in demand across all age cohorts, namely that the older the user, the less reliance is placed on over the top, streamed sources.
The younger the user, the more reliance is placed on streamed video entertainment. For users 34 or younger, online sources are at least as important as linear video, and among those younger than 24, the most-used delivery mode.
Should those behaviors persist as younger consumers grow older, linear video demand will drop, and content now delivered using linear retail formats will have to shift.
But there is one important observation about the timing of such a change. Though one might argue the transition will be about as linear as the consumption graph indicates, this almost certainly will not be the case.
When the disruption happens, and linear content is made available on a streamed basis, behavior will shift rapidly, in quantum fashion, not linearly. The reason for the prediction is simple: all other popular mass market services have shown a quantum, not linear adoption pattern.
Demography is destiny, one often hears, as a quip. But it is a quip with solid rooting. As Liberty Media CEO John Malone once quipped, in response to an analyst’s question about take rates for cable TV, specifically the fact that some consumers had high resistance to buying the product, Malone quipped that this was true, but “those people are dying.”
For it is a simple fact that generations of people eventually die, and are replaced by successive generations of people. So when researchers see significant generational demand for some products, the habits of the younger age cohorts are strategic, as they represent the future consumption patterns of virtually all age cohorts.