• Game of Screens: Will TV Remain King?

    Which episode of Game of Thrones are you on?

    It's a question that would have barely made sense just a couple years ago. But now, as we take advantage of so many new devices and services for consuming TV, the very way we think about television is changing.

    Game of Thrones is one of the most talked about shows on TV at the moment, and some of us are enjoying the beginning of the highly anticipated season 5. (Some of us are still trying to catch up on season 4.) The premiere alone drew 7.9 million viewers, making this the most watched episode of HBO's most watched series ever. But the story isn't just about how many people are watching; it's also about how they are watching. Game of Thrones gives us a great snapshot of the change in the way people watch TV.

    Two recent product launches are of particular note. Dish's Sling TV, an over-the-top (OTT) pay-TV service, recently began offering both linear and on-demand HBO content in the US. This alternative method streams live TV shows over the internet - it's aimed squarely at the "cord-nevers." While other OTT methods have been proven for a little while now, Sling TV is one of the first ways to (legitimately) watch live TV without paying for a TV-specific subscription. Users can watch shows on connected TVs, laptops, tablets, phones, and more.

    HBO Now, HBO's new unbundled stand-alone service, hints at a future of unbundled TV subscriptions that some have been hoping for (or dreading) for years. Now, viewers can travel to Westeros when they want, on whatever device they want, without necessarily ever needing a TV subscription.

    This offers a good opportunity to take stock of the situation. It's true, the vast majority of television is still watched on traditional, linear TV. But there are more hints than ever that the tide is about to turn. According to Nielsen, over 40% of U.S. TV homes have SVOD access. Park Associates recently reported that nearly 60% of US customers have an OTT subscription with at least one provider. While US usage will continue to grow, Digital TV Research projects even greater growth in the global market, especially in Asia. By 2020, they predict almost half the world's TV homes will be receiving OTT services.

    Meanwhile, Hub Research reports that viewers now timeshift more TV than they watch live.  Increasingly, viewers are looking to consume their television content where, when, and how they want, with shifted times and across multiple devices. Content providers are racing to help provide the services consumers demand.

    This will of course have an impact on how brands advertise on TV. It's not surprising that SVOD and high-speed internet penetration have a strong correlation with income, with the median income of SVOD households almost 50% higher than all TV households and 29% of SVOD household incomes topping $100k. In addition, SVOD households skew younger and are more likely to contain children. (As always seems to be the case, it's not uncommon for children to be more tech-fluent than adults, as any parent with a toddler and a tablet can attest.)

    It turns out it's not just about where, when, and how - it's also about who. Advertisers are willing to pay more to reach their target audiences, and they'll follow where those audiences go. The Diffusion Group projects that by 2020, almost half of TV ad revenue will come from OTT. The future demands that content providers find new, robust ways of monetizing their video content to keep up with the shifting viewing trends.

    These shifts are not surprising - we've seen this coming for years now. But momentum is starting to pick up. We're increasingly moving towards people having completely customized TV experiences. It's not the death of TV that some have predicted; merely its transformation. TV has been one of the most successful (and profitable) mediums in existence. As our consumption patterns change, we'll also need to change the way we deliver and monetize TV so it continues to be the incredibly powerful medium we know it can be.

    Ron Yekutiel is Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Kaltura, the most widely used online video platform in the market, powering over 150,000 publishers and service providers globally.