What we used to refer to as “TV” is changing drastically and very quickly too with the advent of the Internet and social media. But TV has always been evolving, just at a much slower pace in the past.
When I was a child growing up in the 1980s, all we had were the official channels of RTM1 and RTM2. There wasn’t really much of a choice back then. There was no cable or satellite TV and there certainly was no Internet. It was considered a big deal when TV3 came along in 1984!
It would take more than a decade before the next big thing came along, in the form of Astro, which launched in 1996. Suddenly, we were spoiled for choice with premium content. Lots of people signed on and in time Astro became almost indispensable.
It had a honeymoon period that lasted for nearly two decades. Well, HyppTV provided some nominal competition in 2012. It was really only in 2015 and 2016 when Iflix and Netflix came along, respectively, that Astro faced some serious competition.
These would all be what the older generation consider to be “TV options”. But if you ask the younger generation ― the so-called millennials ― you’d get a broader definition. For youngsters, any video-based content they can watch on any device of their choice ― television sets, laptops, tablets, phones ― would be considered as a form of “TV”.
And for this demographic, the main TV players may not be the Astros or the Netflixes of the world but content that can be found on social media platforms.
YouTube is largely known for its amateur videos which are viewable for free but contain ads. It now has a premium option, aptly called YouTube Premium, which is a paid subscription service.
It provides ad-free streaming of all the content that can be found on regular YouTube but also offers original content produced in collaboration with key creators. These would include shows like the Karate Kid-inspired Cobra Kai, dance drama Step Up: High Water, and an upcoming sci-fi thriller called Impulse.
With YouTube Premium gradually being rolled out globally, there will also be more original content from different countries including comedies, dramas, reality TV and action adventure shows from the UK, Germany, France, Mexico and more.
Hot on the heels of YouTube is Facebook Watch, a video streaming service which includes original, TV-like programmes. In competing against YouTube, Facebook has a few tricks up its sleeve. For one thing, as a social media platform, it has the ability and expertise to make its video service more social.
“Video has always been social, even before the Internet, when everybody was watching the same few channels,” says Fidji Simo, Facebook’s head of video. “Everyone was talking about their favourite shows around the water cooler.”
Facebook aims to offer a kind of real-time, virtual water cooler. The basic idea is to get people to watch shows together even though they may be physically apart from each other, possibly even in different states, countries or continents.
To facilitate that, Facebook has features like Watch Party, which lets people watch alongside their Facebook friends. There are also plans to have more game show-style programming and options to influence content in real-time. “We’re really not focused on passive consumption of video,” says Simo, adding: “We are focused on building communities and connections around videos.”
Another key differentiating factor is that unlike YouTube Premium, which costs money to subscribe, Facebook will offer its content for free. It will make its money from advertising, something it knows how to do really well.
Facebook has teamed up with various content providers to offer some unique programming including Conde Nast’s Virtual Dating series where blind dates happen in a virtual reality setting, Major League Baseball’s live games and National Geographic’s We’re Wired That Way which is about why we humans are the way we are.
It is also trying to harness social influencers who create original, niche content. It’s currently offering creators in selected countries the option to earn some serious revenue if they have the traffic.
To be eligible, videos must be at least three minutes long and produced by people with at least 10,000 followers. Clips have to attract 30,000 views that last at least one minute over a two-month period. Their creators can then earn 55 per cent of the advertising revenue, which is pretty good.
“We hope Watch will be home to a wide range of shows ― from reality to comedy to live sports,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post announcing the initiative. “Some will be made by professional creators, and others from regular people in our community.”
An example of a show made by a social influencer is the popular Nas Daily, which features a former YouTube star who has switched to Facebook. According to some news reports, Facebook is proactively courting other YouTube stars to jump ship. An interesting war for talent might erupt as a result.
Facebook Watch is gradually being rolled out across the world (for the past year it had just been available in the US). With over two billion people on Facebook, this new service could become a force to be reckoned with in the video streaming space. In time it could rival not only YouTube but potentially the likes of Netflix too.
When you think video, you don’t normally think of Twitter but this microblogging platform is dipping its toes into video streaming too. It hasn’t delved in original programming yet but seems instead to be focusing more on sports. Last year it struck several live-streaming partnerships with sports bodies in the US for American football, baseball, ice hockey, golf and so on. Music is another area that it seems to be interested in. It has struck deals to livestream MTV’s Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards.
Will it go beyond live-streaming? It’s hard to tell but one thing’s for sure, video in some form will be an important part of Twitter. That’s probably true for any social media platform because the demand for video content is there from its users.
Another social media platform that was not previously heavily associated with video is taking a step towards that direction. Instagram is mainly for photographs although it had the option for people to post one-minute videos.
Now, with the launch of its new service IGTV (or Instagram TV), it’s possible to offer long-form video content for up to an hour. IGTV has its own standalone app but you can also watch IGTV directly from your Instagram app. Although there’s definitely the option for it to go into original programming from various professional content creators, IGTV seems to be aimed more at social influencers at the moment. The channels on IGTV, for example, are the creators whom you follow. When you follow a particular creator, their IGTV channel will show up for you to watch.