Digital Media and Television: 8 Trends of the Summer 2018
This article is presented as part of an editorial partnership between CMF Trends, the Canada Media Fund’s (CMF) strategic monitoring platform, and Méta-Media. ©  All rights reserved.
With the dog days coming to an end and the new season that awaits us, it's time for some of us to put ourselves in catch-up mode. However, for things to go smoothly, we prepared a summary of media topics that have fed our news feeds during the summer season. In brief, no single announcement has been a complete game changer, but trends are being confirmed or even accelerating.
1. SVOD services are in strong demand, new OTT packages are being created and the cord-cutting phenomenon is accelerating
In the United States, there were 132 million SVOD platform subscribers in 2017 and that total could reach 208 million by 2023.
Netflix’s original programming is up by 88% compared to 2017, and the platform is reported to be spending even more than it had announced, i.e., close to 12 billion for 2018. And it’s paying off. Netflix is humiliating HBO with its 112 nominations at the Emmy Awards! Netflix is currently considering bypassing both Apple and Google and is testing a new mode of payment in 33 countries. During the summer, the platform announced the creation of its first European production hub in Spain. Will Netflix become master of the media world or disappear?
Strangely (or not!), video packaged offerings are currently mutating into lighter and less costly OTT formats.
In the United States, the cord-cutting phenomenon is powerful and accelerating: it could even finish the year up by a third over 2017!
The competition waged by Disney, which officially purchased Fox for $71 billion, is particularly fierce against Netflix and Amazon Prime. Disney expects to have its own SVOD platform up and running by the end of 2019 to complete its ESPN+ and Hulu service offerings.
In France, CanalPlay, reported to have lost 75% of its subscribers to Netflix in the span of only two years, is throwing in the towel, but that has not discouraged Starzplay to launch its SVOD platform in France.
Also keep this in mind when it comes to the world of streaming: Amazon is accelerating the deployment of its pay TV service in Europe and is seeking to acquire the Landmark Theatres chain of movie theatres in the US. The giant also wants to transform Twitch into the new YouTube. In Great Britain, Netflix and Amazon have already passed pay TV in popularity.
2. Facebook is reported to have stated its intent of “leaving publishers to die”
According to The Australian newspaper, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, is reported to have stated during a meeting with the media that Mark Zuckerberg “doesn’t give a damn” about news publishers and that his company would leave them to die if they refused to cooperate with it:
“I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”
Facebook has defended itself by arguing that the phrase had been taken out of context. This incident contributed to comforting angry publishers who have observed for many months that their platform traffic is constantly decreasing. The New York Magazine has applauded that “SEO is Back.”
3. ...But that doesn’t prevent Facebook from multiplying news and sports deals before launching Facebook Watch worldwide
Facebook nevertheless announced in July the launch of several news shows, including some dailies, in partnership with media giants the likes of CNN, ABC and Fox News to feed its Watch video platform.
Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg’s platform has an ever-increasing appetite when it comes to sporting event broadcasting rights. Facebook shall distribute Spanish League matches free of charge in South-East Asia as well as the Champions League matches in Latin America. Eleven Sports is reaching multiple deals with Facebook in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Facebook Watch, designed to compete against YouTube in the feature-length segment, recently launched worldwide.
4. Fake news: platforms are cleaning their slates
Because of a loss of confidence or lassitude, many users have unsubscribed from certain platforms: there are fewer than 3 million daily Facebook users in Europe, fewer than 3 million on Snapchat and fewer than 1 million on Twitter. The time had come for them to polish their image.
Facebook is doing its best to moderate 2 billion accounts and has made interesting discoveries, including new widespread disinformation operations instigated in Iran and Russia. A total of 400 apps have been suspended since March following abusive data collection practises, including MyPersonality for having shared data on 4 million users. Facebook is now reported to assign a reliability indicator to its users.
Twitter is fighting fake accounts just as vigorously. By the beginning of July, 70 million accounts had already been suspended, and not always without consequence: celebrities are losing millions of followers…
YouTube claims that it wants to play its part in the fight against fake news and has invested $25 million in the cause. The platform wants to give priority to information from credible sources and uses YouTubers to educate the media.
However, the fight against fake news is far from simple. Facebook censures Nordpresse, so there is reason to ask where is the limit between parody and fake news.
5. Personal assistants are the giants’ new battleground
If we hear about personal assistants since Siri (2011) and Google Now (2012) were launched, a host of players are today trying to make a place for themselves in this promising market. In China, Baidu’s DuerOS assistant is already installed on 100 million devices.
This past summer, Amazon and Microsoft combined their Alexa and Cortana assistants, which is proof that competition in the technological sphere is fierce and that there will not be a place for everyone. Facebook unveiled a few tidbits concerning Aloha, its voice assistant project. Finally, Lenovo launched its first smart screen equipped with Google Assistant in the United States.
The connected speaker market should have registered sales of 100 million units by the end of the year.
6. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft will be launching a open-source data portability platform
Announced on July 20 in a blog post, the Data Transfer Project will enable users to retrieve, transfer and reuse their data from one platform to the next. This project is aimed at ensuring compliance with the GDPR and is reported to provide greater security than the procedure currently in place because the data will be encrypted and transferred without any intermediary.
7. In the meantime, in China…
Will the 21st century be dominated by China? In the tech world, this is henceforth a legitimate question.
For the very first time, Huawei sold more smartphones in Europe than Apple during the second quarter of 2018. Samsung remains number 1 but has seen its profits increase less quickly than expected.
However, the Chinese government’s tendency to use technology for the worst possible purposes is scary, even the more so seeing as the giants do not hesitate to collaborate together: it is reported that Alibaba’s voice recognition is used for censorship purposes and Google is preparing its return to the Chinese market with a watered-down version of the web as well as a news app.
8. Momo, the summer’s nightmarish challenge
One year after the “Blue Whale Challenge,”, a new “game” that is both morbid and worrisome has appeared on Whatsapp. “Momo” manipulates its victims by scaring the daylights out of them and daring them to do particularly dangerous things. If the victims do not comply, Momo utters death threats against them. On the forums, Momo is reported to have successfully obtained very personal information on its victims.
A 12-year teenage girl committed suicide. In Canada, no case of people whose safety was jeopardized by this challenge has been reported.