After music and TV, where will the streaming revolution take us next?

TV 19

(Franck V., Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Farid Ben Amor


The Fourth Industrial Revolution has delivered a series of disruptions that will remake the way we consume media forever – and when it comes to distributing media, the most important digital transformation has been streaming technology, or the delivery of content over-the-top (OTT) of the internet.

Streaming makes it easier for us to receive the entertainment we want, where and when we want it, and to interact with it – all of which older broadcasting technologies have trouble supporting. It also brings us closer to one another and helps us feel more connected to communities of others who share our niche interests, no matter where we are in the world – provided they have a broadband connection.

Streaming is a truly revolutionary breakthrough, both in business and in society generally. In that light, it is worth taking a look at where it has taken us and where it will take us next – from music to movies and television, then video games, and – further on the horizon – towards virtual and augmented reality.

The streaming wars so far

The first streaming revolution began with music. For better or for worse, digital transformation came for the music industry first – and enabled listeners to circumvent piracy laws almost immediately, although not completely.

 This century has witnessed a revolution in the way we consumeo music

This century has witnessed a revolution in the way we consume music – and there’s more to come
Image: IFPI / The Atlas

But weaning people off pirating songs from Napster and Kazaa took more than just charging them for the same experience. After all, it quickly grew tiresome downloading each individual song before it could be enjoyed. Instead, streaming enabled what appears to be a permanent shift away from physical music ownership. Platforms like Spotify and YouTube offer nearly any song ever recorded instantly, perfect for catering to fleeting whims and moods. Consumers are clearly shifting, and businesses are making peace with that move by charging for continual music rental via subscriptions or licensing for a share of advertising revenue instead of collecting one-off ownership fees. And as music industry revenues have started to creep up again, the first streaming revolution is settling into a lasting ceasefire.

Movies and television are currently in the throes of the second streaming revolution. Up until now, larger file sizes and patchy broadband reliability have stymied any mass migration from traditional broadcast services towards streaming platforms. Instead, online video growth has been much more linear. Nonetheless, the benefits of streaming video are now clear to every major studio, each of which has launched – or is about to launch – their very own OTT services.

The benefits of this new model are being felt not just by consumers, but by the television industry, too. Like the music industry, TV companies can reduce their reliance on charging us directly, and instead charge their advertisers for more efficient placement, deduct their fees from our latest purchase on Amazon, or monetize other forms of sponsorship. Now that content creators and distributors are beginning to embrace the newfound revenue opportunities offered by streaming, we will soon see even more ways to connect with our favorite movies and TV shows at lower costs.

The first two streaming wars have not come without casualties. Ensuing legal battles and unsettled political questions remain. Now that music and video have passed the tipping point – where the majority of these media are now consumed digitally – many have called into question what obligations these companies – the new arbiters of media access – should have. After all, it was policy provisions like ‘safe harbour’ that allowed major internet platforms to perhaps unduly monetize content that they didn’t own or license, which the new European copyright directive seeks to address.

Further, new privacy laws in California and Europe also question the proper value for the exchange of our data, and calls are increasing to expand our human right to receive media, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since music and video streaming account for the majority of internet traffic, many people are now looking to apply the policy framework for radio and traditional television broadcasting – which has been developed over decades – to mature internet platforms, while others are seeking to break them up. Whatever the political approach, it’s clear the second streaming revolution will bring about more policy changes than the first.

 This year saw the tipping point - when more of used the internet to watch videos than traditional TV viewing

This year saw the tipping point – when more of used the internet to watch videos than traditional TV viewing
Image: Zenith Research / The Atlas

What will go over-the-top next?

The third streaming revolution – video games – is about to get underway. In some ways it has been a massive streaming business for years, first with online multiplayer games and then with large audiences streaming live videos of gameplay. But the streaming of gameplay itself is coming. While there have been ongoing efforts to stream gameplay to any screen via the cloud, recent announcements by Microsoft, Sony, Google, and Electronic Arts demonstrate an industry-wide push to make streaming a real alternative to downloading games. And, much like television before it, partnerships between top game platforms such as Microsoft and Nintendo designed to enable users to access game subscription services within each other’s ecosystems (also known as ‘cross-play’) signal a vital precursor for the sustainability of game-streaming platforms. Think of it as like the time Netflix first offered popular movies from a wide array of movie studios on its streaming service thanks to its 2008 deal with Starz, or when studios opted to co-invest in Hulu and offer their content directly to a streaming service.

More generally, the similarities between the streaming revolutions in both games and video are becoming increasingly pertinent. While the popularity of video game content has long lived in the shadow of the larger audience sizes enojyed by television and movies, the increasing intensity of audience engagement with games through platforms like Twitch and titles like Fortnite has led some of the top sellers to generate more revenue than the top movies at the box office. Video games are now on course to catch up with video streaming as the highest usage of global internet traffic. This transition will likely be aided by increasing demand for esports combined with the launch of 5G mobile networks. These factors stand to make the coming games streaming revolution as economically significant as that of television.

Today the internet is showing us a lot more than just cat videos

Today the internet is showing us a lot more than just cat videos
Image: Sandvine 2018 Global Internet Phenomena Report

As for the next higher-bandwidth media applications, the stage is now set for virtual and augmented reality to exploit the accessibility of streaming and make real what was once science fiction. Just as successive media platforms have brought us closer to content – from radios, to television sets, mobile consoles, head-mounted displays and beyond – the intensity of our engagement has correspondingly increased.

Distributing content through streaming makes that process seamless – it increases the proliferation of content by making it easier to consume. There will certainly be other concerns around social and economic harm the way there have been for each prior iteration of disruption. It was once feared that addiction to the novel at its inception was one of the principal causes of hysteria. But these issues will either similarly be debunked or resolved and ultimately outweighed by the greater social impact of increasing connectedness, allowing us to overcome our respective physical surroundings and to build a more empathic world – all of which is to come when the fourth streaming revolution is upon us.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Venezuela: Parliament calls for urgent EU help for people fleeing the country

The impact of COVID-19 on the life of the elderly

Hurdles on creating effective vaccine campaigns against COVID-19

The role of junior entrepreneurs as a bridge between academia and business world

Can privatisation be the panacea for the lack of growth in Europe?

Peacekeeping chief highlights challenges facing UN Police

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

European Youth Forum welcomes steps towards raising awareness of youth rights by EU ministers

European Semester Spring Package: Paving the way for a strong and sustainable recovery

Jakarta is one of the world’s fastest disappearing cities

The Commission accused of tolerating corruption and fraud in taxation

Parliament urges EU to take drastic action to reduce marine litter

Feeding a city from the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse

Two EU Commissioners fire at will against the US

Coronavirus response: over €1 billion from EU Cohesion policy to support Spain’s recovery

Spending on health increase faster than rest of global economy, UN health agency says

Europe must regain its place as world leader in digital technology

3 ways the coronavirus is affecting animals around the world

EU guidance on the handling of visa applications from residents of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions

One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds: new UN health agency report

Palm Oil: With Malaysia cracking down on production, what’s the alternative?

Here’s what COVID-19 teaches us about ‘social learning’ and the environment

‘Ground Zero’: Report from the former Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan

To save biodiversity, MEPs call for binding targets at global and EU level

Eurozone: The crisis hit countries are again subsidizing the German and French banks

Germany to help China in trade disputes with Brussels

The three US financial war fleets

These 3 countries are global offshore wind powerhouses

EU and Germany join efforts to support the African Union’s response to coronavirus

Five ways individuals can help save the oceans

Eurozone banks to separate risky activities: Can they stay afloat?

Microsoft says the internet is getting a little nicer

Entrepreneurship and strategic planning: the enabler

5 of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases

How 5G can connect the affordable homes of the future

‘No-deal’ Brexit: European Commission takes stock of preparations ahead of the June European Council (Article 50)

Afghanistan: UN ‘unequivocally condemns’ attack in Kabul

Denmark is experimenting with ‘culture vitamins’ to lift people out of depression

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

The EU lets the bankers go on rigging the benchmarks

Snowden is the “EU nomination” for this year’s Oscars

EU helps tackle air pollution in Kosovo with €76.4 million

How will the NATO-EU competition evolve in the post Brexit era?

Outbreaks and pandemics periods can be stressful, but how can we turn it to a positive life-changing experience?

Coronavirus Global Response: WHO and Commission launch the Facilitation Council to strengthen global collaboration

Teen activist Greta Thunberg arrives in New York by boat, putting ‘climate crisis’ in spotlight

A Europe that protects: EU customs seized over 31 million fake goods at EU borders in 2017

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is redefining the economy as we know it

How Sierra Leone is using 3D printing to become a model state

2018 Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Maria Ressa of the Philippines

5 things we can do in 2021 that will protect the ocean and change lives

MEPs call for additional EU sanctions against Russia over Navalny’s imprisonment

ECB to people: Not responsible if you lose money on Bitcoin, your governments are

COVID-19 shows we need a broader definition of safe mobility

‘Green economy’ pioneer Pavan Sukhdev wins 2020 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement

Combat against devastating effects of tobacco can only be won ‘if the UN stands united’ – UN health official

ECB to play down IMF’s alarms for deflation danger in the EU

EU: All economic indicators in free fall

Palliative care: how understanding terminal pain and suffering guarantees the dignity of human rights

An open letter to Europe’s leaders

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s