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The 10 Year View: What Will Online Video Look Like in 2026?

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Millennials use online video far differently than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. They have dozens of favorite YouTubers, cast their shows to the TV, and aren’t that interested in cable subscriptions. So what happens when they get older? The online video world is rapidly shaping itself to the tastes of today’s young people. What will it look like in 10 years’ time?

To get a glimpse, we asked five industry heavyweights to weigh in with their thoughts. We requested predictions that are specific and bold and gave the experts the freedom to go in any direction that interested them. Here’s what they said.

The Future of Content

We caught Joan Gillman speaking on a panel this fall and thought she’d be perfect to talk about how bundled content will evolve. As the chief operating officer for Time Warner Cable Media and the executive vice president for Time Warner Cable, she knows a few things about content packages. Here’s how she sees the future of online entertainment:

In the coming years, the penetration of all digital devices—from mobile phones to smart TVs and next-generation wireless or Wi-Fi home hubs—will blur the lines between what we call online video and what we define as TV. The landscape will change, and consumer behaviors have already changed. It will change even faster as the industry solves for piracy, ad blocking, and ad fraud.

Today, Millennial and younger generations consume shows and videos more than they consume channels. Do they really care where the video is found? They care that a friend recommended it or that it is trending and that it was easy to find and convenient to consume. They will always seek the most favorable commercial terms to manage their budget, but will not grow more fond of advertising-supported models unless the experience is improved. And, it can be. If piracy, ad blocking, and fraud are tackled and solved, expect the new business models to catch up with how consumers want to discover and consume video across distributors, aggregators, and networks. Video and digital technologies should provide all the various players, established or emerging, with the flexibility to adapt.

The winners will continue to crack the code on great storytelling, whether short-form or long-form, and the strategy will be informed by but not replaced by insights and artificial intelligence. They will have protected their assets from piracy. The winners will also have brands, a workplace, and commercial models that attract the best talent. Last but not least, the winners will be most connected with how consumers want to consume video and offer packages, personalization, and participation that set them apart.

The Future of Hardware

We love the content, but we also love the gear. Two of our contributors suggested how hardware will evolve in 10 years. First up is Matt Smith, now a vice president and principal media evangelist for Brightcove, on what to expect with phones, cars, and augmented reality devices:

Smartphones haven’t been around for a full decade, yet look at how far they’ve come in terms of their ability to shoot and render 4K video. If you told me that a device less than 1.5" in depth could be capable of capturing and playing back 4K video, I’d have happily agreed to give you a ride to the nearest medical facility. Yet it happened. Within 10 years, it’s reasonable to think that our communication devices will be paper-thin and capable of rendering video at resolutions beyond 8K, and we will use them to cast video experiences to larger screens in auditoriums, classrooms, and living rooms.

Despite our modern-day frustrations with drivers who use their smartphones while they drive, expect them (and their successors) to play a big role in our in-vehicle experiences within 10 years. I’m talking front seat, not in the back with the old school DVD player and screen. As Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto continue their march to automotive UX dominance, and vehicles move toward more self- or automated driving, we will need something to do when going from Point A to Point B. Our devices and their video experiences will play a key role.

Pokémon Go was just the beginning of augmented reality (AR). We will look back at it fondly, but also with a chuckle. Our devices within 10 years will be our portal to AR experiences that tie into the world around us, and as seen by the high resolution cameras on them, these will also help create virtual reality (VR) devices that don’t require the bulky goggles of today. We can expect a Google Glasses v5 (or more) within 10 years that ties the smart device with a visual plane (like glasses) and assembles the entire experience.

Jesse Hertzberg, CEO of Livestream, also talked about gadgets. He sees a strong future for slimmer smart glasses and AR.

In 10 years, every event across the globe will be available live online. These events will be broadcasted through high-quality productions and will include various ways for viewers to interact with events across the globe ... from anywhere.

Retina drawing glasses will be the fashion accessory of choice, embracing augmented reality (AR) as a standout development that will come along with the mass adoption of virtual reality (VR). However, the costs of producing ultra-high quality interactive video content will still be higher than expected. This will encourage a high volume of modest quality VR content. Over the next 10 years, we will see a major shift in the value that we put on ultra-premium high-end video content. But, it will take some time before live, AR, and VR video content is produced with adequate processing power.

AR will become a main selling point for all mobile devices (including wearables). The smartphone will no longer be our primary mobile interface. I expect to see more from Google, despite its Glass misstep. Microsoft HoloLens is a product that I will be watching as it evolves and works out its kinks. Beware, Snapchat!

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