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2021: The Full Monty

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When the ball dropped and fireworks went off at midnight, did it feel like a dry eraser trying to wipe Sharpie notes off of a whiteboard? When I sat down at my desk in my home office in my workshop on Jan. 4, it really did for me. I quickly realized that nothing much really has changed, or likely will for most of 2021. For our industry and the people working in it, that's not necessarily a bad thing—in fact just the opposite. I followed the advice of Eric Idle's snappy tune, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and I can't think of a better song to start 2021.

To kick off 2021, we ran our annual reader survey (see chart). To me, this was the most relevant datapoint for considering my 2021 predictions:

Predictions

Device Usage

It stands to reason that with less travel, mobile video consumption will decrease, while TV streaming will take the forefront. Smart TVs are certainly the hot commodity, especially when 75" screens are already less than $1,000—perfect for the kitchen and bathroom.

Content vs Churn

Not to quip, but I literally feel like I've finished Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Crave (yes, I'm Canadian). Of course, Disney+ should easily lead in growth with international market subscriptions, but locally, they too could run into problems unless they make good on all that Star Wars content they are promising. There are only so many times you can watch The Lion King before feeling the need to day drink. Premium services are going to struggle to retain viewers without fresh, compelling content—it's just not feeling so "premium" anymore. And since not all people on set seem to be following Tom Cruise's advice on social distancing, premium content production is still not fully back to where it used to be.

I suggest there will be serious growth in what I like to call "Premium Niche" content. Who needs a big-budget studio and production team if you are doing video game walkthroughs or tying flies for fishing? My son is 15 and, pandemic or not, would much prefer to watch YouTube gamers and Twitch than The Mandalorian or The Umbrella Academy. The bottom line is there are easy pickings for good content that doesn't require big budgets. I'm not suggesting more cat videos—I'm suggesting good, well-organized cat video channels. Who knows, this may be the year that Roku gets acquired for just that reason. In January 2020, Roku's stock was hovering at $130 a share, and by January 2021, it was at $340. Apple, are you listening? Because you really need something. Apple TV+ is a bust (IMO). What if all the live church sermons were teaming up with you and sharing the cut of the channel subscription? It's just another store for all that content. That's what Apple TV+ should be all about.

Streaming Gear Explosion

2021 is the year of capture automation, especially pan tilt zoom (PTZ). We'll see an absolute explosion of gear at affordable pricing for remote production. PTZ gear has traditionally been expensive and worth it for concerts and faith markets with well-funded venues. But online meetings, video security, and all aspects of live streaming are unstoppable forces when it comes to demand and innovation for capture. Features like AI and auto follow focus are going to see really cool advances. I suppose we'll all have to go back to wearing pants with a video camera following us around as we pace our rooms during those Zoom calls, because you know what? That's not going away anytime soon.

Thrive on streamers, thrive on. This is your year to own it all, so give a whistle.

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