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In 2017, the Online Video Landscape Is Changing at a Rapid Rate

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Whoever it was who first said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” clearly had no idea what life would be like in 2017. It’s hard to imagine a year in which there’s been more shifts, more upheavals, and more changes to not just the surfaces of our lives, but to some of the core underlying principles that inform the world we live in—and how we live in it.

I realize that’s all relative, and the seismic shifts we’ve seen in the last year still might pale in comparison to, say, 1917 or 1929 or 1941. But things aren’t the same as they were a year ago, and that’s as true of the online video industry as it is of the world at large.

Just look at our annual Streaming Media 100 list, our yearly effort to recognize the most important, influential, and innovative companies in the online video space. This year’s list includes 22 new entrants, the most new entrants we’ve ever chosen. While we still focus on companies that are advancing the technologies that steer the streaming industry (hence no recognition for content creators), the particulars of the technology have changed so significantly that we had no choice but to acknowledge the importance of things like app development, quality of service, and quality of experience—areas that weren’t even a part of our first Streaming Media 100 list in 2011. (And of course, that meant that 22 companies who were on last year’s list didn’t make the cut this year. That doesn’t mean those companies are no longer healthy and vital, just that they’re no longer quite in the rarified air occupied by the top 100.)

Or look at the feature articles in this issue. Jan Ozer writes on the importance of Encrypted Media Extensions, Tim Siglin addresses the Interoperable Master Format, and Mark Alamares explores the virtual reality/360° live-streaming workflow—again, all topics that were either literally unheard of or at least only theoretical when we started StreamingMedia.com 20 years ago.

Of course, even sought-after changes have their downsides, as Troy Dreier pointedly explores in this month’s installment of The Industry, in which he skewers those who complain that the explosion in OTT services and emergence of the skinny bundle has given them “too much choice.” As someone who just recently was able to watch the NFL opener between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks on Hulu’s live TV service when my over-the-air antenna lost the signal, I can testify that there’s never any such thing as too much choice.

Admittedly, it’s usually the other way around—over-the-top (OTT) delivery fails while other tried-and-true methods succeed. Just ask anyone who tried to watch the Mayweather/McGregor fight via the UFC’s streaming service in August. Still, perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen in the past year is the vast improvement in both the content and the quality of OTT services. Those services may never completely displace broadcast and cable, but they’ve now evolved to the point where consumers can “cut the cord” without feeling like they’re sacrificing anything truly crucial.

Then again, losing out on a few live TV channels or missing out on a sporting event are minor when you look at them in the bigger picture of all the other changes that have rocked our world so far in 2017. Still, while it’s always important to keep in perspective online video’s place in the grand scheme of things, it’s undeniably thrilling to be part of an industry where so much is changing, and almost all of it is for the better.

[This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes."]

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