The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a challenge for many companies to stay afloat. How has it affected the media and communications industry?
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the industry on many levels: some business models have failed and others are thriving. As a result of the pandemic, lots of media companies have lost a significant part of their revenues generated from ads or sponsorships. Also, sports and live events broadcasters have been impacted heavily and needed to re-think, sometimes even pivot, their core business activities – for example, focusing more on e-Sports instead of usual sports events.
On the other hand, we are observing trends such as increased use of connectivity services and private 5G, and a huge demand for streaming services and OTT applications. An overall outlook for the TMC industry seems pretty good and we are expecting a dynamic growth in 2021. Also, the recent announcement regarding the COVID-19 vaccine has already impacted the stock markets in a positive way, which will allow many companies to unfreeze their investment activities.
What are the main challenges for media companies posed by the current situation?
The current situation has forced many companies to explore how to survive while ensuring business continuity. As we all know, ad sales have gone down - which is a natural thing in the case of a recession or market slowdown. We’ve also noticed a significant increase in the consumption of online content, so for many traditional TMC companies the challenge lies in the need to look for new revenue streams and enforce digital transformation.
It’s fair to assume that all companies – both large and small – will want to think a few steps ahead in order to prevent negative business impacts in the future. And the direction for that is clear: embracing digital, virtual, and augmented reality space.
The other important thing is to notice new opportunities. For example, during the peak of the pandemic, as people sought new learning experiences and sources of entertainment, notable synergies occurred cross-sector – learning synergized with entertainment through innovative platforms and apps.
How is the behavior of a media consumer evolving right now?
First, everyone can finally agree that remote work works. We’ve just experienced a world-wide proof of concept in this regard. The downside is that people are spending more time at work than before (as many scientific studies indicate). This means that time is even more precious, and modern consumers set the bar high. They expect access to the right content and services on demand - anytime, anyplace – without spending too much time looking for it. Content providers need to leverage the AI tech more to bring their recommendation systems to the next level. We’ve all experienced how difficult it is sometimes to choose what to watch, especially if you have access to multiple streaming services!
We also see the increase in popularity of AVOD services, such as PlutoTV owned by ViacomCBS, an internet TV platform that generates revenue from video ads displayed during programming. It’s a profitable direction, but we should also take into account that typical ads are usually way too long. I think they will need to evolve into different, less invasive forms to simply save consumers’ time.
While the consumption of digital media is increasing, cinemas, museums and event centers remain empty or closed for the time being. Can you see any hope for the culture and event sectors in digital solutions?
Yes, we already have multiple examples of events moving to digital space and I think this trend will additionally continue to foster the adoption of new techs like AR/VR/XR headsets. I myself have experienced the change: I’ve attended multiple virtual events this year, simply because traditional trade fairs and exhibitions were canceled.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexibility. And the trend is on the rise.
Media and telecom companies are increasingly dependent on technology. In your opinion, what investments are the most necessary in order to thrive in the new normal?
Data continues to grow exponentially. And data, without technology to analyze it, is simply useless. So, I’d say that leveraging cloud technologies is a must, but AI and machine learning might be equally important. Companies should mine customer data to monitor for shifts in demand, gaining valuable insights and uncovering emerging customer needs.
Another important thing is designing new customer experiences for the home environment – this could really give companies a competitive advantage. The innovative, human-centered approach must be accompanied by understanding that the TMC industry is much more multidimensional today. It’s not just about presenting content to users – it’s about including other layers: physical-digital integration, interactive learning, gamification, and more.
The cloud solutions sector has become especially important and competitive lately. How do the media make the most of the Cloud?
For companies that haven’t done it yet, moving the digital infrastructure to the cloud is essential. It allows for a seamless, easily managed “end-to-end” workflow and offers the possibility to load and query the same data set simultaneously, which usually leads to a much faster time to market for customized media solutions.
Cloud processing will continue to be used extensively for large-scale data analytics. Machine learning products and services are already available in the cloud and the media companies should leverage this valuable technology mega-trend.
With the advent of 5G, we can also expect that cloud-connected AR and VR implementations will increase. In my opinion, now is the time for TMC organizations to focus on building innovative cloud-connected AR and VR solutions.
What should businesses pay special attention to as they plan for digitally enabled growth?
If there’s one thing that can help keep a company grow when employees are not physically present in the office, it’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and its smarter relative, Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Even after the coronavirus passes, we’ll see more and more TMC companies looking to offload as many tasks as they can to ensure that business runs smoothly when the next global disruption occurs.