Content creation, distribution and consumption habits and practices are constantly shifting – and while the amount of content grows, trends can be difficult to monitor and keep up with. In the TV and video landscape where cord-cutting is the buzzword of the moment and streaming is disrupting the traditional broadcast distribution model, video content has become more creative. Content creators are braver, bolder and challenging tried-and-tested storytelling methods audiences know and love. This period of change has encouraged the rapid development of immersive storytelling which, in turn, has influenced audience expectations, standards of quality, and technical innovations in an already dynamic, ever-evolving media environment.

Article by Niall Hunt – digital content lead, TV Connect

Aware of the impact next-generation storytelling methods such as VR and AR are having on the video distribution industry, Media + Network’s conducted the State of the Industry survey ahead of its event, TV Connect 2018, to identify and explore the trends, innovators, and challenges shaping the industry’s future. With responses people working across multiple industry sectors, ranging from content creation, broadcast, over-the-top (OTT), advertisers, and mobile, the survey sought to discover their current approach and attitude toward immersive technologies. With the survey in 2017 concluding a general uneasiness toward VR’s presence in the video distribution industry, this year’s survey results demonstrated an improved openness for immersive technologies – but will they ever reach full acceptance?  

The Netflix effect

Digital disruptors, Netflix, Amazon and YouTube Red, were viewed by survey participants to be key innovators in the content distribution space. Leading the game is Netflix with survey participants naming the streaming platform as the top innovator in content creation. It’s no secret that Netflix has embraced the boom in original content and pioneered it to some extent. Determining viewers’ expectations and taste for high quality writing, talent and production for the last decade, Netflix has laid out a roadmap for content creators. By investing more in the quality of content, Netflix has grown its subscriber base to its advantage.

Outside of Netflix’s empire, content creators are battling for recognition in a content-heavy media environment. In an industry led by media giants, armed with the budgets and talent, content creators must seek alternative storytelling methods which are unique and engaging in order to get noticed.

Taking a Magic Leap

VR has given content creators an opportunity to make video exciting again. Beginning with the iconic VR headset, viewers are now not limited to hardware in order to become immersed in the story. 360-degree video on internet platforms like YouTube has made VR content more accessible than ever before. We’re also beginning to see Android and IOS support AR platforms, such as Google ARCore, to expand the mobile AR toolkit straight into our hands. It has put content creation in control of the viewer – blurring the distinction commonly drawn between the media and consumer.

Despite the common hurdle of grappling with next-generation technologies, this year’s survey concludes general support for VR and AR companies – implying a shifting attitude in favour of immersive technologies. In particular, Magic Leap has emerged as a top innovator in 2018’s survey. Thanks to Magic Leap’s rocketing popularity and reputation, it has largely motivated the development of next-generation storytelling in mainstream media. Operating at the crossroads between innovation and technology, the support for Magic Leap demonstrates a giant step toward hybrid distribution models and technology, and an industry-wide open attitude toward immersive content creation and delivery.

A future of immersive storytelling?

Acquisitions including Facebook and Oculus VR demonstrates a new direction for media companies. Taking a leap of faith into VR investment, media companies are recognising the importance of evolving with immersive technologies in order to retain existing audiences and draw in new. With VR gradually making waves in the content creation space, we’ve started to see more and more companies take note.

As immersive technologies grow in popularity, pressure on content creators to adapt, or indeed employ talent equipped with a skillset in VR and AR technologies, will only increase. Content creators should not fear VR and AR but instead embrace it and get inspired.

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