“A whole new generation is growing up in a world where an entire series can be watched in one sitting. People don’t want to wait to see the next instalment, and the effect of this is spilling over to linear TV,” he adds.
Netflix indeed dominates the SVOD conversation, and will continue to do so as it doubles its original output this year – spending a cool US$5 billion on content. “For high-end dramas and documentaries” it’s Netflix out at the front, says Whizz Kid Entertainment CEO Malcolm Gerrie.
Ditto Sophie Ferron, president of Canada’s Media Ranch, who says Netflix has impressed with “its strategy of increasing the volume of critically acclaimed and consumer-oriented programming”.
The SVOD story is, however, becoming more complex as local and regional rivals come to the party. CraveTV, Shomi, Stan, Presto, Wuaki, Icflix, Watchever and a host of others now rank as competition to Netflix in the streaming world. “The global players are obviously doing well, but the local players like Stan in Australia are also doing well,” says TCB Media Rights CEO Paul Heaney.
“In Australia Stan made the most impact by commissioning two original scripted series – a drama, Wolf Creek and a comedy, No Activity – and announcing development of another: Enemies of State, which is an Essential Media production),” says Sydney-based Essential CEO Chris Hilton. “No other SVOD platform in Australia has announced any original programming.
“If I were to select one that’s made an impact, HBO is in its own league with regards to curation and consistent quality of content,” says Turner Broadcasting System EMEA president Giorgio Stock. “However, it’s not really one platform in particular, It is the proliferation of such a large amount of platforms that was a standout in 2015.
“This is positive for the whole industry: for the consumer with easier access to content; for the content providers with more outlets to market; for us broadcasters with options to go direct to consumers or to team up with providers with space for us to curate our content.”
Komixx Entertainment chief Andrew Cole-Bulgin says Amazon Prime Instant Video really came to the party last year. “It’s realised that having the sixth most popular website in the world with tens of millions of internet connected customers can pay when you invest in quality drama; just look at Transparent.”
“We’re investing heavily in making great content,” says Amazon Prime Instant Video’s acquisitions chief, Chris Bird. “This will allow the best shows to be made, and distributed across the globe. Disrupting the traditional broadcast model allows us to connect content makers with fans more directly, meaning we deliver better, more targeted content to our customers.
“Our pilots model is prime example of putting the power of what you want to see more of, squarely in the hands of those that care most about it: our customers.”
The SVOD content story is getting more nuanced by the day, with original films and now entertainment shows: the ex-Top Gear trio’s Amazon Studios show is one of the most-anticipated in any genre in 2016. Various executives polled for this feature point to the Top Gear capture as the moment of the year.
When it comes to drama production, programme makers are in no doubt an SVOD effect is occurring. “Netflix has changed the game, but it doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everybody else,” say Al Gough and Miles Millar, the pair behind buzzy AMC drama Into the Badlands.
In factual, Netflix is the leader, according to Simon Chinn, co-founder of Man on Wire prodco Lightbox. “Netflix continues its bold march into original programming with more great drama and feature docs, and increasingly some ambitious factual and documentary series commissions, which no other SVOD platform has thus far matched.”
Karim Ayari, CEO of Vivendi’s German SVOD service Watchever, says smart partnerships will be key to on-demand growth. “Despite all the excitement around SVOD services in 2015, non-linear television is still very much in its infancy,” he says.
“The industry needs to reconsider the whole value chain, from content design and production to distribution. Success will come from new forms of partnerships between rights holders and SVOD operators; together, new ways of curating and aggregating content should be explored.”
Meanwhile, Facebook hit eight billion daily views from 500 million users in 2015. “Facebook video growth continues off the chart,” says MoMedia CEO Lucas Bertrand.