Industry Voices—Ring: A streaming product hunt at CES 2020

Las Vegas
The Consumer Electronics Show is taking place Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas. (Pixabay)
Brian Ring Industry Voices

Put on your seatbelts, reader. Consider this your executive cheat sheet for navigating CES 2020 from the Ring Digital perspective. After all, TV -- by which I mean that huge electronic device in household living rooms -- is at the historical heart of the Consumer Electronics Show. And connecting them to the streaming internet (aka “Connected TV” or just #CTV) will, in my view, finally arrive at CES 2020.

Here’s my punch list of questions for which I’ll be looking for answers and hunting for new products. And I’m eager to report back in a couple of days! (DM me on Twitter for any scoops!)

  • Is #CTV the new #OTT? Free streaming TV is here. For the first time in TV’s history, you can reliably unbox a new TV, fire up the Wi-fi, and watch. No scanning, no video input, no wires, no cable box. Just hundreds of free channels of content, streaming 24 hours a day. We’re about to find out that linear TV isn’t dead. But, we can still screw this up! Content on these channels is raw, ad frequency is nuts, blank ad slates show up too often and interactivity is totally absent despite Twitch, Facebook, Twitter … need more?
  • Roku and, anyone? Bueller? The clear winner – for now – in the streaming TV revolution is Roku. I’ll get an update on the ad platform, find out how well their OEM strategy is working, and opine on whether anyone can take them down. Or, which media giant should buy them. (If I have time, I’ll try to give a similar peek to the Fire TV.)
  • Xumo, Comcast and smart TV. This is a big story breaking in slow motion. On December 26, reports broke about a rumored pending transaction where Comcast would buy Xumo, the company that powers more than 100 free streaming TV channels on LG TVs. That’d be a smart move. But it was elevated to ground-shaking status when Xumo announced two new TV partners, Panasonic and Sony. What a coup! I’m on the edge of my seat with this one. If this transaction closes for Comcast, it’ll be one of its shrewdest moves yet. And if it closes for a higher bidder, Xumo will be a huge exit and fuel more investment.
  • HBO Max and cloud DVR. AT&T has not done well in TV. Is the company flubbing HBO Max? For me it is. I’m an avid HBO fan, and the lack of cloud DVR on Amazon Channels, (or its lack of availability on YouTube TV, take your pick) is alienating me big-time. It is the height of crazy that my wife and I can only watch our weekly TV show at the exact specified time. Inevitably, we miss the start. Every week. TV UX is the future, and AT&T is living in the past.
  • Quibi and short form. Jason Kilar built Hulu. Tried “premium short form” with Vessel. Sold to Verizon, rolled into Go90 failure. Quibi is up next. Will it work? I’ll be asking around.
  • Esports and real sports. After studying Nielsen and regional sports network viewing data on baseball, I’ve begun to see that the ‘narrow-audience-but-very-high-consumption-volume’ dynamic of esports may not be as distinct from traditional sports as I might’ve previously thought. The big question for me is how well esports ages as fans get older. My guess is that the more that esports and real sports converge and cooperate, the better off they’ll both be.
  • Interactive TV and social livestreaming. Meerkat. Periscope. HQ Trivia. I’m following these buzzy areas with great interest. Twitch is the real deal, but how far and wide can these behaviors travel? Is it working for news? Traditional sports? Once again, 2020 could be a breakout year for interactive, chat-heavy, gamified and personalized TV.
  • Advanced TV advertising. The big win Google had with targeted ads was opening up the market to a much broader set of advertisers. Targeted TV ads have a greater promise for smaller, nimbler advertisers. But not if making the ads and placing the creative is beyond their reach. Today, much targeted ad inventory perishes unsold. What are the obstacles that remain? Market actors pursuing monopolistic strategies. Market fragmentation with no convergence in sight. A lack of agreed upon cross-platform viewer metrics. So, these are some areas I’ll pay attention to.

I’ll be back in a few days with my report. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter for live CES updates, pictures, videos & TV-related snark. Or check out my latest research report: Unbundling TV: What Fate RSNs? Safe travels!

Brian Ring has two decades of front-lines experience in the video & TV technology market. As a writer, researcher and analyst, he has contributed to the ongoing discussion about television’s evolution from free to pay, from OTA to OTT, and from the big screen to all screens.

Brian’s consumer survey research work is unique, leveraging a careful, detailed, and high-integrity approach toward predicting and shaping the future of TV. Over twenty exclusive reports on sports, DVR usage, social TV, livestreaming, video quality, fan engagement and OTT monetization are freely available here: RingDigital.tv/FutureOfTV

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceVideo staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceVideo.

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