Three shifts transforming content distribution in 2024

January 25, 2024 by Brad Wall, CTO

The accelerated adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), rapid consumer shifts toward online video platforms, and signs of ongoing market consolidation have begun to set the agenda for the media industry in 2024. Meanwhile, the inescapable economic reality of having to do more with less has never been more important than it is today.

Consumers now have more choice over how they watch content than at any point in history. Deloitte predicted that the number of streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) tiers offered by the top US providers would more than double from an average of four options in 2023 to an average of eight tiers this year. As all content providers wrestle with the challenges of delivering multiple business models and subscription tiers while experimenting with growing viewing models such as FAST channels, folks across the industry are looking for ways to make their content distribution more profitable and scalable.

Here’s my take on a few pivotal trends that are dominating industry conversations and driving business decisions in 2024:

Live content will define the winners in 2024

Live has always been the most powerful form of video content. Major live sports events attract the largest amount of global viewers — and the eye-watering ad dollars follow. Recent Nielsen data underlined the total dominance of live sports on television, with sporting events representing 96 of the top 100 most-watched TV broadcasts of 2023 in the US. 93 of those events were NFL games, with the most popular game drawing in 115 million viewers. While premier live sports events remain the bedrock of traditional linear broadcasting, all content providers are looking for ways to create stickier packages that keep subscribers engaged. Streaming rights to live sports and events are quickly becoming the biggest game-changer for video services in an increasingly frenzied market. As a result, digital platforms such as Apple TV+ and YouTube that have traditionally delivered on-demand video content, are investing heavily in sports rights to compete in the live streaming space. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video continues to build out its live sports strategy, recently investing in Diamond Sports Group to provide viewers with direct-to-consumer streaming access for a range of MLB, NBA and NHL games. Netflix has also just announced a multi-billion dollar deal to acquire live streaming rights of WWE’s most-watched wrestling show, WWE Raw. The series will begin airing early in 2025, as part of a 10-year deal.

Digital-first streaming giants are redesigning their platforms to manage and deliver an unprecedented volume of live events at a global scale, while traditional players are finding their feet in a hybrid broadcasting landscape where making your best content easily accessible for digital audiences is do or die. Today, content providers need to achieve effective ‘yes and’ strategies when serving traditional linear audiences vs. streaming viewers.

Major broadcasters are striking a balance between protecting core linear contracts and pursuing newer digital revenues that have been slower to come to fruition than many business leaders might have hoped. However, there are positive signs that many ad sales and associated businesses are becoming less reliant on traditional linear distribution, fueled by growth in connected TV advertising spend that is set to increase 10.4% YoY to reach $42.5B by 2028, according to GroupM data. Despite gradual decreases in overall linear viewership and ad spend, content owners need to ensure they’re not leaving ad dollars on the table, with some major networks simultaneously carrying premier live events via traditional channels and digital platforms. Throughout this transitionary phase, media brands need to manage the convergence of long-established content distribution methodologies with new digital realities to capture the widest audience possible.

AI and automation are simplifying complex content distribution workflows

The rise of AI will remain a major talking point for the industry this year as media businesses unlock the potential of automation to drive operational efficiencies. Discussions around machine learning and AI have percolated for close to a decade within technology departments at major media organizations, but the explosion of GenAI into the wider cultural zeitgeist over the past year has catapulted AI to the top of the agenda for many non-tech business leaders. Among a wide range of other applications and use cases, AI-enabled workflows are helping organizations achieve greater scale in content distribution — and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Automation is fundamental to driving operational efficiencies, and it helps media companies ensure their budget drives impact where it matters most for consumers — on screen. Reducing the amount of time spent on non-value added tasks frees up resources to focus on delivering higher quality experiences and creating more flavors of content. The hardest element of any automation project is typically the translation layer between different teams, tools, services and business logics. Fueled by new evolutions in AI, in 2024, we’ll see an increased ability to tie together complex technologies and ecosystems via automated workflows, empowering media companies to drive new levels of efficiencies while simplifying processes in ways that were unthinkable before. Automating (and deploying) advanced signaling processes within complex and fragmented advertising ecosystems can help content owners seamlessly enable targeted and addressable ad campaigns. Today, business rules such as blackout and rights management are no longer stored within the walled gardens of disparate business systems; they are working their way into intelligent IP transmission signals, unlocking workflow automation that was previously impossible while providing game-changing efficiencies for operational teams.

Beyond finding ways to automate specific applications and workflows, solutions like LTN Arc and LTN Lift that automate the versioning of live events and full-time channels for delivery across OTT, FAST, and other digital platforms push new boundaries in live content versioning and enable rights holders to pursue effective global distribution strategies. Facing rising licensing fees and production costs, media companies and rights buyers need to make strategically balanced decisions to maximize ROI on costly content properties. Ultimately, content owners that harness automation to efficiently create and monetize multiple versions of the same core content asset at a transformational scale will be well-placed for success in 2024.

Gaining deeper insight across your content distribution roadmap

Embracing fully managed IP-based distribution via proven and trusted solutions like LTN Wave unlocks new levels of visibility and business intelligence for content providers, driving greater operational efficiency and deeper insight into every step of the content value chain. As media companies scale their content distribution strategies across more platforms and regions, they need easy-to-use and comprehensive tools that help them visualize and analyze all of the intricacies of a modern media distribution model, from content origination down to the end user in newer ways than before. This level of insight goes beyond the core monitoring services and always-on technical operations center (TOC) support that are table stakes for leading media organizations today. Underpinned by innovation in IP-based networking, media leaders are beginning to see and feel a much deeper level of monitoring that gives them that strong feeling of control, security, and trust that they haven’t experienced before.

Many forward-thinking media leaders are beginning to gain a better understanding of how technologies like AI and automation could enhance their businesses; not all of them are prepared with the intelligent IP-based foundations required to deliver real-world business outcomes. Now more than ever, media companies need technology partners that can handle premium live content at an unprecedented scale while keeping up with the pace of change. Schedule a demo with us today to discover how LTN Wave can support your next phase of growth.