Online video is the new normal

For most of us, our first experience with audio visual content was on TV, and in my time Voice Of Kenya opened their broadcast at 4pm with a television test signal consisting of the primary optical colours displayed for half an hour before programming begun. It then launched dutifully with a recording of the national anthem accompanied by an old film of the Kenyan flag flying in the wind, as if to convince the Commander-In-Chief that no subversive material would be broadcast on that, or any other day.

It was followed by TV shows such as Rainbow and Telematch for children, boring old Yaleyotokea, Habari (news in Kiswahili), Football Made in Germany, Vitimbi, Mind Your Language, News in English, and the last program which could be either Dallas, Dynasty, Six Million Dollar Man, Falcon Crest or a random Hollywood movie. At station shut-down a religious leader would give an evening benediction as an epilogue before the national anthem was played again. The programme schedule published in the daily papers was redundant as the line up was painfully predictable.

My first video-on-demand experience was actually a ‘film-on-demand’ moment when a 8mm film home projector was unboxed and I watched in awe as it took more time to set up than to enjoy the actual movie. Soon after, video machines were invented and VHS won the fight with Betamax; and after DVD players littered our households, online video finally came to be.

The history of video began with content that was controlled by the Government through their national broadcasting services and we watched what they thought we should consume. But today, with all the options available, we are in control of our daily intake of video content. Granted, there are restriction when it comes to paid content, but you can practically get whatever content you want when you want it.

Today the UK and the US record the highest average number of minutes spent watching TV, while Indonesia and Philippines record the highest average of video watched on smartphones. The trend is as a result of the old capitalist democracies and established TV markets that saw penetration cross 50% in the 1950s. Smartphones are the new TV and the device for markets that are joining the new middle class. Kenya ranks fifth in the world in TV and smartphone viewing minutes and yet only 50% of the population has access to TV and 64% has access to the internet, predominantly through mobile. Nigeria on the other hand ranks first in the world in daily smartphone viewing minutes supported by a growing internet infrastructure and the worlds most productive movie industry.

Globally, there is an estimated 1.6 billion TV sets in about 1.42 billion households, and approximately 2.6 billion smartphones subscriptions, which is expected to reach 6.1 billion by 2020 according to the mobility report published by Ericsson.

This indicates that online video growth will continue to surge as well as the opportunities therein for brand engagement. Media companies around the world are taking notice and are now developing platform neutral content, and even though there are many similarities between online video and traditional television, it is critical to understand the differences in order to prepare for the new normal.

The mavens of traditional media taught us that content is king, and the new media experts are showing that context is just as important. If your content is developed to look and sound great on a dynamic home entertainment system, the experience is quite different if you view it on a 4.7 inch retina display screen with built in speakers or headphones. We’ve always thought of traditional video content as having a beginning a middle and an end, but online video has shifted to telling part of the story and allowing your audiences to chose where they will go next, as they crave control and want to be part of the creative process. Therefore interactive participation is key and you must take feedback after video views and demonstrate to your viewers that you are listening to them by responding appropriately.

Joe Tripodi of Coca-Cola says that they’ve shifted their marketing strategy from making advertisements to managing content in order to effectively engage their customers who are not passive audiences any more, but are actively participating in the development of the story and the outcomes. The control of messaging, timing and experience is moving from the advertiser to the consumer and those brands that have aligned their strategies to this new reality are getting the engagement that turns into marketshare and growth.

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