Stadia, XCloud, Sony, Nvidia, Nintendo

Game on; TV off

I am delighted when my teenage godson shows enough interest to read my latest blog post, even if it is only because he is part of it.

He is not that impressed by my efforts.

He points out that I chose the wrong YouTube video. I change it.

He then gets serious and states that I’ve missed a critical point. I am told that this is one of several reasons why my generation of media people don’t understand the scale of digital impact yet to come.

“Your traditional media is going to be kicked up the ass. You always think about TV and you always forget gaming,” I am told.

I point out his annoying Americanism. “Arse” is far softer on my Yorkshire-bred ears.

He finds this mildly amusing but simply links it to his argument - further evidence that I don’t understand the power of American media for his generation. We are living in the past and don't see the scale of the impact that will come from the next wave of change being driven by US giants.

He wins. Submission hold.

My Godson is almost certainly right. The only question is how great that impact will be and how much I have underestimated it.

Traditional British media faces an obvious tidal wave of competition for the hearts, minds and media time of next generation consumers from the SVOD (subscription video on demand) competitors. They are the hugely funded American giants Netflix and Amazon; the soon to arrive Disney+, Apple TV+; and others who are just limbering up like HBO Max.

The new SVOD services will steadily eat into the current audience for traditional British TV channels in the medium-term. But they will have a far more fundamental generational impact in the long-term.

Future generations, the data shows, have fundamentally different TV and video viewing habits and domestic British broadcasters show few of the skills and little of the appetite to embark upon the change necessary to fight back.

But that is just the direct TV threat. There is also the unspoken giant that is gaming, which is preparing to take a much larger bite out of the media time of next generation consumers.

“Your traditional media is going to be kicked up the ass. You always think about TV and you always forget gaming.”

Gaming will become a far more direct competitor for screen time as the new generation of streaming platforms delete the need for specialised equipment and bring gaming to anybody with a fast internet connected device. Subscription prices will be at Netflix levels. The SVOD model that has already transformed television is arriving for gaming.

Once again it is the US giants driving change. Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft will launch streaming platforms this year. Without the need for specialised equipment, the potential consumer market size immediately increases  tenfold. As faster broadband and 5G gain traction, the potential market will expand further. Sony, Nvidia, Nintendo and Amazon are all working on game streaming platforms. Apple will surely join the party. The competition and marketing power that transforms markets is on its way.

Microsoft xCloud launches in October and Google's Stadia follows in November 2019

Netflix is already feeling the pressure from the growth of gaming. In its 2019 letter to shareholders, Netflix describes just how broadly it sees its competitive environment:

“We earn consumer screen time, both mobile and television, away from a very broad set of competitors. We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO. When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time.”

Some would say that Netflix are diverting attention from the soon-to-launch SVOD competitors who may stunt Netflix’s growth, but this would be to underestimate the power of gaming. Fortnite is a business with a quarter of a billion players and a reported $2bn of revenues. With its global scale the business generates 60% of the revenues of the venerable ITV through a single game.

Fortnite, launched in mid 2017, is the biggest game ever

The scale of the gaming industry is remarkable. Research consultancy, Newzoo, estimates the current size of the global gaming market at $152bn. As a comparison, global TV subscription revenues are worth around $265bn. Newzoo predicts revenue growth at a compound rate of 9% for the next 4 years, adding a further $63bn to the market size.

Just how important is gaming for the next generation?

As a benchmark, let's use TV. 90% of 12-15s watch TV on a TV set, spending on average around 13.25 hours per week consuming programming this way, according to OFCOM.

By comparison, only 76% of 12-15s play games online.

But they play games for an average of 13.75 hours each week.

So, for the three quarters of British kids, gaming is already a bigger part of their lives than watching TV.

Watching TV on a TV set is in long-term decline among all young age groups. For 12-15s it has fallen by an hour in just the last year. Time spent online gaming by this age group has grown 1.5 hours over the same period.

These trends will almost certainly continue. It is an unavoidable truth that YouTube and gaming are becoming steadily more important than broadcast television in the media lives of emerging generations.

When they are are watching television, Netflix is their TV source of choice, not a traditional broadcaster.

Will the next generation give up their games, their commitment to YouTube and their choice of Netflix over traditional broadcasters and move politely towards the habits of earlier generations?

“You know that’s a stupid question, don't you?” my Godson tells me.

He's an arse.

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About Tim Ewington

Co-founder of Shortlist Media. Previously co-founder of media strategy consultancy, Human Capital. Still innovating, consulting and investing.
  • London