Internet TV 2026 report: The 13 things to know
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Internet TV 2026 report: The 13 things to know

This year Netflix has been making headlines with its global expansion and massive viewer numbers. Amazon is never far behind in the news. While online series House of Cards or Making a Murderer are constant water cooler chat. There is no doubt, like every industry, TV is getting disrupted but what will online viewing looking like in 2026 and what will this mean for business?

Well, to find out we consulted a panel of eight experts from a variety of different backgrounds. They provided 12-pages – over 6,000 words – of commentary and we have broken this down into this short online report which breaks down the 13 things you ought to know.  

  1. Online distribution will be fully normal in 2026
  2. Delivery will cause technology challenges and infrastructure issues
  3. The market is consolidating and will be a different space in 10 years
  4. These changes will alter the entire future of TV advertising
  5. The role of data is critical for online TV of tomorrow
  6. Personalisation will transform online video consumption
  7. Globalisation does not mean homogenisation
  8. VPN use seems likely to march forwards
  9. Mobile first markets will create new types of subscription 
  10. Live and on-demand experiences will be very different
  11. Professional and non-professional content will remain split
  12. There will be an increased trend for social media viewing 
  13. VR will take TV into a whole new dimension

 

NerdTV: Online distribution will be fully normal in 2026

Today many people consume TV online as standard. And this is a trend which is only set to continue over the next decade. “By 2026, we should expect that the majority of all TV will be delivered over the internet,” says Luke Gaydon, Vice President of OTT Solutions at Brightcove.

While Sam Farrand, Account Director, at the7stars adds “by 2026 an internet faster than we could ever imagine today will be serving over five billion people globally. It will be able to reach those that never had much in the way of a traditional TV service, let alone an internet connection.

“Netflix has reached high levels of penetration, with four in 10 watching in Mexico, as well as close to a third in Canada and Ireland,” he says.

Daniel Webster, Managing Director, Strategic Solutions, at Kaltura also believes the growth of bandwidth accessibility – with the promise of speeds “50 times greater” – means that video will be accessible more or less anywhere in the world.

He says this could have a fundamental impact on the media industry as “pure media companies – where media is their business – might give way to a world in which media simply supports their business.”

 

CrankyGeeks: Delivery will cause technology challenges and infrastructure issues

None of these changes come without their technological challenges though. “We will see a stream of content like we have never seen before all ‘broadcast’ over the internet, not the airwaves. This will exponentially increase the workload of the infrastructure that supports streaming services, the data centre,” says Ricky Cooper, VP EMEA & APAC at Digital Realty.

“The success of the live internet TV experience hinges on latency,” he adds. “If programmes are constantly 'buffering’ or interrupted in other ways because the data centre’s infrastructure and connectivity platform can’t support it, customers will turn off. There will come a time when global internet TV outgrows the infrastructure we have in place to enable it, so the data centre will inevitably need to change. The future will take the form of ‘digital data centres’, and lots of them, to improve data accuracy and speed of delivery.”

“There is a lot of activity that occurs under the media’s radar with regards to the impact technology advances have had on TV production and workflows; because this isn’t as ‘sexy’ as discussions about content,” says Caitlin Spaan, SVP of Marketing, Ooyala.

“It’s a lot of work to deliver content to the seemingly innumerous flavours of Android, Apple devices, current and emerging streaming devices from the likes of Amazon, Roku, Google or gaming consoles, not to mention new Smart TVs entering the market,” she adds. “And that’s not even getting into whether those devices support specific streaming specs, such as 4K.”

 

Web Therapy: The market is consolidating and will be a different space in 10 years

“The industry is undergoing a huge amount of market consolidation at the moment, with some of the larger Telco players making substantial moves on a global scale,” says Spaan.

This has seen AT&T purchasing DirecTV in the US and Liberty Global buying TV3 and also CWC to facilitate LATAM expansion. “In the next 10 years we’ll see the impact these acquisitions have as strategies unfold, particularly in the TV and video advertising space,” Spaan adds.

 

Special Delivery: These changes will alter the entire future of TV advertising

“One area that has received scant [media] attention is the impact of internet TV on advertisers,” Farrand of the7stars tells us. 

Opportunities arise from better consumer data which could lead to improved audience targeting and personalisation. “Internet TV could break advertiser reliance on BARB [Broadcasters Audience Researchers Board] data. A shift to internet TV could conceivably result in far more accurate viewing data being opened up to media buyers and advertisers,” he adds.

However, he warns “opportunities are balanced by the threat of ad-free platforms”.

“Brands will have to think more creatively to get in front of audiences and an emphasis on branded and additional content will probably form a bigger part of the media schedules of the future. Savvy brands will start to explore what other platform partnerships are out there for their brands,” he says. “It is for advertisers that the future looks most uncertain. Depending on how the new reality shapes up, TV advertising could take a radically different form in a decade’s time.”

 

Thug Notes: The role of data is critical for online TV of tomorrow

“As more content is distributed online more and more data will become available. This will impact the way content is accessed and also the way it is created. “To some extent, you can argue this has been happening for years,” clarifies Spaan of Ooyala. “What’s different is that the quality and variety of the data being collected has improved tremendously.”

“With internet TV, commissioners should have more audience data than ever to help guide programming decisions. However, as with before, past viewing data can lead to clones and spin-off formats which often diminish in quality,” adds Farrand at the7stars.

Like Henry Ford said, if you ask people what they want, they'll ask for a faster horse,” says Garret Keogh, managing director and founder, Telegraph Hill. “Data alone does not hold the answers. It's the insights that creative people derive from the data that holds the magic.”

This point is seconded by Webster of Kaltura. “Yes, the creation of shows will become much more data driven, but I don’t believe an impact on quality is something to be feared, just guarded against. [In the past] programming was very intentionally dumbed down. We actively spoke about appealing to the lowest common denominator.

“Today, programmers can intelligently engage with distinct users in a cost-effective way, thanks to the dramatically decreased cost of content production, and the near zero cost of data storage and delivery. As a result users can discover unique content that more fully reflects their diversity. Data about content and individuals managed smartly is what will drive this new renaissance of video.”

 

Soup of the Day: Personalisation will transform online video consumption

“One area where data is being used by distributors is in customer choice” adds Farrand. “Recommendation engines will make viewing even more personalised. Netflix’s recommendation engine is just about catching up with where TiVO has been for years. The lead taken by streaming music services such as Spotify suggests much room for improvement in the video space.”

 

Foreign Body: Globalisation does not mean homogenisation

Netflix’s recent launch into so many global regions did raise some questions about the gradual homogenisation of content. But our experts feel this was only a tiny part of things.

“An increase in the number of platforms to view content will likely see access to more foreign content, not less,” suggests Farrand. “In the UK, there are over 35 ethnic channels already, with internet TV bringing the costs of broadcasting down, we foresee even more local channels.”

“There’s a risk of homogenisation of tastes as socially we all gravitate to similar concepts and aspirations made possible by a connected globe,” says Webster of Kaltura. “The internet amplifies opportunities for global blockbusters. Social media help create international sensations. In fact, big hits will become even bigger.

“But there’s also the growth of a longer tail, and most significantly a growing big fat middle,” he adds. “[However] I would argue that they’re not mutually exclusive, and in fact what is happening and made possible by these digitisation, compression and bandwidth trends is the creation of a big fat middle, full of potential.” 

 

Something Remote: VPN use seems likely to march forwards

The other side of globalisation, which has had a lot of press coverage since Netflix vowed to ban them, is the use of VPNs to stop consumers accessing content only available in certain countries.

“A VPN service links a user’s computer and internet to a server in a country of their choice - so that person can appear to be in the US, while they actually are on their couch in UK or on the beach in Maldives,” explains Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN.

He has no doubt that “with the rise of streaming, we will see the rise of VPN users around the world”.

 

All in the Method: Mobile first markets will create new types of subscription 

Payment possibilities are also different in different parts of the world. “Credit card penetration is low in some areas and banking facilities can be hard to come by, stumbling blocks which Netflix will have to take care to avoid,” explains Marco Veremis, CEO of Upstream. “One way to do this is to work with the telecoms operators to provide payment facilities through direct operator billing, giving the consumers an easy way to pay with their phone and existing credit.

“In many of these new markets, the mobile phone is fast becoming the primary means of connecting to the internet, and often not over WiFi -- some 70% of Nigerians only connect to the internet through a mobile data network,” he adds.

“In many developing markets the cost of streaming video would be significantly more than the monthly subscription to Netflix. Teaming up with a local network operator is a sensible way to get the right kind of content to consumers in these markets.”

 

Project X: Live and on-demand experiences will be very different

The change in the way people consume TV means both a change in the way it formats – there is no need to cram things into 20-minutes, 30-minutes or an hour anymore – and also a sharp divide between live and on-demand experiences.

“The evolution of live streaming will also continue to be highly format-dependent – with some content always remaining more suitable for live streaming rather than on-demand viewing,” says Gaydon of Bightcove. “Sports and reality TV, for example, such as programmes like The Voice, X Factor and Strictly Coming Dancing, are well suited to live streaming due to broadcasters’ ability to create excitement and anticipation around live events.”

“Netflix is already launching a live talk show with Chelsea Handler in late 2016,” says Spaan of Ooyala “but has yet to indicate any sort of leap into sports. Their hesitation has largely been due to the fact that bidding for sports rights is ridiculous.”

She points to the Yahoo! and NFL deal that happened earlier this year, to globally live stream one game from Wembley Stadium in London, where industry pundits suggested Yahoo! paid the NFL an estimated $20 million to do so. “That’s not sustainable for Netflix, or anyone else for that matter, though as they grow globally they’re building a global platform with millions of subscribers that could support such an event - but we’ve yet to see it.”

“As Netflix begins to hint at doing live events, expect to see more digital platforms like the Yahoos or Facebooks of the world – the folks with global audiences and video-ready capabilities, to put their stake into live-event streaming as well.”

 

Everyone's Famous: Professional and non-professional content will remain split

“Another trend that will continue into 2026 is the move towards a split world of video consumption,” says Farrand. “On one side, free, mainly short-form content produced by ‘amateurs’ online. On the other, professional big-budget content. With video technology set to become increasingly professional and cheaper, the gap in terms of quality will continue to close and expectations for paid content will increase even further.

“The next decade will also see amateur producers increase in the live arena. Although the bulk of amateur video currently produced is of the pre-recorded variety, platforms such as Twitch and Periscope suggest there is both consumer appetite and advancing technology in live streaming. Whether this will threaten the live broadcast market, is a very different question.

“Multi-million pound deals around sport buy unrivalled access and even more millions are spent on ensuring that coverage is as slick as possible. Amateur efforts could serve a different need; imagine alternative half-time analysis in the form of live videos for example,” he says.

 

Viral: There will be an increased trend for social media viewing  

Part and parcel of this trend for ‘professional amateurs’ is the world of social media. “There are already some programmes today that have built their success solely on YouTube – and that might not have been as popular had they tried to make it through linear TV,” says Gaydon of Brightcove.

“With Facebook also heading towards a video-focused future we’ll likely see social channels used much more to deliver content, with consumers tuning in for their daily fix.”

 

Reality On Demand: VR will take TV into a whole new dimension

And finally, how can we talk about online viewing without mentioning VR. “My own recent trial of an Oculus Rift headset had me watching a live football match in 3D from inside the stadium, where I was able to switch between games and perspectives at will,” concludes Gaydon.  

“Even from this limited glimpse, it was easy to see why the industry will likely be investing heavily in the technology, and indeed many other forms of interactivity or gamification to enhance the live streaming experience in the future.”

 

Further reading:

What will the workplace of 2026 look like?

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Kathryn Cave

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Dennis Chiume on February 18 2016

OTT, VOD, VR are here already. My company is already ready to go to market. Tests we ran were successful and the excitement created is promising.

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Dennis Chiume on February 18 2016

OTT, VOD, VR are here already. My company is already ready to go to market. Tests we ran were successful and the excitement created is promising.

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