Between YouTube’s rise in popularity throughout the 2010s, Netflix’s shift from a DVD-mailing model to a streaming model, and the rise of platforms such as Twitch, video streaming has been experiencing growth for years. That growth became explosive at the start of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced people around the world into their homes, looking to their screens for on-demand entertainment. As more vendors enter the market and products are innovated, here are trends we’ve seen and where we expect them to go in the future. 

 

A Shift From Cable Creates A Crowded Market

While giants Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have historically dominated the television streaming market, as more consumers ditch cable, new players, largely traditional television networks and entertainment companies, have entered the space. The 2010s saw an influx in competitors, including Disney+ in 2019, HBO Max and NBC Peacock in 2020, and Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) coming in early 2021. 

With each streaming service boasting a unique lineup of programming, often including original, in-house created content, consumers have more options than ever before. Research shows that people are exploring these optionsjust last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the average American has access to 4 streaming services, and that 38% of people have access to 5 or more services at any given time. These numbers show a clear switch from traditional entertainment models like live television to on-demand streaming platforms. As competition drives innovation and more services emerge, it will be interesting to watch how each competitor differentiates itself in an increasingly crowded market. 

 

Consumers Prefer Larger Screens

When online video streaming first came to prominence in the late 2000s after Netflix’s introduction of the concept in 2007, people were mainly watching the content on personal laptop screens. Over time, with the rise of streaming coupled with the widespread availability of fast, reliable wifi, television manufacturers like Samsung, Sony and others started producing internet-equipped Smart TVs, enabling consumers to view streaming content directly from their television, without an HDMI cable or screen mirroring. 

This product innovation was compounded in 2020, as the pandemic brought families gathered around the television for entertainment. According to Forbes, the use of Smart TVs was up by 157% year-over-year in viewing hours. In comparison, use on smaller personal devices like laptops was only up by 38% in the same time period. The smallest screens saw the lowest growth, with use on SmartPhones up by just 19%. While lockdowns fueled streaming growth in general, these growth patterns clearly show that consumers prefer to stream video content directly from larger screens, especially SmartTVs. 

 

TikTok and Social Streaming

Another area that has seen explosive growth is social streaming. Led by video-sharing platform, TikTok, an application with 50 million daily users in the U.S. alone, live streaming has become an integral part of the social media landscape. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all added features that enable users to live stream video content to their followers. This mainly originated as celebrities and social media influencers using live sessions to connect with followers and fans, however, as the concept caught on, it revealed alternative use cases.

An example of this is news organizations livestreaming their broadcasts on Twitter during major events. Presidential Inaugurations, awards shows, sporting events, and other newsworthy events can usually be found live streaming under Twitter’s ‘Trending’ section. YouTube offers a similar feature, partnering with news organizations to live stream major events. This trend, in theory, allows people to stream major events online, for free, without having to subscribe to cable or a streaming service. 

 

Gamers Get In on Streaming

Video game enthusiasts have also felt the sting of isolation this year, turning to social streaming services like Twitch to connect with fellow gamers and stream their gameplay on the internet. The concept has become incredibly popular, with some streamers becoming celebrities of sorts, earning millions of dollars for their popular streams. While Twitch is the main player in video game streaming, YouTube also supports the practice, and is the only vendor to offer 4K video streaming, which is appealing to many video game players who want to see their graphics in high definition. 

Since becoming the leader in video game streaming, Twitch has broadened its offerings, creating online video chat rooms for users to hang out, and also securing streaming rights for different sports leagues like the NFL and WNHL. It raises questions about how this platform could grow as streaming continues to grow in the 2020s.

 

Video streaming has become a favorite pastime for people all over the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. As it becomes ubiquitous, it’s doubtful that streaming will go anywhere once restrictions are lifted. Streaming is here to stay, and the market is going to continue to innovate. Diamond helps clients create cutting edge web experiences, including streaming capabilities. To learn more about our work, visit us at diamond.la or follow us on Twitter at @DWSLA