I can clearly remember the day I first watched a video playing on a color LCD screen. It was many years ago, on my brand new Windows 95 laptop. When I first turned it on it started playing a cheesy 70’s song covered by Jimmy Cliff. That catchy tune brightened my day and left me amazed at how far technology had come. I couldn’t believe that a screen so thin can show such bright colors and smooth movement.
I now work at a company delivering video at unparalleled scalability and quality, putting to shame that first color LCD video experience. Yet the memory of that day is still fresh. In a sense, not much has changed. We still watch videos on mobile devices (yes, that bulky old laptop was the day’s “mobile”.) What was then available on a 10 pound machine streaming from a hard drive is now available on 10 ounce machines streaming over the internet and across cellular networks. However, the user experience is – in the narrow sense – equivalent. While today’s availability in terms of time, location and selection could have hardly been imagined back then, the one-person-watches-a-video experience is basically the same.
The flood of content coming from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like is so immense that people can watch virtually anything, anytime, anywhere, and at a very low cost. And watch they do. Each one of my immediate family members has a smartphone and a laptop, and we are not unique. We’re essentially 5 seconds away from watching almost any piece of content ever produced at any given time.
We used to have no control over content and timing, but those days are gone for good. Where will we go from here? will discoverability keep improving, leading to even more time spent watching? Will the barriers to content production keep falling, resulting in exponential growth in the amount of content being produced? will video delivery keep being enhanced so we can watch HD quality video everywhere with no buffering? Will production values keep getting better, resulting in increasingly addictive content? The answer to all these questions is Yes. The future is bright and we in the video industry have a lot of work cut out for us. We have only just begun.