2022 and beyond: The future of content consumption

Bada Akintunde-Johnson, Country Manager, Paramount Africa.

What is the future of content consumption? This is a question you’ll find on the mind of anyone with the minutest stake in the media or content creation universe, especially with the rapid evolution witnessed during the pandemic. That we nurture the desire to find answers isn’t strange, as content consumption has been changing over the past 15 years. The accelerated changes, particularly since March 2020, emphasize a need to further analyze and critically forecast how these dynamics impact and will continue to influence the media business. What can’t be disputed as gospel is that content will forever remain the currency that influences consumer behavior, but its evolution is tied mainly to how it is consumed a few years from now.

Around us, a rapid change in consumers’ preferences and accelerated technological expansion during the height of the pandemic saw consumers scrambling to media platforms that understood how, when and where they wanted their content served. And it’s no surprise that content distribution channels which were comparatively prepared and swift in understanding how to effectively meet these consumers’ demands emerged as ‘winners’ in the media rat race.

When it comes to media, we must first accept that innovation is the new norm. This trend, we must also accept, isn’t likely to change as we look to future media concepts. In accepting that content consumption will evolve as new tools emerge and consumers will continue to make new demands, we would become well prepared to improve on the quality and accessibility of our technologies.

A major actionable marketing tactic we have witnessed over the last few years is the media’s ability to offer consumers multiple content formats, as this allows them to consume content the way that’s easiest for them. On accessibility, the distribution of these content across multiple platforms has also been an important indicator of a change in consumer behavior over time.

But compared to a few decades ago, consumers have begun to seek active participation in content, which gives them the power and access to generate even more engagement and relevance.

We have already seen how, in order to meet today’s content consumption dynamics, especially with increased cord-cutters, television services are packaging their content to support binge consumption. This strategy is credited in a 2020 report by the Motion Picture Association as playing a key role in the global entertainment market hitting the $100 billion mark for the first time.

From here on out, however, the future of content consumption will be largely influenced by the rise of mobile video, virtual reality, augmented reality, and the more refined use of data analytics. So how does this play out in a society with peculiar socio-economic challenges?

In deciphering the future of content consumption, it is critical that we understand the consumers. It is important to note that despite the rise of digital media as a form of entertainment among the younger demographic who make up the larger population, economic limitations mean that most Nigerians continue to rely on free to air TV. This opens up a new world of opportunities not just for the viewers but for digital broadcasters. Paramount Africa' youth channel brand MTV Base for example is leveraging partnerships with terrestrial TV platforms across Africa such as Silverbird TV to extend the reach of the brand beyond cable service providers. This masterful stroke has merged two on-demand output avenues, giving the brand cross-demographic coverage that has rippled into wide-ranged acceptance across borders, and has solidified its position as a top channel in many countries — evidenced by its recent rating, as the top music channel in Nigeria, by MPS Nigeria.

This evident boundless approach to content propagation is one that must be embraced to ensure continued social and cultural relevance. Still taking from Paramount’ playbook with its formidable youth channel brand, the brand adopted a cross-country coverage for content that is in-demand beyond local borders. The MTV Base Nigerian feed, for instance, serves not only the Nigerian audience but other audiences which data has reflected as having an affinity for Nigerian content such as Ghana, Kenya and other countries within West, East and Central Africa Region.

There needs to be a more sophisticated approach to how we utilise data. An embrace of the big data realm and incorporated insights will be critical in improving consumer demands as it pertains to content consumption. Sophisticated utilisation of analytics will help to detect shifts in consumer behavior and consequently help media players to determine which new channels to adopt as well as gain insight into how consumers are responding.

Also, in understanding consumers' affinity for content on-the-go in today's world, we can deduce that the future of content consumption is mobile. Last year, data by Statista put the number of unique mobile internet users at 4.28 billion, indicating that over 90 percent of the global internet population use a mobile device to go online. As such, round-the-clock development of accessible content that is mobile-friendly is key in adapting to a change in content consumption dynamics.

Another major shift in paradigm we will witness in the next few years will be the continued exploration of emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), which will both change how consumers interact with available content. The potential of these content creation technologies is reflected in data by market research provider, Research and Markets, in which it projected the global VR and AR market to grow to $1.3 trillion by 2030- indicating a major upswing from $37 billion in 2019. The VR and AR technologies represent further advancements on consumers’ demand for powerful, personalised experiences so it wouldn’t be out of place to see players in traditional media even in a developing nation like Nigeria take daunting but necessary steps in investing in these technologies.

To piggyback off how involvement in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can impact content consumption in no distant time, we must pay attention to the natural crossover happening between the worlds of gaming and film/TV. For modern consumers, it couldn’t be any clearer that they want the flexibility to choose how they spend and engage with their content — with their control over subscriptions and micro-transactions currently serving as push for digital-first, user-friendly, and socially integrated gaming experiences.

This signifies yet another opportunity for adaptation to the future of content consumption by players in the media. Especially if we are putting into consideration how eSports, which saw its global revenue top $1billion for the first time in 2019, has continued to grow significantly over the last few years. I believe that to remain relevant and connect with young audiences going into the future, our strategy must evolve, as we must aim to become an active part of these consumers’ communities and conversations. To stay ahead as media companies, we need to demonstrate transcendent awareness about current trends and distill it into quality content. This is what Paramount Africa aimed to achieve with its flagship reality TV show, ‘Inside Life’ with the 1st edition featuring reality TV star, Erica Nlewedim and its quintessential chart show, Official Naija Top Ten. These shows have successfully catered to the prevalent consumer appetite for entertaining and relatable content.

Content consumption dynamics are constantly changing and even more so in this new era; it is imperative that operators in linear TV are quick to adapt in order to stand the test of time.

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