2016 has been a seismic year in modern history. Full of highs and lows, we have witnessed political earthquakes, new world leaders, digital crazes and box office record-breakers. All will help to shape our expectations for 2017.
For the media industry in particular, it has also been an unpredictable year, full of huge company shake-ups, mergers and scandals. As we draw a line under this most surprising twelve months and look towards a fresh year, it’s useful to reflect on the most significant developments and how they may affect the future of our industry.
Top Gear vs. The Grand Tour
2016 marked a strong year for Jeremy Clarkson. Having dismissed the presenter for his infamous fracas, the BBC’s reboot of Top Gear, with Chris Evans at the helm, failed to impress audiences or critics. As Evans admitted defeat and slipped away from the show, Clarkson delivered the last laugh by launching a warmly received version on Amazon Prime – The Grand Tour, which broke viewing records for the service. 2017 may reveal which title will ultimately dominate – the BBC’s decision to install the popular Matt le Blanc as host may boost its viewers, while The Grand Tour may struggle to hold onto its subscription-paying audience. The race to the finish line continues…
Perennial favourite The Great British Bake Off triggered much industry gossip this year, and not just because of its gargantuan ratings. The controversial decision of Love Productions to sell the beloved format to the higher bidder – with a deal worth £75million allowing Channel 4 to wrestle it from the grasp of the BBC – led to the departure of all but one of the show’s stars and a fierce debate around Channel 4’s spending habits and commitment to distinct programming.
The Crown, Stranger Things, Making a Murderer
This year saw the SVOD platforms truly up the anti in terms of original content. While Netflix produced the most expensive TV series ever (The Crown, at £100millon), cult thriller Stranger Things and tense documentary Making a Murderer (in the process redefining ‘watercooler’ television), other platforms such as Amazon, Hulu and Stan also upped the stakes in their original production slates. With Netflix pledging to spend even more on original content in 2017, broadcasters will need to produce some truly impressive TV to hang onto their traditional audiences.
All Change at ITV
While the BBC faced up to some major developments – including the publishing of the White Paper and the withdrawal of BBC3 from linear TV – ITV drew the spotlight with the appointment of Kevin Lygo as Director of television and the unveiling of his top team, including popular execs Peter Davey, Sue Murphy and Rosemary Newell. The reshuffle heralds the dawn of a new era for ITV, and with rumours of Adam Crozier’s upcoming departure, the surprises will keep on coming.
Some huge buyouts have occurred in the industry this year, leading to many reshuffles and major departures. The acquisition of Dreamworks Animation by NBCUniversal was one such development, swiftly overshadowed by AT&T’s announcement to acquire Time Warner in a billion dollar deal that triggered the wrath of one Donald Trump (more on him later). But one last surprise was sprung in December, with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Group making a formal bid for PayTV entity Sky for £11.7billion. With Ofcom being pressured to weigh in on the Sky deal, and Trump’s presidency potentially threatening the Time Warner takeover, the end results will be keenly observed in 2017.
It’s not just the traditional players that have seen major developments in 2016. The SVOD platforms truly upped the ante by going ‘global’ in a unprecedented manner. Netflix took 2016 by storm by going global in January, simultaneously arriving in more than 130 different countries. The year was bookended by a similar move from Amazon Prime Video, which launched in around 200 territories in November. Meanwhile, the emergence of rival players in emerging markets (such as iflix and Hooq), and the rollout of niche players (such as Hayu, Love Nature and Yaddo) proves the growing dominance of streaming is likely to continue well into 2017.
VR Goes Mainstream
Viewed for so many years as a fictional sci-fi cliché, Virtual Reality has finally emerged as a major step forward in entertainment technology. With companies such as Google eagerly launching affordable headsets, broadcasters such as Sky and BBC embracing the technology for innovative programming, and institutions such as the Natural History Museum employing VR for immersive educational purposes, we’re likely to experience a great deal more of the virtual world in 2017. Read Lumina’s report on the Rise of VR here
Ofcom has found itself at the heart of many a dispute this year. The decision to transfer regulation of the BBC to Ofcom has introduced a huge upcoming challenge for Sharon White and her team. Meanwhile, the controversy around Murdoch’s Sky bid and the DCMS’ blocking of Ofcom’s BAME candidate for the Channel 4 Board has further thrust the regulator into the spotlight. If 2016 proved a challenging year for Ofcom, the hurdles are set to keep on coming in 2017.
A political upheaval that rocked many industries – not least media – Brexit presented numerous potential struggles and dilemmas for the sector. 2017 may bring some clarity, and time will tell if the problems will dissipate or intensify. Read Lumina’s in-depth article on Brexit’s impact on the media sector here
But ultimately the biggest global shock was the appointment of Donal Trump – a real-estate mogul and reality TV star – as President Elect of the United States. A startling reflection of modern politics, and a move that could have seismic consequences for the media industry, of which Trump has often been vocally critical.
Whatever happens after this most memorable of years, 2017 is certain to see some big changes in the media world. Like many others, Lumina will be keenly observing and will be on hand to document it all.