Smart aggregation and the future of digital content distribution
The idea of an intelligent repository capable of identifying all the content somebody has bought or signed up to and then reproducing it through a single service makes a lot of sense given the growing fragmentation of the content market. At this moment, the biggest problem for many users when it comes to consuming content is knowing where the hell it is: we have moved from a scarcity scenario to one of abundance, with a panoply of channels, subscription services, on-demand, platforms and even different devices. The licensing of the content itself is subject to new negotiations and routines, with new players such as Amazon or Apple competing for the James Bond franchise, while people like Disney are building their own streaming services and excluding their content from others such as Netflix.
We may be at a tipping point whereby after many difficult years things are shifting in favor of the content industry: downloading from P2P sites is harder than ever, and due to the growing pressure to monetize in an increasingly marginalized environment, some platforms and link aggregators have been taken over by junk advertising, malware or even bitcoin mining schemes at the expense of users’ computers. In some countries, the proliferation of schemes for capturing IP addresses and sending messages from the ISP or by copyright trolls demanding payments — which are assumed as acknowledgment of guilt — to prevent possible prosecutions are becoming habitual, make it increasingly risky to use such platforms for content downloading without a VPN that does not store logs.
At the same time, the development of services such as Netflix, Spotify, HBO Go and many others are increasingly attractive. However, and although we have known for some time that downloading was no real threat to the entertainment industry, it does not want to see a return to those days. Hence, given the evidence that there is a limit to the number of subscriptions people are prepared to fork out for to access content on a regular basis, and the fear that too many players competing in the same arena could lead people to resort to unlicensed downloading, the appearance of this type of intelligent aggregation service is important. The important thing is that people pay to consume content, even if that payment is carried out through a complex network of intermediaries.
Thus, we have two conflicting tendencies: on the one hand, the growth of more and more subscription services as the entry barriers to distribution are simplified. On the other, aggregation services such as Google’s, that make it easy for the user to access a wide range of content, to avoid the return to P2P downloading sites. The audiovisual entertainment sector knows what it wants, but also what it does not want: we will now have to see if an industry with an analog outlook is finally able to evolve toward a digital model and manage it properly.
(En español, aquí)