By 2026 an internet faster than we could ever imagine today will be serving over 5 billion people globally. It will be able to reach those that never had much in the way of a traditional TV service, let alone an internet connection.

In more developed countries, the trend of increasing consumer control over viewing habits will continue. Cord-cutting and skinny bundles will be the norm for most by 2026. There’s already evidence of us moving away from TV packages providing hundreds of rarely watched channels, towards services which allow viewers to select the specific shows they want, with Netflix predicted to reach 100m subscribers by 2020 (Statista 2016).

Another trend that will continue into 2026 is the move towards a split world of video consumption. On one side, free, mainly short-form content produced by “amateurs” online. On the other, professional big-budget content. With video technology set to become increasingly professional and cheaper, the gap will start to close.

Live streaming will move away from the 20-minute/30-minute/hour formats. If a show needs another ten minutes to tell its story, new viewing platforms will allow for that. As the various core platforms become more advanced, we anticipate that the line between live and on-demand will become seamless for viewers. In the UK, broadcast giant Sky has just launched its new premium box service Sky Q. The service will offer multiple ways to watch live and recorded TV. The next decade will also see amateur producers increase in the live arena. Although the bulk of amateur video currently produced is of the pre-recorded variety, platforms such as Twitch and Periscope suggest there is both consumer appetite and advancing technology in live streaming.

Since the inception of BARB in 1981, TV producers have had a fairly clear idea of what shows have worked and have made decisions based on this data. With internet TV, commissioners should have more audience data than ever to help guide programming decisions. Data should also result in more tailored ads for viewers. Sky Advance has promised to allow brands to follow linear TV viewing into the wider digital environment and in the US, 17% of television trading is predicted to be sold programmatically by 2019.

More consumer data means more opportunity for accurate audience targeting. With internet TV becoming the de-facto platform, audience identification and personalisation will become the norm for advertisers. These opportunities are balanced by the threat of ad-free platforms. Any increase in ‘walled gardens’ – where the best quality content lives ad-free – is clearly not great news for advertisers. Brands will have to think more creatively to get in front of audiences and an emphasis on branded and additional content will probably form a bigger part of the media schedule.
Depending on how the new reality shapes up, TV advertising could take a radically different form in a decade’s time. Luckily for us, that’s what makes TV one of the most exciting industries out there to work in.