You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

“2018 is the year that the biggest companies make their most meaningful moves into direct-to-consumer offerings. And as with most emerging media trends of the past 20 years, keep an eye on sports media for signals of how the rest of the industry will evolve.”

For the last few years, “OTT” media has been treated like an accessory, not unlike the way media companies talked about their “dot-coms” 20 years ago. Even the semantics (“over the top”) suggest that the real relationship is through traditional distribution channels and that navigating around those channels is simply an ancillary business.

In 2018, the landscape will dramatically change, starting with the way we talk about it. Out is “OTT,” in is “DTC”: “direct-to-consumer.”

It isn’t that direct subscription relationships haven’t been a part of media since newspapers started “bundling” the news with a paid service (and recurring charge) of right-to-you delivery. Or that everyone in the industry hasn’t seen the DTC impact of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Facebook, or MLBAM (and taken a hard look at their own relationships with their consumers). Or that DTC-native startups haven’t earned headlines (for better or worse).

2018 is the year that the biggest companies make their most meaningful moves into DTC offerings. And as with most emerging media trends of the past 20 years, keep an eye on sports media for signals of how the rest of the industry will evolve.

ESPN is poised to launch its widely anticipated “ESPN Plus” service. NBC Sports Group will continue to nurture its investment in regional DTC platforms like Monumental Sports Network. Turner Sports — widely hailed for its innovative distribution efforts on platforms like Instagram — will push to deepen its direct relationships with fans via its Bleacher Report app. Watch for a ripple effect from T-Mobile’s acquisition of Layer 3, a nascent DTC TV provider: Does a media incumbent increase its DTC footprint through the acquisition of a sports platform like Fubo or FloSports? (If you’re looking outside of sports, pay close attention to Cheddar, the “CNBC for millennials.”)

Why is a DTC relationship so important? An obvious answer is that for media companies, it creates new value that has previously been concentrated within the key distribution platforms, from Facebook to cable pipes. DTC is why fantasy sports is so powerful — and, looking ahead to another huge wave in 2018, why the anticipated domestic legalization of sports gambling portends a bigger inflection point for the media industry than any since the mid-’90s surge of AOL (a DTC media O.G.) or mid-aughts rise of Facebook. When that moment hits, if you don’t have meaningful direct relationships with your consumers, you will wish you did, whether or not your business is sports.

In the meantime, the key to your media business in 2018 will be your explanation to this simple question: “You down with DTC?”

Dan Shanoff most recently oversaw programming for Monumental Sports Network.

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Paul Ford   Go global

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Burt Herman   Things get real

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Jake Levine   The return to now

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers