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.

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Jake Levine   The return to now

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

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

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

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

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

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

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

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

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

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

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

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

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

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

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

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

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

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

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

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

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

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

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

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Burt Herman   Things get real

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

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

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

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

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

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Paul Ford   Go global

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

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