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.

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

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

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

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

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

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

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Paul Ford   Go global

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Burt Herman   Things get real

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

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

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

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

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

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

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

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

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

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

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

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

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

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

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

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

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

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

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

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

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Jake Levine   The return to now

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

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

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other