When I made 12 predictions for 2020 on January 1, little did i know about Black Swan events, and I certainly didn’t expect one (by definition). I wrote these predictions for 2020 with no idea that we would spend most of the year in our homes away from work,
school, travel, etc. Now it is time to look at this coming year, 2021, knowing that major changes are underway in our society and economy, including those changes catalyzed by the pandemic and recession.
Some of the trends I have been writing about in general, and in my 2020 predictions, were clearly accelerated by the Covid pandemic. Overall most of my predictions were spot on. I evaluated those predictions a few days ago on Forbes.com and I got a solid B at 3.25 out of a 4-point scale. Feel free to read last years’ predictions and my self-evaluation.
OK, here goes for 2021:
1. Gaming will yield some of the most exciting IPOs of the year and I expect we will
see Roblox, Epic and Discord completing successful multi-billion dollar IPOs in 2021.
2. The growth of podcasting will continue strongly as this technology reaches more and more consumers with a wide variety of content, including emerging video-podcasts. Additional acquisitions will probably occur too, such as the likely purchase of Wondery by Amazon AMZN +0.7% announced today and reported in early December as a likely deal by Forbes.com.
3. The “creator economy” will prosper in 2021. New tools and platforms will enable more professionals, semi-pros, and amateurs to make successful apps, games, or other software using creator tools from companies like Unity, AppOnboard/Buildbox, Overwolf, Roblox, Manticore, as well as TikTok, Triller, YouTube, Snap and the many video-centric digital platforms. As has been seen on many of these platforms, people are finding new ways to make money (some even support themselves and their families fully) due to the creator economy.
4. Home voice platforms will move toward ubiquity in the U.S. and many more services, content, gaming and other features will be offered through voice platforms,
including services using artificial intelligence and machine learning which will advance the complexity and the quality of games, information services, interactive content, and social interactions.
5. Everybody coming out of high school and college wants to be a startup CEO. One well-known, venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, even supports a series of fellowship grants that encourage students to drop-out of college and start their own companies.
6. Disney+ is likely to be the big winner in terms of growth in SVOD services in 2021, but Netflix NFLX +0.3% will continue to grow, particularly internationally.
7. HBO and Warner Media/ATT T -1.3% have created a major disruption in Hollywood’s traditional show business by announcing all of the Warner Bros. films in 2021 will be released on HBO Max, simultaneous with in-theatre releases (to the extent theatres are open in various markets). This will put a big hole in the finances of traditional movie
theatres. The question is will it be a major driver for more HBO Max subscriptions? With the SVOD world full of powerful competitors like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, and others, this dramatic move may be just what is needed to give HBO a top slot in the SVOD industry. I believe other studios will follow suit and close or eliminate “the window” between theatrical releases and the ability to watch at home on a VOD service.
7. Snap will continue to dominate the social media usage of teens and young adults, but TikTok will also continue to grow strongly, probably at a faster rate than Snap. Both services play to the video-centric, user-generated interests of a wide range of kids and adults. YouTube may well start to feel the heat of these competitors.
8. Cord cutting will continue to grow as traditional cable/satellite subscriptions are replaced in many homes by skinny bundles, SVOD, AVOD, and other digital content. Companies like Comcast CMCSA +1.7%, Spectrum and others will need to figure out new ways to make money with consumers, as well as how to drive more revenue and profit in their Internet and TV businesses.
9. Mobile advertising revenue will grow considerably in 2021 as the demand
continues to increase from brands and products that want to reach the “mobile-first” power-users of smartphones, such as the Millennial and Gen Z populations. I expect to see a big increase in mobile advertising in gaming too, as the gaming companies seek additional revenue beyond the virtual goods sold in their “free to play” games.
10. Gaming will continue to grow, in part due to exposing more people to more games during Covid. Game companies will also grow their revenue derived from selling extra content and items, or virtual goods as they are often called, “in-game” and this source of revenue will grow by double digits around the World.
11. The stay at home orders for parents and kids has exposed most families to remote learning, at all levels of education. The “remote cat” is out of the bag and I don’t think the traditional educational system will be able to put the “toothpaste back in the tube”. Remote learning will grow considerably in 2021, and potentially more kids will be officially home-schooled. For colleges and universities the tough question is will people still spend and borrow big money to pay huge tuition bills for four or five years?
12. Security and privacy concerns will continue to dominate the high-tech news in Washington, D.C. and the European Union. Governments and companies (look at Apple’s changes about device identifiers) will take steps to protect consumers from security breaches, as well as from invasions of their privacy, including some of the targeting of advertising that is used today. I do not expect any government to successfully force the break-up of companies like Google or Facebook, despite the predictions of others.