Great Content, Great Advertising Will Keep Great Audiences

Great Content, Great Advertising Will Keep Great Audiences

“From now on, your job is to be a distraction, so people forget what the real problems are.” – Haymitch Abernathy, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” Lionsgate Films 2013

While some are complaining about the chaotic state of the home entertainment/advertising industries, others are wistfully recalling how clean they were a few years ago.   

The home entertainment/advertising industries weren’t better … they were predictable, comfortable.

A Helluva difference but the sooner folks learn to deal with discomfort/uncertainty and embrace chaos, the better off everyone will be, including the target viewer.

Dining Cuisine – Which came first, the TV dinner or TV?  It did’t really matter to then President Ronald Reagan because he sat in front of the tube with his wife Nancy to watch one of his old movies.  

Cable TV started in the US in 1948. 

By 2000, 60 percent of the households were connected with a choice of a couple of hundred channels and a gazillion different movies/shows to watch in the comfort of their family room.

Sure, it kept getting "a little more” expensive over time; but OMG, the viewing options were outta sight. 

And with all those zombie eyeballs, companies saw opportunities to sell stuff - lots of stuff, and the studios/networks were willing to give/sell them that opportunity.

Everyone was happy – the cable guy, network big wigs and smart ad folks were making big impressions and bigger paydays.  

Mom, dad and the kids were “okay” with it because they were entertained in between five, 10, 20 minutes of ads (the number just kinda grew).

Then the techies screwed everything up when YouTube rolled out its video streaming in 2005; and a couple of years later, Netflix offered its subscription VOD service without all the ads.

Everyone followed ‘em – networks, studios, techies.

The SVOD market reached nearly $100B last year and is projected to reach $147B by 2028.

About 17 percent of the global population used a streaming service this past year and the number is projected to grow to be used by nearly 1.7B people by 2028, nearly 24 percent of the population.  

Headroom – Streaming video has grown rapidly in the Americas and is being accepted into homes around the globe.  There’s still plenty of opportunities for services. but how can 200 plus become meaningful?  It’s going to be difficult.  

In other words, there is still room for market expansion and penetration in the years ahead.

But while there are plenty of streaming platforms and a constant introduction of new, great content, consumers have reduced how much of their budget they’re willing to devote to home entertainment.  

Competition among streamers with a constant flow of fresh, interesting content has given consumers a new choice – cancel/add or make savings somewhere else for the new content.

It isn’t a real choice because it’s delightfully simple to drop/add compared to the old way of dealing with the cable guy.

How many months did you spend “wading” through their contract/corporate maze to shave or cut the service?

It sucked, didn’t it? 

Streaming changed that experience too.

For some people adding, subtracting, returning for the next round of exciting films/shows (churn) has become a fine art.

Switching Yard – Moving from one streaming service to another is so easy some people have developed it into a science, knowing precisely when to move to another track with more shows.  Or, it can be a game people play.  

Magid, a leading consumer research firm, even bestowed a new name on the best of them … Hypers. They not only return but they talk about the new shows with friends and folks on social media.

People have learned how to game the system the streamers developed – get in, watch what you want to watch (binge) and move to the next until a new/desirable batch of entertainment comes along.  

Global Game – The streaming services have found that they made it too easy for people to add/delete their service and there’s no going back to the “good ol”/difficult cable days.

The problem for studios/streamers has been that with the exception of Netflix, no one was making money.  

It has nothing to do with streamer/studio loyalty or disloyalty because people don’t sign up and stay with a specific service. They sign up for their entertainment.

The only solution for streaming services and consumers has been to subsidize the services/consumer by offering service at a “reasonable” cost and provide opportunities for companies to reach, inform, persuade, sell products/services to people.

Given a Choice – People almost universally say they hate ads but given a choice of watching stuff and saving a little money, folks vote with their credit card.  

We don’t mean to be insolent, but only an idiot says, “No, I want to pay you more for your stuff/my entertainment because I have plenty of money and my downtime is way too valuable to share it with someone as long as they/you are reasonable.”

The problem is very simply that the studios/networks got greedy and weren’t able to determine when enough was enough.

There are Limits – Pay TV’s constant push for more profits meant packing in more ads and people rejected the abuse.  Consumers have clearly spoken when it comes to what they will tolerate.  

So, the consumer spoke!

In addition, they gave the streamers/studios that are willing to listen exactly what they are willing to trade in the deal.

Sharing – Personal information is well, personal; but that doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to share it as long as they feel they get more in return for their data.  

They also told streamers/studios what they expected to receive in return.

Viewing Value – Streaming services have to focus on more than just a strong video library at a reasonable cost to win/retain consumers.  Incidental features also play a role on which service they drop, which they retain.  

Consumers are suffering from subscription fatigue, but they are not willing to go back to the “good ol days;” and fortunately for the astute streaming service/studio, there is a smart, clear path forward for services and marketers.

With linear pay TV, channels and advertisers were only able to vaguely determine broad information on the viewing audience … how many households had their sets in and, according to census counts, how many   individuals were in that household, income, race/ethnicity.

If you’re a general consumer product/service company (cars, cosmetics, clothes, food) no problem, you pick your target audience, pick the show/event and check the morning ratings.

If the ratings were good, you patted yourself on the back.

If the ratings were bad, you fired the idiot who made the buy decision, or you made up fantastic excuses.

It works for any sporting event.

But often the audience shifts its interest and attention.

Take the three-and-a-half hour plus Oscars coming up in a few months.  

If you’re a member of the industry (director, actor, crew member, agent/rep) probably/possibly.

Last year, 10.4M people tuned in.  In 2020, 23.6M folks watched the Oscars and a decade ago the show attracted about 40M viewers.

The streaming services have stolen the spotlight from the once adored “must-see TV,” but linear TV will continue to be somewhat relevant as long as it focuses on viewer entertainment rather than squeezing the most ROI from the audience possible and returns to meaningful entertainment.

It has seemingly done this by investing in meaningful, interesting, scripted shows rather than cheap, mind-numbing reality and game content.

There are too many really good, really interesting viewing options available now to have the broad appeal the event once had.

Traditional industry wisdom has been that ad dollars follow the audience even though it is slightly behind the wave.  

The great thing about streaming is that marketers can do a better job of reaching their target audience because they know more about them.

More Effective Marketing – Online video viewing also produces and leaves behind volumes of individual and personal data based on who you are, what you watch, how often you watch.  New AI-enabled tools can make it easier, more efficient and more effective to tailor new service offerings and advertising messages for specific folks like you. 

That does not mean traditional TV has been sitting on its hands.

It has increasingly become more data driven with the shows it offers and, to a certain extent, with the number of boring same old ads they place in their shows – as long as marketers/advertisers listen to the clarion call.

There is a distinct difference between traditional linear TV advertising and data-driven linear TV advertising.

Data and its proper use are the key.

Data-driven pay TV enables the advertiser to use the more advanced data to deliver more precise demographic delivery to be – hopefully – more efficient, more effective and less abrasive, intrusive.

Our viewing habits have changed – we prefer to say they have become more sophisticated – with four ad-supported services and two free services.

And our classification of services runs counter to many pigeon-holing research firms. In our opinion, there are only two classifications of streamers – free of ads and ads.  

Sure, we know that with AVOD you’re paying a modest fee plus ads and with FAST you’re paying with time, but we’re really splitting hairs here.

Age Matters – Every age group has a different tolerance level on how many and which ads they will accept as being okay for them to accept from streaming services and marketers in return for lower viewing costs.  Cross the line and they will turn on you.  

And in the middle of a great movie or exciting show, we don’t stop and figure out which of the services we’re using.

In addition, we spend more on a couple of large black coffees while you do the same with a couple of pints or glasses of wine or shots at our favorite beverage place than you do on the service.

The two services are the same but different.

Hunting – By tracking and studying viewer response/reaction, streamers/studios are in a much better position to determine which type of film/show people will sign up for and which ones will keep them watching.  It enables entertainment companies to capture more of their target audiences.  

With Netflix, Disney, Apple TV and the others we get new, exciting content that is fresh from a creative team of folks that the service has chosen or greenlighted because it meets the profiled interest of the service’s present/targeted audience

We know (just because we’re in the industry) that the streamers spend a lot of time, effort and data storage to capture and study (with the help of powerful AI) our data and yours as well as viewing habits to project what you/we are going to want to watch next.

Audience Appeal – Free VOD services such as Pluto, FreeVee, Tubi and others offer a broad range of viewing options to appeal to almost every audience segment regardless of race, ethnicity, political or sexual orientation. They enable marketers to tailor their ads to specific audiences and improve their advertising success.  Everyone wins.  

But … our streaming service (Pluto, Tubi, FreeVee, whatever) has differentiators we find overwhelmingly compelling – variety, choice and a crazy amount of diversity.

Pick the type of project you want – black, native American, French, Indian, Chinese; LGBTQ, religious, off-color; any genre; old/new/fairly new series – it’s there.

Dazzling Array – You may think you’re an entertainment expert, but flipping through the broad and deep free VOD service film and show options can sometimes be as fun as watching a specific show/movie.  Just see all the great video stories you missed.  

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in seeing all of the titles we’ve never seen before, we forget we just opened them up to watch … something.

Last year, industry analysts estimated that AVOD subscriptions increased 29 percent and subscriptions could more than double in the next five years.

During the same period, more than half of the TV viewers watched FAST TV.

Richer Hunt – Free VOD services also provide indie film makers and studios opportunities to capture more of the viewing public for increased audience interest and financial returns.  And yes, the venture is not without its dangers.

As indie content creators and film companies look to expand their reach and extend their project visibility, they will present even more attractive sale/profit opportunities. 

With the right marketing behind the shows/films, creative/production teams will not only have validation that their projects resonate with the viewing public, but they also have a better financial return on their work.

At the same time, marketers, advertisers and agencies will have to become more intelligent, creative and realistic about their marketing objectives and results.

Long, Hard Road – Winning consumer interests and commitment is not a straightforward superhighway.  It’s complete with dips, potholes, hidden turns and opportunities to do things right and wrong.  However, the trip is rewarding.  

The challenge is that it’s not a straight, high-speed highway to the consumer.  

With direct access to precise demographics, the ad-supported services can provide marketers with more insights into their precise audience and enable them to personalize the ad experience so the spot resonates with the viewer rather than turn them off.

And it’s to the benefit of the streaming service to provide this increased level and insight into serving the viewer because a positive user experience is tantamount to viewer retention.

Marketers no longer have to buy an 8 p.m. local or national timeslot.

Instead, they can make their advertising buy based on specific criteria – race, ethnicity, education/professional level, income level, personal preferences – based on historical viewing habits/tastes, and well, just about any criteria the marketer feels are important.

Addressable advertising like this puts the information/message in front of the viewer regardless of when they watch the content, on what screen they’re using at the best possible time--when she/he is interested and willing to see/hear the message.

Whether it’s a pre-roll (beginning of content) or mid-roll (during the content) ad, the viewer experience has to be handled meticulously.

Maintaining that seamless experience benefits everyone … advertiser, streamer, viewer.

And it will work as long as the service/marketers treat the viewer/audience with respect because as Peeta Mellark said in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, “The way the whole "friend" thing works is you have to tell each other the deep stuff.”

If you don’t believe her, just remember what Katniss Everdeen warned, “It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by just a few berries.”

But done right and done well, it’s going to be a helluva fun, interesting, profitable time to be in marketing and streaming.

Andy Marken – andy@markencom.com - is an author of more than 800 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications. Internationally recognized marketing/communications consultant with a broad range of technical and industry expertise, especially in storage, storage management and film/video production fields. Extended range of relationships with business, industry trade press, online media and industry analysts/consultants

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