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Maximizing the Connection, Profit

Content Insider #806 – Repeat

By Andy Marken – andy@markencom.com

” With enough time and enough money, you could spend the rest of your life following the Summer 

around the world. “ — Narrator, “The Endless Summer,” Bruce Brown Films, 1965

Okay, Top Gun was good, so was Avatar … as were a number of other big screen events.

Some even got mentioned at the Oscars, but that doesn’t impress us much!

No, we psyched ourselves up and prepped for the return to the theater of John Wick: Chapter 4.  

We’re not a “must see it on the giant screen with a few dozen strangers” guy but good gawd, it’s John Wick and there has to be some payback to Winston for shooting him.  

Besides, he gets a new puppy!

Rewatched the first three chapters a couple of times just to get our mind back in the groove.

We already know it will pack theaters everywhere it is shown, despite the jacked-up ticket prices, tiered seating pricing and ridiculous concession/food pricing.

Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment (distributors), Reeves and the production crew have done a killer job of telling you what to expect – how it was done – without really telling you.  

When the film is released by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, it will suck new subscribers into the services.

Then … into the pirate realm.

Knowing everything and nothing is great film marketing.  It feeds the flames of peoples’ “need” to see a film or show.

Source – Lionsgate

The point is Chapter 4 is part of a proven franchise that people (young/old, male/female) just can’t get enough of.

It has such a great following that it already has two spin-offs – The Continental and Ballerina.

The movie industry (Hollywood) enjoys the good life once a project, plot, character(s) connects with the audience.  

Immediately, they map out a longer life for the storyline/people.

For a long time, studios used their established franchises to test the water for the next generation of projects and to cover the losses for those that just didn’t click.  

Franchises included:

  • MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) — $27.98B
  • Star Wars — $10.31B
  • Spider-Man — $9.8B
  • Wizarding World — $9.66B
  • James Bond — $7.83B
  • The Avengers — $7.76B
  • Batman — $6.84B 
  • Fast and Furious — $6.62B

Broadcast TV found their niches:

  • Law & Order – three shows with Law & Order SVU on for 24 seasons
  • NCIS – three spin-offs with NCIS running 20 seasons
  • Chicago (PD, Med, Fire) running 30 seasons
  • A dizzying list of reality/game shows

Streaming services are still working on their franchises, pulling the best their parent network has and bringing them to a broader, global market:

  • Walking Dead
  • Star Trek
  • A lot of trial and error

Disney missed its opportunity to become the sole streamer of the franchise to end all franchises with Dr. Who.

Developed and introduced in 1963, Dr Who is the crown jewel of BBC, clocking in more than 800 episodes over 40 seasons.  

Since Disney didn’t step in soon enough during Iger’s “vacation,” the program (which sits in its own universe) is now available on Max, Prime Video, Apple TV.

Instead of having a solid, “bankable” franchise for its streaming service, Disney – and all of the services – are trying to develop video storylines and characters that can provide them with a strong, predictable audience they can use to build on with a constant stream of new films/shows.

The goal is to keep subscribers coming back for the next season/next spin-off for as long as possible.

We were reminded of this awhile back when Hub research published its annual Evolution of Video Branding report.  

The streamers (nearly all of them) follow the same marketing plan studios have used for years … hype the heck out of a project as hard and creatively as possible to build an audience/following. Then jump to the next project, rinse and repeat.

Disney is perhaps the only studio that has done a stellar job of building a brand that is known around the globe.

Disney is known as a family-friendly content production studio with an equally strong image of producing space adventures anyone can watch – Star Wars, Mandalorian, MCU projects and more.

Their name is so well known for these films/shows they often get credit for stuff they didn’t even touch like Batman, Spiderman, Super Mario Bros and more.

They don’t claim they had anything to do with these films/shows; people just say, “it feels like the kind of show they’d produce.”

Sure, you know Warner Bros, Sony, Universal, Paramount and others you can name do produce some great films you see at the theater; but the film name has the big type while the organization’s name that spent all the money to entertain folks is relegated to mouse type at the bottom of the poster.

It’s even worse for streamers since they may acquire a film/show from a distributor or production house sometimes located in Korea, Kenya, India, France or other country..  

If you heard there’s a great film/show streaming that you’ve gotta see, you go to Netflix and search the library.

If you find it, you knew they would have it because they’re the streaming leader.

If you don’t find it, you resort to Google search.

The problem is even though the best and most image conscious of the 200 plus local, regional and global streaming services are 100 percent focused on adding/retaining subscribers, they spend little to no time/money differentiating themselves from the herd.  

Even Apple, one of the most well-known brands on the planet with more than 1.5B loyal users, just can’t seem to be taken seriously as a quality content provider.

And they try…  

They rocked the industry last year when Coda surprised everyone by winning three Oscars.

Moving forward with Will Smith’s Emancipation – a solid story that needed to be told – did more for Smith than Apple.

Their comedy drama Ted Lasso, now in it’s third season, has been highly acclaimed but we haven’t watched one segment because there’s so darn much noise out there for other projects that “we’ve just gotta see!”

So, we hop between our core services – those that are our streaming base – and jump in/out of the rest when we’ve seen what we came to see because they’re just a delivery mechanism to the movies/shows we watch.  

After that?  We can’t tell you what the service is, what it stands for, why it’s as good as/better than our core streaming services.   

First Stop – No, it may not be logical; but if you’re looking for a new film you’ve heard about that is streaming now, people’s first searching location is often Netflix.  

If you can’t figure out what the various streaming services stand for, the best thing to do is pick the movies/shows you like, finish watching them and … move on.

Big Challenge – Even the best brands and streaming services focus all of their promotion on specific titles rather than the overall service’s image so, the organization’s image is muddy at best.  

According to Hub Research’s findings, that seems to be what people are willing to do right now.

The report found that:

  • 41 per cent of the respondents said they signed up for a service to watch a specific show
  • 57 percent of people ages 16-24 chose a service just because of one show then… 
  • If the respondents aren’t certain, they pick a new show with a character they are familiar with or story line that has interested them in the past.  In these instances, services like Tubi and Pluto are appealing to the “casual” viewer 
  • 40 per cent of Hub’s respondents said they would be more inclined to watch a new show in Disney’s Marvel universe
  • The next three most widely named services were broadcast network streaming spinoffs 

If you enjoy watching cooking or fixer-upper shows, then Discovery + is on your gotta have streaming service list.

If you’re into watching fixer up, remodeling shows, or a seemingly endless series of adventure reality shows, you not only watched the Discovery channel on your pay TV service but it was probably the first streaming service you signed up for when you cut the bundle and kept the broadband service.

Working Pair – Discovery’s Zaslav is very comfortable around Chip and Joanna Gaines’ home improvement work and the other food and adventure shows on Discovery.  They’re economic to produce and keep viewers much longer than HBO and WB content.  

WBD’s Zaslav headed up Discovery since 2006 and knows the unscripted content is inexpensive to produce and delivers a very loyal – primarily female – market.  

All of the other stuff he inherited in the merger – Warner Bros Picture  Group, TNT,HBO – get thrown into the Max service, put back in the vault or leased out to other streaming services.

No, we didn’t forget CNN and DC because they will end up as stand-alone entities that will be spun off as separate companies or sold to the right bidder.

As successful – and profitable – as Netflix has been, they still have only one area of content that has caught on with streaming content consumers–K-dramas.

Starting with excellent acceptance of Squid Games, the company has launched a strong roster of well-scripted and produced Korea-based shows and series which have been very well received in the APAC region and the Americas.

But both Sarandos and co-CEO Greg Peters know the country-centric content needs a common thread to retain subscribers over the long term.  

So, with frustrating regularity, the company launches a new entertainment series, closely tracks the viewership numbers and, cuts/adds a new show when they see a decline in viewership.

For many subscribers, this seems to happen just about the time they become invested in the plot, storyline or specific characters.

Yeah, frustrating, we know!

Rugged Independence – While it may have been the rugged independence of the storyline or the no-nonsense actors, Yellowstone clicked with millions of streaming and pay TV viewers.  The show has fostered a number of spin-offs and more may be in the wind.  

Thus far, the only streaming series that has drawn a large and loyal audience has been Paramount’s Yellowstone.

It could be actors Kevin Costner and Kelly Reilly, Taylor Sheridan’s creative work, the wide-open beauty of Montana, a desire to go back to what people mistakenly call a better time or a solid mixture of all of these that has drawn a loyalty among viewers whether they’re watching on Peacock (earlier contract deal) or Paramount +.

Good Ride – When you find a good horse (or show) that clicks with the audience, you breed more of the same.  

Of course, the uncertainty of Costner returning for the 5th season and who might replace him has only built interest in watching the show.  

The attention/viewer interest enabled Sheridan to expand the project’s franchise into a very successful set of additional shows.

Solid storylines, established actors and excellent production/post work have delivered excellent shows as well as sustained subscription growth.  

Sustained is the key word because the longer a streaming service keeps a subscriber, the better their ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

Netflix and Disney have expanded their global subscription bases with a steady array of unique content that attracts viewers and keeps them connected; because as we all know, content is king but the subscriber determines how long it will rule.

The two content development/delivery organizations are building their brand recognition by being the first place the consumer turns to when he/she/they want films/shows they can sit back and enjoy when, where and how they want.

When they find a project that clicks with the viewing public, you know they’ll do the same thing Paramount + has done … develop sequels, remakes and spin-offs to keep subscribers coming back for more.  

Getting, maintaining and refreshing the content mix for the viewer/subscriber is best summed up by the narrator in Endless Summer, “Many of us ride winter and summer, but the ultimate thing for us would be to have an endless summer.”

That’s the entertainment enjoyment that content creators and streaming services need to deliver to their audiences–even if that means putting a great film in theaters for a while to satisfy the seats-in-seats crowd, make a little extra money and build social media excitement in staying signed up with their entertainment pipeline.  

Not every film will be a John Wick or Mission: Impossible.  Content creators and streamers have to pick the wave that’s right for the studio, service and viewer. 

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

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