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Not all streamers will survive…on their own

Content Insider #821 – Happy Place

By Andy Marken – andy@markencom.com

“You’re a fraud, Helen! You’re a walking lie, and I can see right… THROUGH YOU!” – Madeline Ashton, “Death Becomes Her,” Universal, 1992

You probably don’t notice it unless you go to the grocery store or check your credit card balance, but the global economy is “a little” out of control. You know, everything seems to be a little higher except your paycheck/income even though your government is doing stuff that is supposed to slow things down.

Somehow, what “they” do never seems to help because you still need groceries; and darn it, you still need entertainment.

But the constant increases sorta takes weekly trips to the movies off the table (one movie = $20+ for two).

Fortunately, most folks have an option–two ad-supported streaming services plus one FAST service at $20/mo. offer more stuff than we can possibly watch.  

Movie Crowd – Theater attendance isn’t back, and it won’t be for years to come (if ever) because prices are two high for “one” show and watching first-class content is easy and … fun.  

It’s little wonder that people only splurge when there’s a “got-to-see” blockbuster or tentpole film that can only be appreciated on a giant screen with immersive sound while seated among a bunch of strangers.

Awards organizations like AMPAS volunteered to help theater owners by saying the only way you qualify to be considered for an Emmy is by having your film shown a full week in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets.

In other words, if a movie isn’t shown in a movie house, it’s not really a movie no matter how good it is.

Good to Go – Movies that are shown in cinemas get social media/press coverage and online recommendations, so they attract subscribers to services when the movie is available.   They fan the flames.

Actually, the streamers/studios don’t mind because the global noise (media coverage) only fans the interest in the project when it’s finally released on their service which should increase their subscription numbers.

That means there are more people who want to watch stuff at home on their internet-connected TV rather than dress up, drive their EV for 30 minutes, pay a lot for a ticket and popcorn, sit in a cushy seat, drive home and not realize they had been part of another Hollywood fairy tale. 

Of course, that’s tough for foreign films and arthouse stuff; but hey, the Emmy givers can’t save everyone.

Don’t get us wrong, we go a couple of times a year but … ninety percent of US households have an internet connection as do two-thirds of all of the homes around the world.  

More than 1.7B global households (123M+ in the US) have a TV so adding a couple of streaming services for year-round viewing is a helluva deal.

Not too surprising is the fact that everyone wants the same thing.

Key Reasons – People commonly place cost as the top reason for switching streaming services but usually the compelling reasons are depth, breadth and quality of the video content offerings.  

Oh sure, cost is important.

But if the content is there, people will stick around.

When it comes to a household’s entertainment, quality and value always beat price but they also want a broad range of content that interests them. Perhaps equally important is entertainment they can’t get anywhere else.

We’ve always been a little confused about the “new, original” response because if we haven’t seen something, it’s new … to us.

Original has always puzzled us because people have always enjoyed prequels, sequels, line extensions.

Next Up – Consumers always indicate they like new and unique video content but they also like what’s familiar – franchises, line extensions, prequels, sequels.  They drive continuing subscriptions.  

Yellowstone begot a slew of 2nd and 3rd generation shows and there’s probably room for a lot more.

Dick Wolf built a content production empire with Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, FBI, FBI International, FBI Most Wanted and probably more to come.

James Bond movies have been around forever. Mission Impossible, Fast, Star Wars, Halloween, Indie Jones, Avatar and many more theater/streaming extensions constantly attract both young and older audiences who want to go along for the thrill, horror, enjoyment, laughter, the sheer joy of seeing what the next chapter holds for us.

Stick with Winners – When a studio, network or streamer finds content that resonates with consumers they will continue adding versions to keep you coming back for more.  When they greenlight a new film/show, the decision is often viewer-data based.  

Do you think it’s dumb luck or simply your streaming service being lazy by turning out the same/similar sci-fi, adventure, animated, thriller, horror or family-oriented movie or series?

Dude, dudette, they know what you like even before you know it.  

They have your viewing data to prove it!

They know what you watched, what you clicked on and moved on to something else, when you accepted or rejected shows/movies from the recommendation engine, even how days/time/mood may have affected your viewing decisions.

They’re not being overly nosey.  

They simply want to entertain you–and keep you as a subscriber.

That’s not an easy task when there’s so much good/great content in so many services.

Proven – With the growing volume of data that streamers have on subscribers/viewers, likes/dislikes, time of day and many other factors; studios/streamers can greenlight movies/shows pretty easily and be assured of what works and what doesn’t with their prevailing audience.  

Did you like Barbie?  Spidey?  No Hard Feelings? MI7?  Oppenheimer? Joy Ride?   Earth Mama? Then there was a treasure trove of rich movies and series maddingly added/dropped by streaming services just as you were getting involved with them.

All well written, well directed, well shot, well-acted, well edited but …

Gone – With the ease of adding/canceling their paid streaming services, people increasingly watch the movies/shows they are interested in and when they’re done with them, they’ll move on to another service until something good/great is available on the cancelled service.  

With streaming, churn happens.

It happens because the streaming service – Netflix, Prime, Disney, WBD, Apple, Paramount, Peacock–all of the other 200 plus streaming services offered you an appealing line up of content at an attractive/competitive price.

But you burned through the stuff you liked, and they made it way too easy for you to cancel and move on to the other guy’s content until you binged or took your time watching what you wanted before you dropped them and went back to “ol reliable.”

No, streamers can’t bring back the old restrictive bundle-type service because that dog won’t hunt anymore.

But a discounted annual price might work.

According to executives at Recurly, subscription management software producers, loyalty incentives are important.

Their research found that 60 percent of the people interviewed said that loyalty incentives were important and made them feel like a valued customer.

Lower long-term subscription prices were the preferred financial rewards by 79 percent of the people interviewed.  

Their analysts noted that less expensive subscriptions with longer commitments (annual?) can help reduce the churn rate by 42 per cent, providing a significantly improved long-term revenue stream.

Better yet, a lower ad-supported price with just a few ads might keep people connected to the service until the next movie/show refresh comes around.

What appears to draw increasing attention is totally new, different films/shows that seem to fall into the same/familiar theme/genre – adventure, sci-fi, romcom, drama, animation, horror.

Foreign is Local – The pandemic gave people the time they needed to watch even more video content.  The U.S. industry strike helped people discover that the creators/studios around the world share a common bond…producing great, relatable content.  Suddenly, global content is very appealing everywhere.  

When WGA, DGA, SAG/AFTA and the unions shut down Hollywood’s content mills, global services rushed out to find new, different shows/movies to fill the void.

We admit the move was necessary and important.

But for entertainment-hungry folks in the Americas and around the globe, it showed that creative talent exists … everywhere.

Suddenly, people everywhere are able to watch wild, different, good movies/shows from Brazil, Nigeria, Bulgaria, India, Argentina, Kenya, Italy, Pakistan;, well, everywhere that with the right subbing/dubbing are awesome.

Even our son, whose main interests have been video games and TikTok, has found video stories from other countries that really interest him.

This probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for streaming services wanting to appeal to the global viewer rather than the bundled services that filled in their time slots with more reality and game shows – cheap to produce and you don’t have to think too hard about the plot/storyline.

It’s rather obvious that Netflix and DTC streaming video has changed the global media landscape.

In 2007, it was an exclusive ad-free, watch anytime Netflix world. People liked to brag about them around the water cooler and when they were gathering for long, boring meetings in the office.   

Networks and studios thought it would be another passing fancy like TiVo (which has been reborn/reinvented) where people would TiVo a show rather than DVR it for later viewing.  Still, the name stuck as a way of recording a show/film for later.

Studios and networks were all too willing to license their content to them for added revenues.

But Netflix had bigger aspirations and began licensing new, unique, exclusive content and then began producing their own content.

In 2018, the company had more than 124M subscribers globally with nearly 73M outside of the Americas, expanding and enhancing its core capabilities beyond its core market.  

Sourcing content regionally enabled the company to rapidly expand its subscriber base by offering “locally” grown content that won friends and supporters in the countries’ governments as well as the content creation community.  It also provided them with films/shows with an international flavor to appeal to entertainment tastes at home.

Of course, they weren’t alone in the early stages because Amazon Prime and Google’s YouTube expanded in the areas, practicing what Trinity College’s Louis Brennan dubbed exponential globalization.  

Disney and Apple, which were both global service and product providers, followed similar paths with equal success.

Streaming entertainment reached near saturation in the U.S. with more than 90 percent of the households having at least one streaming service but with Apple’s global presence, it has been easier, more economic, more profitable for them to expand  … everywhere.    

Competitive Growth – Despite being a very competitive market, the video streaming industry will continue to grow aggressively as more people everywhere find it “natural” to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.  Streaming will vastly outstrip pay TV and theatrical markets.  

The U.S. video streaming market experienced exceptional growth in recent years, reaching an estimated $154B last year, the largest share of global revenue followed by China and India.

MIDiA Research estimates that by 2030, more than 3B subscribers around the world will be streaming video content, spending more than $330B on their entertainment.

Continued Investment – Firms that grow and prosper in the streaming industry have to continue to invest in new/different content in addition to leveraging their franchise projects to keep consumers connected.  

The good news for the content creation/production industry is that studios and service providers spent more than $230B last year on movie and show production and that investment will approach $250B this year.

To maintain steady growth, Netflix – by far the most popular global VOD service – is adding gaming content as well as more shows/films to their product line to broaden their appeal to more of the personal/home entertainment community.

Amazon hasn’t blinked on their subscription/free content spend because of the firm’s broader base as a global product/package service and cloud service company plus being first with added services – books, music, games and video content.

Apple’s consistent focus on quality vs. quantity is perhaps the world’s leading device producer – computer, tablet, smartphone, watch – with a dedicated following that is also committed to the firm’s siloed services – music, books/news, games, healthcare/fitness and video entertainment.

Disney has one of the most robust entertainment offerings with Disney+and Hulu, ESPN+ as well as family parks, travel, music and content production/distribution around the globe.

The other major content producers/distributors – WBD, Paramount, Peacock, Tencent, iQIYI, Eros Now, iFlix, Canal Plus and more – will continue to invest in new shows/movies to gain market share.  You can also expect consolidation to increase in the years ahead to produce a larger national and international footprint.

M&E is a great industry for creative folks because people constantly want/need new stuff to scare them, make them laugh/cry/cheer, give them a break from their daily routine and give them something to look forward to when they turn on their screen.

An hour or three break is a healthy respite which is important especially when your partner looks at you and repeats Helen’s declaration in Death Becomes Her, “I will not speak to you ’til you put your head on straight.”

Great content can be just the break you need.

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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