“Streamer Takeover – New World Order” Panel Discussion – Variety TV Summit

Jason Flick
Jason Flick CEO and Co-Founder
variety tv summit, video streaming, AVOD

I had the pleasure of discussing current and future dynamics in the streaming environment with Verizon, CBS News, and Universal Content Productions at Variety’s TV Summit a couple weeks back in L.A.. The panel covered how the growth of streaming has influenced business practices, strategies to manage subscription fatigue for ad-supported platforms, and much more. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the discussion.

Media Companies Becoming Tech Companies

It goes without saying, the expansion of streaming has brought many exciting changes to the TV industry. But worthwhile changes don’t come without their fair share of growing pains. For me, the most significant change media companies are facing is the need to become tech companies.

Without the right tools to navigate streaming’s choppy waters, media companies can struggle to adapt to the many innovations still to come. It’s crucial those making the transition have the right technology tools to do so. Tools that enable them to be proactive, rather than reactive, preparing them for the guaranteed bumps along the way.

Disney made the decision to take control of their tech strategy in-house with their upcoming streaming service, Disney+. What Disney already has in spades is content. With their Disney Vault and rights to Marvel, LucasFilm, and Pixar, they offer many fan favorites in one place.

But with all that great content, Disney has to build a platform worth watching it on. With more and more SVODs creating their own great content, think Cobra Kai from YouTube Premium and Amazon Prime’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, content is starting to become more of a commodity. If everyone is creating great content, content drops the crown as king. This means users sticking point with a service begins to lean more on the platform’s brand experience.

The key to unlocking a great platform is and always will be, technology. Build a service with the right tools and you can separate yourself from the competition, not with content, but with a branded user experience.

There’s a lot to unpack here. More on this in a separate blog.

AVODs Aren’t Going Anywhere. Let’s Innovate.

There was some surprise on the panel when I said AVODs would be coming back in a big way. Let’s not forget AVODs have the easiest onboarding process for users, just create a free account and start watching. Combine the ease of on-boarding with users growing SVOD fatigue, and AVODs start to look a lot more important. Having said that, advertising innovation is critical to engaging and retaining AVOD users.

We exist in a user-first industry. Viewers are now in control of their own digital experiences. Most of today’s users don’t enjoy irrelevant 30-second commercial blocks. Even though this isn’t the least bit surprising, the innovation of ad experiences has more or less been absent.

To date, advertisers are constrained within the 63-year-old ad format to achieve scale. Times have changed and so has viewing preferences. Advertisers need to work alongside publishers to find personalized and engaging ways to make people care about their ads. Premium content deserves premium advertising, and together these are necessary to drive on-going viewer engagement.

Reinventing Advertising: Guiding Pillars

In a previous blog, we laid out two pillars to guide publishers and advertisers into developing stronger, more engaging formats that retain attention and increase engagement.

  • Unlock new real estate; leverage the digital pixels on-top of, around, and within the video playback UX.

In a race to get content to users, we need to unlock the app real estate to deliver content with the least disruption possible. Why wait through established, pre-roll commercial breaks when you can advertise over the video itself? This approach is less disruptive for users and brings the ad to life with far more engaging formats.

  • Personalize ad-loads: mix new interactive and existing formats to suit viewer preferences.

We have to acknowledge all users are different. Some don’t mind sitting through regular commercial breaks, while others hate it. Users should be able to choose how they receive their ads. Giving the option to choose which type of ad format they prefer makes both the ad-viewing and content experience more enjoyable.

Working with a number of customers, we tried this concept out. Watch and interact with ads prior to the stream, or watch with regular commercial breaks.

The option of an interactive 30-second ad experience with zero follow-on commercial breaks is attractive for all three parties involved. Users have a clear understanding of the engagement and trade their attention for fewer ads, publishers retain viewer attention for longer, and brands engage with viewers on a deeper level. Everyone wins.

The innovation in the streaming industry has shifted users’ ad viewing preferences to a less disruptive, interactive model. To maintain engagement, it’s crucial TV advertisements innovate to align with these new preferences. Let’s not stay stuck in the past. The rest of the industry isn’t.

If you’re interested, you can listen to the full panel discussion below.

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