There’s no doubt that streaming video is the present (thanks, pandemic!), as well as the future of entertainment. But which platform will dominate the so-called streaming wars is still up for debate. Kevin Beggs, the chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, believes that price will help some consumers decide, but so will content: It “may come down to the hits and what shows are mandatory viewing and worth the price,” he says.
As consumers try to choose, they are sampling across platforms. Rose Hulse, the founder and CEO of ScreenHits TV, says that based on her company’s data, “The majority of viewers have two to three streaming platforms, but only use one 95 percent of the time, dipping into the others for 5 percent of the time.” That is an enormous disparity in viewing habits and one that could be hard for streaming platforms to surmount. So, the question is: How does a platform become the go-to choice for a viewer? How can a new platform elbow its way into a crowded and competitive marketplace filled with the likes of Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and Amazon? That was the question Scott Roxborough, European bureau chief of The Hollywood Reporter, posed to a group of streaming video experts during a recent panel discussion.
The big takeaway is an old one, which remains true: Content is king. “What we believe is really going to set everyone apart is obviously the IP,” says Kelly Day, chief operating officer of ViacomCBS Networks International. “It really comes down to the content, the talent, and having things that, frankly, people are willing to go out of their way to find and are really excited to watch.” When her company launches Paramount+ in 2021, it will offer viewers access to shows and movies from Showtime, Paramount, CBS and all the Viacom brands, including MTV and Nickelodeon, as well as a slate of original programming and franchises that come with a built-in fan base, like Star Trek.
Beggs agrees that “finding those big noisy shows that will find new customers” is important, but so is price. “That’s why a platform like Netflix has had such success — relatively low price for the amount of content that it generates,” he says. “I think that will be a dividing line among all these services.” Consumers have to choose where to spend their money and will spend it on shows they consider must-see-TV, which Day thinks will be “big tentpoles and big franchises” and Beggs views as “network-defining shows like Mad Men, Weeds and Orange Is the New Black.”
To connect with viewers, Henning Tewes, the CEO of TVNow, which is the streaming platform run by RTL, one of Europe’s largest broadcast networks, sees room for local players. “Our focus is with the 47,000 hours of content on TVNow that is our German-language drama and television,” he explains. Day says that ViacomCBS is also creating local content. As a broadcasting streamer, it has an added edge in that it can air an original series on network television as a way of marketing the show. Of course, the reverse of that worked really well for Schitt’s Creek, which Lionsgate originally aired on Pop before moving it to Netflix. There, it connected with a much larger audience and ultimately won a slew of Emmy Awards. “That never would have happened without that extra accelerant, if you will, of getting on a much bigger platform,” Beggs says, explaining that the show’s success drove viewers back to Pop. Ultimately, according to Beggs, “the marketing was the platform.”
Marketing is an incredibly important way to help viewers find a show in the sea of content that exists online. “A lot of it comes down to how effective your marketing is for the shows but also the service,” says Day. For her part, Hulse believes that discovery platforms could help consumers actually find TV shows they want to watch — a real feat in a world with hundreds of thousands of hours of shows and where subscription fatigue is real. That in turn could eliminate churn and drive subscriptions, a win for streaming platforms. When you have happy customers and executives, that is the sign of a very bright future. Tewes does have one word of caution for platforms and viewers alike: “The winners and losers will be decided on by the factors of content and patience. It will take awhile to get it right.”
This feature was created in paid partnership with our partner, Screenhits TV. Learn more HERE.