• Gordon Greaves

TV Content - which platform, what's trending, where are the opportunities?

Remember the song “Video killed the radio star?” Someone’s going to have to re-write the lyrics to “Streaming killed the TV star.”

Nobody knows what TV is anymore.

Is it TV when you watch ZDF or BBC? Yes and no, because those traditional linear broadcasters all now have online streaming services too.


Is it TV when you binge-watch Game of Thrones on Netflix? No. Netflix isn’t TV. It’s Subscription-Video-on-Demand (SVOD). So is Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Apple TV+. (More about those later.)


Is it TV when you get sucked down a YouTube rabbit hole, viewing conspiracy theory videos? Nope. That’s VOD. No ‘S’ because it’s free. But YouTube also has paid content. And they also have… AVOD.


Ad-supported VOD (AVOD) is those annoying ads that play for a few seconds before your video starts. But AVOD can also be product placement too.


Understanding each of these models is useful because the better you know how they work, the better you can configure the content for each platform, and more importantly, monetise that content.

Broadcast TV:

Producers typically pitch their your concept to a broadcaster or present a pilot, and, assuming you are green-lit, there are two broad outcomes: you get a Commission or a Licensing Deal.


A Commission means the broadcaster commissions the project, and because it is paying all or most of the money, it retains all or most of the intellectual property rights. As a Producer, you relinquish most of your rights, but you do get the cash and the backup to make the product well.


A Licensing Deal is where the money comes from other sources (investors, sponsors, etc) and the broadcaster agrees to air the content via a licensing agreement. Often the product has already been made as a TV Pilot and attracted the right kind of attention at markets like the LA Screenings.


The broadcaster doesn't own any of the IP, and often they are not the only broadcaster airing the project, so they pay a lot less for the content than a commissioning deal, UNLESS they are providing sponsorship branding and/or product placement, in which case it’s a more complex deal resulting in some revenue being earned by the broadcaster for the exposure it provides to brands.

VOD:

YouTube reigns supreme in the VOD arena but there are others, like Vimeo, Twitch, Dailymotion, Metacafe, Photobucket, Flickr and Veoh.


YouTube is for many start-up film-makers what the flea-market is to wanna-be fashion designers.


It’s a place where, at minimal or no cost, you can quickly find out if the stuff you are making has what it takes. Are you pulling views?


YouTube is generally where producers of short-form, low budget content go to test their product, but increasingly, it is also where more experienced production houses are now screening short-form movies.


If you are one of these, here are Seven Lessons for TV Producers moving into short-form and social video:


1. Don’t expect upfront commissions: revenue share is the online funding model

2. Partnerships with the new generation of content creators and influencers are crucial

3. There is more freedom to work with brands online, but there are dangers

4. Remember that online is interactive and responsive

5. Don’t think of online video as one category; each platform is unique and requires bespoke content.

6. Online video requires producers to completely rethink the development and production process

7. Producers need their own data team as algorithms and audiences are constantly evolving

SVOD:

This is the place to be right now, but things are changing fast: Netflix is no longer the unassailable juggernaut it once was.


Netflix

When Netflix started, it filled a gap in the market. Before Netflix, consumers had a choice of watching free services or buying pay-TV. Suddenly, Netflix was offering low-price streaming with high-quality shows in a convenient format.


Legacy players were either too stuck in their old ways to respond, or if there were visionary broadcasters who could see outside the box, they were blocked by domestic regulators.


Meanwhile Netflix just kept improving its offer: more original content, astute acquisitions, easy user interface, easy cancellation and access across devices.

Since April this year, Netflix subscribers pay $13 per month.


Make no mistake, with 151 million subscribers, Netflix remains the clearly dominant player. It has an annual programme budget of $15bn, its markets in India and Africa are showing high growth potential, and it is pursuing an aggressive expansion strategy. But this time it has foxes yapping at its heels. Even a few wolves.


“Netflix has led the way, but it no longer has a clear run at the market because of the growing number of powerful companies entering the streaming business - Apple, Disney and AT&T Time Warner being the most high-profile examples,” says Brett Sappington, senior research director and principal analyst at consultancy Parks Associates.


And it’s not just newcomers like Disney+ and Apple TV+ that Netflix has to worry about. The traditional TV broadcasters have finally woken up.


Ovum senior analyst Tony Gunnarsson concurs: “If the last decade was dominated by the story of Netflix and disruption, then the next will be about subscription-based linear services. Every traditional broadcaster and telco is lining up with some kind of OTT streaming service.”

Source: eMarketer Aug 2019

That’s because mobile is surpassing TV as the primary platform of consumption. Virtually every phone is now a smartphone, and with wifi becoming increasingly pervasive in the workplace, schools, university and the home, mobile is rapidly taking over as the dominant growth platform for audio and video content distribution. According to a report on eMarketer, currently over 75% of worldwide video consumption occurs on mobile devices.


The recent launch of 5G in South Korea and the US, and soon in other territories promises a new wave of capabilities for smartphone users, including AR/VR in OTT video streaming.


Amazon Prime

With the rights to the Lord of the Rings recently inked with the Tolkien estate, Amazon Prime is set for continued strong growth. Bidding against Disney+ and Netflix, Jeff Bezos offered $250m for the rights, which was not the highest offer. It was Amazon’s book division that sealed the deal, with the Tolkien estate convinced that in promoting the TV series, Amazon would sell truckloads of Tolkien’s famous fantasy novels, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings.

Amazon Studios has produced a series of original hits, including The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, The Man in the High Castle, and Jack Ryan.

It also offers third-party channels such as Showtime, HBO, UMC, Starz and House&Garden.


But the most interesting development is the channel’s investment in sports content. It’s negotiating with the NFL (American football), it’s talking to the British Premier League for its soccer games, and it’s also looking to get rights for certain US basketball games.


Amazon Prime’s 100m subscribers pay $13 per month, (and many of those subscribers also spend money on Amazon’s books).


Analysts estimate Amazon will spend approximately $5bn on content this year.


Apple TV+

Apple TV+ launched in November 2019 with nine original projects including The Morning Show, a comedy-drama about the drama and egos behind a morning news program that stars Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell.

The Morning Show - an Apple TV+ original

Other launch titles include the See, starring Jason Momoa, about a future where humans have lost the sense of sight, Dickinson, an alt-history series focused on 19th century poet Emily Dickinson that stars Hailee Steinfeld and Wiz Khalifa, and Ronald D. Moore’s For All Mankind, an alt-history drama about NASA’s continuing space race.


Apple is reportedly spending $6bn on content.


With an aggressive pricing model of just $5 per month, some analysts are predicting 21m Apple TV+ subscribers by 2021.


If the Steve Jobs era of Apple was defined by the success of the iPhone, the Cook era may be defined by what Apple can convince us to consume on those devices.


"I view the streaming endeavour as one of the most pivotal chapters in Cook's legacy," Dan Ives, Managing Director at Wedbush Securities, told CNN Business. "Ultimately, the success or failure of Apple's streaming initiative is going to play a big role in the company's ability to further monetize its 900 million iPhone customers worldwide."

Disney+

Also launching in November, Disney+ is being called “a Fully Formed Streaming Juggernaut” by Wired Magazine.


Disney’s head start comes not only from its extensive catalogue of existing TV shows and movies, but the company also has a level of technological leadership in this space that few competitors can match.


Star Wars: The Mandolorian - a Disney+ original

Disney+ comes out of the starting blocks at $7 a month with confirmed hits (Mickey and friends, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Fox and National Geographic), rather than plodding through years of trial and error finding which shows work and which don’t.


Disney+ will launch with instantly recognisable, universally beloved movies and shows.


Because it owns all that intellectual property, it can show them all over the world, and as it adds new projects, it knows full well who its customers are and what they like. It’s been at this game for nearly a century.


The Big Four will slug it out in 2020, and some of the not-so-smaller foxes like HBO Max and DAZN might also spring a few surprises, but one thing is clear – the media landscape is about to undergo a tectonic change.


“There is an all-out war for the control of your media life,” says BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield. “I think the reality is these big tech platforms, who have valuations and market caps and cash piles that are massive relative to traditional media, they are just getting started.”


Implications for Producers and Distributors

“Our industry changed forever the day Netflix announced it would be a global platform,” says Dan March, Managing Partner at Dynamic Television. “For the first time, producers no longer needed a distributor or studio partnership to finance their shows. This has forced distributors to be more ambitious in their evolution as content creators, hence all the acquisition activity around production companies.”


Meanwhile, linear channels are competing with OTT by ending output deals and reducing acquisition budgets to increase investments in their own original productions.

In this climate, distribution has become a contracting industry.


What remains to be seen is whether Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon and Apple TV+ will create new growth opportunities for distributors, or whether they will follow Netflix’s ‘minimum margin’ business model.


Hottest TV shows at MIPCOM 2019

In terms of content, here are some of the hottest dramas from around the world, as reported at MIPCOM 2019:

· A Confession from UK and ITV Studios GE, a drama series about a missing young woman and the task of finding a serial killer

· Alerte Amber, a French-Canadian series distributed by Pixcom. The story starts out with a missing child with autism, but family secrets come to the fore.

· Shame, a Norwegian drama about young people and their challenges, told in an authentic and relatable way.

· The Bridge from Sweden and Mistresses from the UK were adapted in three territories each.


Trend #1: dramas about young people

Dramas about young people are trending, particularly young people on the verge of coming of age in the challenging world of social media and sharing. Multiculturalism and diversity are important memes in the latest series.

· Nudes, from Norway tells the story of young people facing harassment due to their nude pictures being shared online.

· High School Slut from Holland tells the story of when private life becomes public property in a high school setting.

· Bathroom Stories from Finland features two broke girls in a bathroom. It’s the only place in their flat where they can get access to free WiFi from their neighbour. The series deals with topics like love, sex, lies and feminism.

· Diary of an Uber Driver from Australia is a comedy drama about an Uber driver and the stories told to him and around him – often from the back seat of his car. The series started out as a blog which then was adapted as a book.


Trend #2: dramas based on existing IP

The second key trend Producers should note is the increase in dramas based on existing intellectual property: 17% of all new TV content is based on books, while 26% of VOD projects are book-based.






Trend #3: dramas based on true events

TV dramas based on true events have risen to 7.1%, compared to 5.2% in 2018. On the VOD side, projects based on true events are at 9.6%.

One example is Hernán from Latin America & Spain.


The series is a combination of SVOD, Pay TV and free-to-air and tells the story of Hernán Cortez, the Spanish Conquistador.




Trend #4: dramas based on podcasts



There are also a growing number of drama series based on podcasts. Limetown, starring Jessica Biel, is a mystery sci-fi series based on a podcast fiction series and is available worldwide via Facebook Watch.


Trending genres

Current genres on the rise at MIPCOM 2019 included comedy shows, talent shows and quiz shows. Two other categories, celebrity formats and dating formats, stayed largely the same while variety shows are down slightly.


Technological changes

Producers also need to keep up with changes in broadcast technology, and ensure their acquisition methods are keeping pace with technology, particularly the growth in 4K broadcasting and TV screens.


“The way that pay-TV and subscription video-on-demand is working, really dominant players have come in and changed the landscape,” says Peter Sykes, Strategic Technology Development Manager at Sony. “It’s much more competitive: to get your content consumed is even more challenging,” he said.


Sykes ran through some of the technical decisions producers have to make when creating UHD content, and making use of HDR and WCG’s [Wide Color Gamut’s) capability for brighter highlights, deeper blacks and richer colours.


He also warned that producers must have a good grasp of the different standards and formats involved – and specifically, what’s required by the broadcaster or streaming platform they’re producing for. “You’ve got to be sure what you’re doing before you shoot and provide your content.”


Written by Gordon Greaves

© TVPC Media 2020

 



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