Be Where Your Viewers Are (And they’re in the living room, streaming)

It’s one of those classic marketing cliches, and it’s a classic cliche because it’s true. If you want to grow your business and sell your product or service, you MUST be where your customers are. This rule applies to media companies, who need an audience, just as it does to pizza restaurants, which need a substantial population of hungry people to support their business. Even with the frequent reports about who is watching what and where they’re watching it (like this one in Variety or this one in Home Media Magazine), one of the surest signs that the future of home entertainment will be streaming can be seen in the moves made by companies looking to retain those valued viewers, being where their viewers are. Variety notes that over half of US households have a TV which is connected to the internet and it’s clear that viewers are spending their recreational time consuming media they’re streaming from that internet connection. A significant majority find that traditional TV is no longer their preferred way of experiencing longform programming.

A new study from AllFlicks suggests that a whopping 76 percent of Netflix subscribers believe that the company will replace traditional television altogether, because why flip through channels when you can just binge watch your favorite show for hours on end?

With this general consumer attitude, it is not hard to understand why industry analysts have forecast that it only a matter of time before the cable bundle as we know it fractures and the TV model evolves into something new.

Graph courtesy of Variety.

Graph courtesy of Variety.

That time seems to be now. Dish went first, offering a “skinny bundle” with Sling. CBS followed soon thereafter with CBS All Access. Now ESPN is reported to be considering offering their programming to streaming audiences, and Hulu has announced that they’ll be offering a selection of channels (from their corporate owners) for a price much lower than standard cable. The marketplace which was typified by big bundles (and big bucks) is now “skinny bundles”, selection and personalization. A comment on a recent MediaPost article, Is True Widespread TV Cord-cutting Here?sums it up well:

…[T]his seems to be more of “cord cobbling,” a term that was coined by Showtime Networks topper David Nevins. Consumers are subscribing to the services they desire in order to get the optimal channel selection that they desire and in many cases, can drop what they don’t regularly watch fairly easily. It’s not quite a-la carte, but it’s close.

While the disruption of the traditional TV distribution/delivery model will be painful for some, namely the large cable companies, this same change presents an interesting opportunity for mid-, small/niche content owners to form a more direct and potentially rewarding relationship with their fans and followers.

…[A]s long as service providers deliver sustained and obvious value for money, customers will stick around. Second, demand for value-added benefits is so high that service providers can consider it a reliable avenue for significant business expansion. Our survey found that despite the notion that consumers don’t want to add significant financial obligations to their lives, they are very willing to pay for the services they value.”

Just like the big media companies, smaller players are now empowered deliver unique content directly to those ‘cord cobblers’ right where they are — their living room — with a specialized OTT offering delivered via the web, mobile, set-top device like Apple TV or Roku, or via connected TV. Importantly, new, niche services won’t be competing with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu; they’ll be supplemental. Additionally, the important attributes of a successful digital service — value, cost, selection and personalization are possible at any scale. Fitness, curated movies, genre-specific showcase, religious programming, gardening or comedic TV — there are already one or more services streaming for each of these specific niches. However, this doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for another service with a new content selection, a fresh perspective, a unique personality or special curation to be able to find a sympathetic audience and be successful. We know where the audience is. We know how they’re receiving their entertainment and media. The tools to deliver content to them are available. The opportunity is before you. What are you waiting for?