By Francois Lee, EVP Investment Director, Assembly
I can’t recall a time when deciding what to watch on TV was so challenging. Should I catch up on the last three episodes of Better Call Saul? Start binging Season Four of House of Cards? Oh wait, The Voice is also on tonight! I now have enough content to last all year versus the mid-season/Summer draught I had once known in the past.
There is no doubt we are in the golden age of content. With Netflix projected to spend $5 billion on programming in 2016, and several others from Amazon to Time Warner ramping up spend into the mid-billions, it is clear that there is a huge demand for original programming. In fact, per recent research released by FX Networks, 2015 saw a total of 409 scripted shows across broadcast networks, basic and pay cable networks, and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. This was a 9% increase compared to 2014 and also doubled from five years ago. Given the war chest each network has committed to spend this year, we can expect to see yet another record-breaking year of original programming in 2016.
Since it is my professional duty to seek out advertising opportunities for clients, I am personally excited about this trend. While it is undeniable there is strong growth from subscription-based streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO GO and Showtime, and these platforms are not ad supported, the reality is there are still tons of opportunity out there as we look to connect advertisers with viewers beyond the :30 commercial. After all, the biggest growth in original content is still coming from cable. As I think about how we could better reach consumers in this golden age of content, below are three areas I am excited for.
1. More content equals more ways to reach consumers. There are more opportunities for advertisers to integrate not just in or around content, but also across its ecosystem. This is not a new concept as we have had multi-platform or ‘360’ integrations for years. However, the definition has really expanded. Take a show like The Walking Dead on AMC, for example. It is not only a ratings juggernaut, attracting on average 13.2 million Live Plus Same Day viewers in its current season airing, it was the #1 digital drama destination in the Fall with over 3.7M multi-platform unique viewers. Plus it also has a sizable social following with over 34M fans on Facebook, and 4M+ fans on Twitter and Instagram. If I were considering an integration with The Walking Dead, I would certainly tap into its strengths across the ecosystem and tailor my messaging across these touch points. This may seem intuitive but I still see advertisers leaning heavily into on-air and not tapping into the potential of the full ecosystem.
2. More content equals more content. The more content that is being produced, the more ‘B roll’ exists. This could be behind-the-scenes extended footage, outtakes, interviews with the cast or ‘After the show’ Q&A. As a result, advertisers have an opportunity to add value to the viewer. For example, sponsor and run behind the scenes footage in online streaming or VOD. Since ad breaks are mostly non-skippable in these environments, creating an engaging experience for the audience means a more memorable experience for the brand.
3. Embrace how technology is changing content. In the past year, there has been ample discussion on tapping into platforms such as Snapchat, messenger app Kik, among others. As content owners continue to expand into these areas, advertisers should explore opportunities to reach its audience in new ways such as Virtual Reality. You don’t necessary have to break the bank by creating VR content. Just like in every other medium, I would strongly advise any advertiser to create a custom message based on channel. The point is content is being consumed and talked about very differently even from five years ago. In five years, it will likely be very different again. We must be willing to reinvigorate and experiment to ensure we are on trend.
In the end, the best idea still wins. However, as I think about integration opportunities, I am excited for the expanded toolbox we have to play with. As an industry, we are only limited by our own definition. The best ideas are suddenly no longer constrained. So if the byproduct means I will have to put in a little more thought in deciding what to watch tonight, so be it. This is a good problem to have.