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Culled from the headlines of the media and technology trade press by Katz’s Strategy, Analytics, and Research Team, Content Matters provides a periodic snapshot of news and issues that affect the business of creating, producing, and distributing content across TV, radio, and digital media. Here are this issue's 5 THINGS TO KNOW.

2019 Q3 Issue #1

 1   Moving TV along, one episode at a time

There’s a simple elegance in things that are well-crafted. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high-end luxury automobile, a bespoke suit, or simply a fantastic ice cream sundae. The greatness isn’t due to the “cherry on top”, it begins far down in the chain, with the water that hydrates the vanilla bean. The genius comes from making all the perfect parts fit together in perfect harmony.

This is what separates greatness from timelessness. 

Television does more than just hold up a mirror to society. At its best, it moves culture along, rising above who we are as a society and showing who we could or should be as a species.

The link below from Vox cites 25 brilliant examples of how TV has done just that. For each episode, there’s a dividing line between where TV was before it and where it was after it. Each broke an unwritten standard of what we were comfortable with seeing on television and pulled us past it.

Personally, we think it’s an oversight to omit “Through the Looking Glass” from LOST (which introduced the concept of the flash forward), “The Contest” from SEINFELD (broadcast TV handles a very touchy adult subject in an interesting way), “Diversity Day” of THE OFFICE, adding to the documentary style and adding a layer of inappropriateness and discomfort that would be the hallmarks of voyeur-style sitcoms to come, and naturally HAPPY DAYS’ “Hollywood, Part 3” episode – the on-ramp for the phrase “Jump the Shark” into the TV lexicon.

What separates these episodes is their pedigree? They are each, in their own right, landmark series to begin with, but then raised the game to air an episode so transformative that it created a whole new television timeline.

For some details on these transcendent television episodes, see Vox’s “25 Episodes That Changed Television

  2   Capitalizing on OTT by leveraging local capital

One of the biggest advantages held by local television is knowing its community and what is inherently important to the locals.

Salt Lake City’s KSL recognized its market’s passion for skiing and set up an OTT series that helped kids learn how to ski. The station took a natural recreational resource and leveraged it to extend its OTT service.

Extrapolate out further if you happen to be in a market that offers similar local advantages. Why not a surfing tutorial in Los Angeles or Hawaii? Sailing off the coast of Massachusetts or Connecticut? Spelunking in Virginia? Swimming in one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes? How about cooking tutorials in New York, San Francisco, or Boston? Barbecue lessons in Kansas City, St. Louis, or Austin? Think of the Jazz lessons possible in New Orleans, or Blues in Chicago or Memphis. Not drawing upon what makes your market unique is a missed opportunity.

It’s a twofold benefit to the stations: not only does it draw in viewers from demos that might not otherwise be in the news-viewing audience (particularly younger viewers who might otherwise be lost to mobile and gaming), it will also allow monetization of the OTT content (think sponsorships, AVOD, and paid downloads).

This is not an attempt at building scale. This strikes straight to the heart of connection to the market - and it could be a golden opportunity to build relationships with new transplants, house-hunters, and vacationers.

The advantage goes to the one who shows up and offers more.

For more about leveraging local market OTT, see “Stations Get Creative to Monetize OTT Offerings” from TVnewscheck.

  3   Local pride and local "Pride" 

June has joined February (Black History Month) and March (Women’s History Month) for a monthlong acknowledgement of the Gay Pride movement. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots in Greenwich Village in NYC, widely considered the beginning of what has become the LGBTQ movement.

New York City is marking the occasion with a major Pride parade. But there are over 40 other local metropolises who are also holding parades of their own, including where many consider to be the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, in Birmingham, Alabama.

The struggle for gender identity rights is the latest movement to hit mainstream consciousness – and it may be the last major one for a while (we’re keeping our eyes on you in a hundred years, A.I.). It also has many complicated social factors that have made for the gender identity rights issue to be a particularly thorny one on a local level. Unlike racial or women’s rights, this is not a constituency that is easily recognized unless it chooses to be. And in some areas, it hasn’t been easy at all.

Think about it – 22 years ago, Ellen still had to come out “by mistake” on her sitcom.

But in those twenty-two years since Ellen’s breakthrough TV moment, and in the 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, gender pride has become normalized. In fact, it’s likely that living in a neighborhood known as a LGBTQ hotspot will mean you’re living in an upscale neighborhood.

Local broadcasters know these neighborhoods. They know the consciousness of the marketplace. They can be the most powerful voice for those in the community who need to be heard the most. They don’t make the sounds of the people, they amplify it.

For a closer look at where your market scores for a variety of gender rights issues, go to “MEI 2017: See Your City’s Score” from the Human Rights Campaign, and How Much More It Will Cost You To Buy a Home, in Marketwatch.

  4   Streaming becomes a flood

In the early days of cable, the extremely, prehistoric days, the service began as a way to improve your TV reception and to get local content. Extremely local content – think hyperlocal news from your surrounding towns. Community access TV on Channel 3 sort of stuff. Now “57 channels and nothing on" looks quaint.

Today's massive content availability and choice has gone from shopping at a convenience store to a supermarket. At first, the choices were endless for consumers. And we ate it up.

But in this game of content Jenga, what began as a solid ecosystem has started to sway. Content is a commodity that has changed the corporate approach to streaming and the possibility to leverage owned titles. Netflix, as synonymous with streaming to some as Xerox is to photocopying, is losing a major advantage in the streaming wars. It begins with their eventual loss of THE OFFICE, their most successful off-net streaming title. Successful movie and TV production studios are beginning to circle their own wagons once they achieve critical mass with their content. And they all want their piece of the streaming pie to themselves now.

You think we’ve seen fragmentation? We ain’t seen nothing yet.

You want Star Wars? Anything Marvel? Pixar? You need to subscribe to Disney+. STAR TREK? CBS All-Access. FRIENDS? The upcoming WarnerMedia service. Need to punch in at Dunder-Mifflin? Yup, NBC Universal. While there’s likely room in the ecosystem for all of them, the average consumer will have to make some hard choices as more content becomes segregated by individual subscriptions. And as about 70% of viewers claim they want a single-source platform for video curation, this isn’t likely to play well in the consumer world.

Before streaming caught on, the prevailing wisdom about TV viewing was that most people maxed out at about 15-17 networks that they would have in their rotation. Most wouldn’t go much past that, no matter how many networks were available to them. Research on the streaming landscape is showing that people have a tolerance of about 4 total streaming services. The big question going forward is going to be how to get into that top four – or three, assuming Netflix finds a way to hold onto its status as the default streaming service for the long-term.

So as this new world order begins to coalesce, what will be squeezed out? Assume that for many, those 17 favorite stations will now include up to 4 streaming services. The likelihood is that most will use those remaining slots for content that streaming doesn’t offer: news, live sports, and local content. 58% of users say that they’d retreat to their favorite channels when faced with a paralyzing amount of options. It's the paradox of choice come to television.

It’s ironic that as the streaming ecosystem starts to strain under its own weight, services crumble and rebuild into Streaming 2.0, what will remain standing firm is the very foundation of TV itself, a community service called local broadcast television.

For an additional take, see the Guardian’s “Streaming TV is about to get very expensive – here’s why”.

  5   The transistor and the iPhone

71 years ago this month, the great-great-grandfather of today’s mobile audio was born. Bell Labs introduced a working demo of the transistor radio in 1948. By 1954, it would be made commercially available for the then iPhone-comparable price of $49.95 (that's $476 in 2019 dollars). Like the iPhone, it was something that everyone instantly wanted. But unlike the iPhone, stiff competition quickly brought prices down to more comfortable consumer tolerance levels.

The upshot was that it took radio out of the wooden box at home, out of the dashboard of the car, and put it everywhere. Portability had extended reach – and brought it into the hands of younger demos who would listen to rock-and-roll or hide under the covers to listen to the play-by-play of their favorite baseball team well after bedtime.

From those days on, radio has held a relentless grip upon American audiences. We all know about its dominant reach, as 92% of adults listen to traditional radio in an average week, according to Nielsen’s latest Total Audience Report. Thanks to more media choices, smartphone audio isn’t as instantly game-changing as the transistor was in its day: 50% of US adults listen on their phones. However, that represents a 7% YOY growth, so smartphone audio is definitely gaining critical mass of its own.

Consider that consumers spend nearly have of their 24-hour day with some sort of media. 11 hours and 27 minutes, according to the Total Audience Report, which is up 21 minutes from the same point in 2018. Media multitasking amps up much of that number.

Radio’s advantage is that the hour and forty-two minutes adults spend with radio each day is likely a purer usage number. The second screen radio is likely to compete with is either an Excel spreadsheet or a windshield. Ads on radio are unlikely to be competing simultaneously with other ads for consumer attention.

And that’s really good news for those of us who are hiding under the covers when the game goes into extra innings.

To see more about the findings from Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, read Inside Radio’s “Nielsen: In  Fragmented Media World, Radio Still ‘A Good Bet’”.

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