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 #3
We’re living in an age where the most compelling content stories might be happening off screen. In April, Disney acquired most of the Fox assets, followed shortly by CBS and Viacom walking down the aisle together – again. AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner last year was a content play that paved an easier path to streaming for the telecommunications giant.
Is it any wonder why Disney’s D23 Expo created excitement that FLEABAG doesn’t? Or the electricity in the air when Steven Spielberg and Oprah take the stage at Apple’s streaming announcement event that was light on content but heavy on potential?
Network Upfront events have long traded in building buzz and creating CPM demand for their content from within the industry. The new streaming behemoths have simply taken their pitches and aimed them directly at subscribers. With Disney’s unmatched library of content (made even more dominant with the addition of 20th Century Fox’s vault) and Apple’s presence in over 45% of American pockets, each has a pretty solid base to appeal to.
The challenge for CBS (and the soon-to-launch NBC service) will be to nurture and grow its streaming service while continuing to focus upon the base network. CBS ran the first season of streamer THE GOOD FIGHT from CBS All-Access on the linear network during the summer to build awareness. Viacom’s primary streaming presence is in the ad-supported Pluto TV, not a game-changer in 2019.
The game changer might just be in scheduling, of all things. Disney Plus plans to release their new original content against the streaming grain – episodically, like a traditional linear TV season. Will this strategy help them to hang on to content-greedy consumers for the long haul? The parent company of the network that brought you LOST might just know a thing or two about extending interest through an entire season.
For a look at why the episodic release schedule is meaningful, go to “Disney is leading the charge against Netflix by returning to weekly episode releases”, from Verve.com.
2 Podcasting: put your money where your ears are
For a platform that has 43 million monthly users (according to Nielsen) and growing quickly, podcasting is something of an underserved market for advertisers.
Part of the issue is scale. Even though usage is increasing – up 123% since 2015, with more than half of all Americans having listened to a podcast – many podcasts have audiences in the low thousands. And since the most effective advertising in the podcasting world are custom host-delivered ads, building out creative that comes across as organic is a challenge. Simply packaging standard radio ads in podcasting isn’t the solution. It’s essentially a word-of-mouth medium; the value comes from more of an endorsement from the host than a generic :15 radio spot.
Activation is also a challenge, as many listeners aren’t physically in the position to take action immediately as they are with other digital advertising. Although the endorsement factor is huge due to the trusted, word-of-mouth effect, searching for a product, website, or link while driving or otherwise multitasking isn’t often possible.
Yet there are steps being taken to increase attribution for podcasting. Adtech startups are employing IP address matching to complete the circle between listener and retailer.
Despite some advertising hurdles, podcasting is a growing platform that offers a well-educated, upscale, younger, digital-heavy audience. And it’s a group that watches less television than the overall radio audience. In this world of evolving content needs and availability, the world of time-shifted audio is ripe with possibilities for brands eager to connect with an elusive – and highly engaged - demographic.
To see more about podcasting today, take a peek at “After a breakout year, looking ahead to the future of podcasting” from Techcrunch, and Inside Radio’s “Podcasting is growing faster but streaming audience is bigger”.
3 Finding Dorian
If you’ve ever found yourself watching video coverage of hurricanes and asked yourself “who in their right mind would do that?”, look no further than your local TV news team.
These news crews don’t take up these assignments lightly. They can be counted among first responders, willing to drop everything to inform and protect their communities, to help keep their neighbors safe in often desperate times. They put their lives on the line because if they don’t, others may be lost.
Now news crews from Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and more along the Eastern Seaboard are prepping for what’s to come. They might be all-too familiar with the process, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Same for those in Los Angeles (and most of California) covering wildfires, or anywhere in the Tornado Alley. Coverage of major severe weather events might be expected, but it’s far from routine.
Meteorologists are actual scientists who combine advanced statistical modelling with a bit of telegenics. They need to be at their best when conditions are worst. The running insult about the weatherman as merely a professional guesser who is paid to be wrong most of the time is a predecessor to the current “fake news” ethos. Not only does it belittle the science that goes into weather prediction, it discounts their commitment to the community to get the information as accurately and timely as technologically possible – often while standing in harm’s way.
So as you watch the coverage of Dorian’s localized devastation, keep in mind that these highly-trained fact-seeking professionals are facing nature’s ultimate wrath, so you don’t have to.
For more on network storm chasers, see “Hurricane Dorian Has TV News Networks Adjusting Fast To Keep Up”, from TVNewscheck and “7 misconceptions about local weather reporting”, from the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism & New Media’s NewsLab.
4 Streaming: a river or a gentle brook? That depends upon where you are
It’s getting to the point where you can’t read an article about the media industry today that doesn’t say the word “streaming” somewhere. Call it a reverse Easter egg. Full disclosure – in case you’re not paying attention, this is the second time in this edition of Content Matters where we’ve discussed streaming.
However, this is to point out something that largely goes unmentioned: streaming isn’t the same everywhere.
Many of the large volume of streaming analysis and pontification is done by those who live very close to a tech-heavy bubble and overlook that streaming isn’t necessarily a singular national behavior. Like anything else, streaming is subject to particular local nuances that belie its ubiquity.
In other words, just as much as you wouldn’t apply a national rating to a local market buy, you can’t look at streaming that way either.
According to Nielsen’s “Local Watch Report: TV Streaming Across Our Cities”, there are wide disparities between local markets’ streaming behavior.
The local hotbed for streaming enthusiasts is Austin. 70% of the SXSW city’s adults streamed content in May 2019. At the opposite side of the spectrum, less than half of Pittsburgh’s adults did for the same month (45%).
Nielsen’s report goes on in some detail about the landscape of local streamer/non-streamer behaviors, from how they get their content signals to their overall device usage. You can read all about that there – adding yet one more source of industry streaming information that you’ll likely feel compelled to read.
On second thought, maybe Nielsen will let you stream a podcast that you can listen to instead. But that’s an entirely different report altogether.
For more details, read Mediapost’s “Understanding Streamers Vs. Non-Streamers Critical To Local Ad Buys” (with an embedded download link to the Nielsen’s “Local Watch Report: TV Streaming Across Our Cities”)
5 Is broadcasting sports worth the money?
In a word, yes.
There’s a reason that Fox tore up its agreement with MLB early and invested a reported $5.1 billion for the rights to broadcast baseball for the next seven years. And that’s a pittance compared to the NFL – the league will pull in $54.6 billion from television deals running through 2022.
NFL games dominate the highest rated broadcasts for each season, topped by the annual record-setter Super Bowl. There’s simply no other game in town compared to airing live sports.
The reasons for its importance to the broadcasting networks are obvious. Sports provides an unparalleled platform for the networks to promote their shows. It brings in huge advertising revenue for each network. It’s DVR-proof. It adds cache to the network lineup. Sponsorship deals. It even provides cover for program development by filling time slots without needing to produce additional content.
And for local teams – especially NFL teams – ratings for their in-market games usually dwarf other programs handily.
The NFL Draft alone has become a cottage industry with months of coverage leading up to a two-day televised event. If only Presidential Debates were held in such high regard.
But why are sports so important in American culture? The link below will give a pretty good idea why sports holds such a high place in our society. They are the connective tissue that can bring disparate parties together like no other. They’re pop culture, premixed entertainment, a magnet for our attention. They give us hope, heartbreak, and a reason to keep coming back, again and again.
Isn’t that what TV is all about anyway?
Here’s the rationalization of why sports are such a big deal for TV: “Why Live Sports Is Television’s MVP”, from Media Village.