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 Q1 Issue #2

 1   A Dramatic Time-Shift May be Coming to a TV Near You

For decades, there have been two major states of time in scripted primetime television: a half-hour for a comedy and an hour for drama. Other than those well-mocked “Very Special Episode” tropes where the sitcom takes a 30-minute dramatic detour, these time standards have, well, stood the test of time.

Enter “Homecoming,” the half-hour drama from Amazon Prime.

While this in and of itself may not be quite the tectonic shift in the landscape as streaming or time shifting, there are a few ripple effects:

For more about this, see Variety’s How Ad-Free Platforms Ushered in the Era of the Half-Hour Drama” andBroadcast Networks Brace for Big Decline in Pilot Orders  

  2  The Pause that Impresses

Hulu is testing a new ad model for some of its original and licensed content. When certain programs are paused, a static, semi-transparent banner ad overlay appears after a 5-second delay.

Naturally, there’s skepticism and some pushback about consumer acceptance, effectiveness and intrusiveness. However, the ambition is to find another way to convert inert screen time into something productive, regardless of its limited consumer perception.

The upshot is that a major streaming service is taking pains to develop a non-disruptive way to deliver advertising to its subscribers. As consumer tolerance for the 30-second spot slowly continues to erode, it’s critical to create alternative methods to get messages to the masses. It’s likely that this is merely the bleeding edge of “pausevertising”. It would probably be fair to expect video and Smart TV links next.

This isn’t a foolproof system. There probably will be far more people who miss any pause time ad altogether. But they’re already not being served any advertising whatsoever in that space. As a companion message, any impression made is one that couldn’t exist before.

Feel free to pause your reading of this edition of Content Matters to read this Digiday piece about this: “Hulu will run on-screen banner ads when people pause shows.” 

  3   Is Cable TV Facing Its Sunset? 

Distributing cable TV is an expensive endeavor. Margins are getting smaller, rights fees are staggering, and cord cutting is on the rise. Moreover, customers are prioritizing Internet access over cable, forcing cable companies to offer reduced-rate packages to entice them not to cut the cord.

Cable providers find themselves at a crossroad. Their core business, providing television content to their customers, is being replaced by the demand for providing online service. Has it become time to cut their own cord?

Realistically, no. Not yet, at least. The legacy cable consumer and the massive national cable providers still have a nice symbiotic relationship that benefits both. But there may be a shift in the business model for some of the smaller regional providers on the horizon.

Enter the local broadcasters. Stations follow their own mandate, serving the community without keeping a needful eye on any subscriber whims. Stations serve their constituents in a more genuine manner, echoing the needs of the market, regardless of the industry landscape.

 For more about this, see CNBC’s “The future of cable may be no TV at all, as one small company from Arizona shows.”

  4   Podcasts Have the Attention of Even Old-School Media Legends

None other than Viacom’s Shari Redstone has recently caught the podcast bug. As a legacy of a global media conglomerate, as well as leading her own investment fund that focuses upon media and technology, she has a clear view of the industry’s future, as well as its past.

The podcasting ecosystem is continuing to evolve and cross-pollinate with video content. Content that began in podcasts has already been in development for streaming services and some cable networks.

Podcasts are becoming more of a go-to medium for people on the go who are looking to consume content as they are doing other things that keep them from viewing a screen. And the targeted nature makes it attractive to brands looking to stay on the cutting edge. Upscale and digital-heavy advertisers are taking notice and putting more money into the burgeoning audio format.

Analysts suggest that podcasts are liable to eventually settle in behind traditional radio and television in time spent with media. Already it has the attention of one of the most traditional TV names of all.

For more of Shari’s thoughts about podcasting and the future of this audio medium, go to “TV Magnate Shari Redstone Now Prefers to Curl Up with Podcasts,” from Bloomberg.

  5   Streaming is the Latest Broadcast Killer — that Won't

Sometimes entering the world of Netflix for a Saturday night viewing session can be a little like it probably is on Christmas morning at the Bezos’ house – a sea of presents so wide you wouldn’t know which mountain of boxes to open first, or which new pony to ride to get to them all.

It’s content overload. And if you subscribe to multiple streaming services, Heaven help you. If you have more than two kids in your house, divine intervention might not even help you find consensus on what to watch.

One of the biggest selling points of streaming may actually be one of its vulnerabilities. More and more producers are being lured to make deals with the streaming services, largely because of the creative freedom allowed (read: no restrictive content control or advertising). But it’s easy to get lost in a vast theme park. When there’s that much to see, there’s only so much real estate to use to promote it all.

The result is in industry-praised content that’s largely invisible to the general public.

Netflix doesn’t have Stephen Colbert to promote their latest high-hopes program, nor Good Morning America to run a feature, nor any other promotional vehicle capable of reaching 100% of TV homes that broadcast programs enjoy.

Streamers have “…if you liked this…” and some home-screen billboards.

Even when you know exactly what you’re looking for in streaming, there’s something that binging doesn’t allow for: community. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, you can’t safely discuss it with your friends until you’re sure that you’re all caught up. Nobody wants to be the spoiler.

Episodic TV, even in the era of time-shifting, allows for a much more magical social television experience.  Discussions are more substantive with the time to dissect programs and delve deeper into plot lines. Streaming conversations are usually limited to “what else do you watch?”

As for that Saturday night viewing date, broadcast television is a good night out ordering from menus and having high-quality fresh food brought to you; streaming is a buffet with food that you fill up on quickly and leave feeling slightly queasy afterwards.

TVNewscheck offers “Broadcasters Aren’t Succumbing To Netflix Era” to talk about this further.

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