The State of the Art in On Demand

Last week’s B&C Multichannel New On Demand Summit gave a great overview of the state of the art in the on demand world. From content creators and distributors to measurement companies to marketers, the growth and appeal of on demand for both business and consumers is growing and transforming the business of television.  Here are the takeaways:

Make the Viewing Ecosystem Simple and Unified …
With the myriad of programming options available to viewers, there is the risk of making content choices, delivery options and payment processes too complicated and time consuming. Different programs originating from different apps and requiring different subscriptions processes and options might stall adoption and growth for certain content providers. But some companies, such as Amazon, are focusing on streamlining their processes and collecting them into one simple ecosystem.

Michael Paull, VP Digital Video for Amazon, described his company’s strategy of “getting more sources of programming and keep building on programming” offerings and enabling third party content owners to access. Amazon has created an environment of “streaming, billing and audience to create a unified experience, instead of going from app to app.” He continued, “We have aggregated all of these functions in the viewer experience.” According to Paull, “We can help other programmers unify transactional and program ecosystems and the strategy is paying off.”

… But Give the Viewer Options When and How to View
Understanding viewing trends and preferences is key to effectively responding in a competitive and strategic manner. Sofia Chang, EVP Worldwide Digital Distribution at HBO, follows their subscribers’ viewing patterns. “We saw the trend of time shifted viewing a while ago and launched the first premium service, introducing HBO on demand through our MVPD partners in 2001. In 2008 we launched HBO GO. Last year we saw the trend of broadband only homes so we launched our standalone digital app HBO Now. But even with time shifting, some programming is viewed live like our Game of Thrones. Live programming is not dead,” she asserted, “but it depends on the program.”

Programming Craftsmanship Rules
The old chestnut that Content is King continues to be true. But the old rules regarding programming are shifting. It is no longer vital to target to a broad based audience. And older programs, even those out of the market for more than a decade, can attract a younger Millennial audience.

 Paull noted that going niche, rather than broad based, is a viable programming strategy for his video service. He stated, “We are creating a lot of original programming. We want to create shows people love. And we don't need to have every show that appeals to every consumer.”

Older inventory can have a new life as younger audiences suddenly discover the gems of yesteryear. Chang noted that “Sex in City ended in 1996 and now we are picking up new audiences who were too young to watch at that time. That is what the on demand platforms have done. You can discover shows from over 10 years ago and can view them now.”

The Data Shows That Consumers Are in Control
It bears repeating that data has become the golden key to understanding the viewer experience.
Brian Hughes, SVP Audience Intelligence and Strategy, MAGNA, shared some of his agency’s findings about viewing habits. The trends, according to Hughes, are that viewing is becoming “less linear, more snacking which reveal an underlying behavior shift. Even live event sports are seeing on demand impacting them as well. For example, the Olympics offered more coverage but there was less live viewing than London.” He listed three major points: 1. In the digital age, video is everywhere and consumers like it that way. 2. Millennials are not only ones changing habits and 3. Viewers want TV experiences to be more like mobile - App based and on demand.

What this all means to creators, distributors, marketers and advertisers is that the brave new world of on demand is fast becoming a standard way for viewers to enjoy and consume content. Old theories about viewing habits are evolving as even live event programming cannot guarantee exact minute consumption on a reliable screen. My advice is to follow the data and respond accordingly. As Paull concluded, “We have an enormous amount of data so we can bring the right show to the right people at the right time. We are customer centric as a company.”

This article first appeared in www.MediaBizBloggers.com

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