M+E Connections

People Want Streaming to Come Full Circle: Easy-to-Find Choices

Let’s see, the pandemic made us shut-ins. The fires (here in California) showed us what the apocalypse was going to look like with the red/orange clouds.

Then, what the post life was going to be with grey clouds of smoke, fog, crud. Counter culturist Timothy Leary was right, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” People in every country, state/province, city/town had to give up the normal stuff they do – eat out, catch a ballgame, go to a movie. Suddenly, they were rediscovering every nook, cranny of their home.

So, with typical enabler encouragement … everyone’s doing it, a friend of ours told us how he occupied his time at home … he binged. We told him we didn’t do booze or drugs, so he explained it to us … turn on Netflix and binge.

Watch a whole season of something in an evening; or, better yet, take the best movies they have to offer (in your opinion) and watch them one after another … BAM!

It turns out he was right, folks around the globe are sitting in front of what used to be called their boob tubes and watching stuff. Yeah, they use a more PC (politically correct) term for their binging … streaming.

Here in the U.S., Nielsen reported that during the second quarter of the year, folks watched an average of 142.5B streaming minutes every week.

That’s up from 81.7 billion hours for the same period last year.

And everyone was settling in and enjoying the readily available content. Nielsen noted that people 55 and older now account for 26 percent of streaming minutes, up from 19 percent a year ago.

While there are some very good free (ad-supported) offerings, Netflix is still the first service most people turn to (34 percent of the streaming market).

Since the company began streaming content back in 2007, the company has invested heavily in new, unique content while being the most aggressive service to have a global footprint – more than 192.95 million worldwide subscribers with 72.9 million being in the US.

To maintain its top position, Netflix perfected its technical roots and relies heavily on data and analytics to determine what the next project is to be greenlighted.

Tiger King and Unsolved Mysteries were recent video stories that attracted a lot of viewers across the service and production teams are moving as quickly as safely possible to fulfill commitments made before the industry shutdown. We should see a lot more … shortly.

U.S. households spent more than 506 minutes streaming last month, compared to Amazon Prime (89 minutes) and Hulu (76 minutes).

Since the outset, Netflix has been focused on growing its global presence with subscribers in more than 190 countries with very good growth in LatAm, EMEA and APAC.

In addition to adding subscribers in the various countries, the company also develops content locally – usually a requirement by governments to show 30 percent of local content, which has been well received by subscribers in other countries.

For example, the company recently released a robust roster of excellent films and TV shows from Nollywood (one of Africa’s most aggressive production locations).

We’ve never seen our friend Devon be happier explaining the shows and creative work in painstaking details.

He wasn’t prejudice. Nollywood has a whole lotta talent!

Netflix has “imported” a rich and diverse set of Nigerian films/shows – comedies, dramas, thrillers, romcoms, the works – that we admitted were so good we blew a recent weekend – laughing, crying, screaming, cheering – streaming totally unique, different international content.

Of course, they aren’t alone in the streaming market.

There are a lot of deep-pocket folks who want their share of the streaming US (currently, the largest) and global market.

There are other established US services that want to be the first or second choice streaming subscription service in the country – Disney +, Apple TV +, Amazon and Hulu as well as new, reconfigured organizations that are ready to play.

Warner/AT&T/HBO Max could be a contender depending on their ability to figure out what to call the service; how much new, fresh content they’re willing to commit to the audience; and an honest look at the true value of their service to folks outside of their AT&T service bundle.

Often compared to Disney – the folks with the greatest positive consumer awareness globally – AT&T/Warner has the necessary background of a legacy Hollywood studio but lacks the umbrella aura of the Mouse House.

HBO Max isn’t the game-changer for AT&T as Disney+ is for Disney, Hulu and ESPN.

Instead it is a more awkward product line extension, add-on.

Apple is gaining a strong foothold in the market with high quality content combined with an attractive price ($7) or free with a new Apple Device. They already have nearly 40 million subscribers and a global market potential of more than 950 million Apple users worldwide.

Comcast, which owns NBC and Sky, the largest broadband cable infrastructure and other entertainment opportunities, has been slow to roll out its Peacock service while also moving its free streaming service, Pluto, global as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Tencent already counts 112 million subscribers and has plans to become a majority owner of iQiyi, China’s leading video service with 118 million subscribers. China is well on its way to becoming the largest M&E market, followed closely by India.

While China provides tremendous streaming viewer opportunities, the market is a lot like MC Hammer’s hit song, Can’t Touch This.

While the pandemic made streaming an important part of people’s lives, it also opened a world of opportunities for indie filmmakers and content producers everywhere.

All of the streaming services – large and small – are only as popular as the new/original and legacy content they have in their libraries.

Consumer taste is notoriously fickle. People are constantly on the hunt for a different version of the same type of show/movie they like to watch – cops, dramas, horror, superhero, etc., and they’ll switch shows/services in the blink of an eye based on online buzz, people’s recommendations or an interesting trailer/ad.

With international platforms pushing to claim market share, streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon prime are aggressively looking for new content, unique content … everywhere. The goal is to fill their library with content that will attract new subscribers while keeping present viewers while broadcasters struggle to keep up with the “competition.”

At the same time, the at-home consumers are focused on the simpler aspect … how to quickly, easily find the content they want to watch right now.

For the entertainment-hungry consumer, the streaming stack is getting increasingly confusing — and expensive!

One of the solutions approaches consumers may take is to turn to their most familiar content aggregators – the pay TV cable provider – with a streamlined bundle plus their one or two “gotta have” streaming services.

But an increasingly popular approach is to forget the cable guy and turn to one of the streaming content platform specialists such as Roku.

Back in 2002, low-key CEO Anthony Woods had a simple idea after his brief stint with Netflix … give people a dongle that would let TV viewers use the power of the Internet to stream movies/TV shows from Netflix, Disney and other sources.

To expand sales, Roku developed software that could be embedded in connected TVs from companies like LG, Samsung, TCL, Sony and others.

Last year, the company decided it was time to tap into the global streaming market beyond its solid presence in North America.

Since then, the company has gained a strong foothold in Europe and South America by expanding its partnerships with TV manufacturers and content providers.

The ad-supported devices and service make it fast and easy for viewers, especially connected TV (CTV) owners, to easily connect to the Internet and be able to choose from hundreds of ad-supported and subscription content from nearly all of the streaming services with the notable exception of HBO Max.

While Woods isn’t inclined to talk about carriage negotiations and split revenue, industry insiders simply agree with Ron Woodroof’s comments in Dallas Buyers Club when he said, “I bet that didn’t surprise anybody.”

As for streaming viewers, everything they could possibly imagine is already at one convenient place.

Andy Marken, President, Marken Communications, is an author of more than 700 articles on management, marketing, communications, industry trends in media & entertainment, consumer electronics, software and applications.