The media industry is facing its largest sea change since the advent of television.
New players have entered the content market, cable is unbundling, advertisers are flocking to digital buys and everyone is scrambling to attract online viewers and keep them engaged. It’s a new, still evolving ecosystem, and if marketers and publishers want to succeed, they need to be ahead of the curve on how they think about, develop and improve their online video offerings.
All of this change isn’t unprecedented. The media landscape today looks a lot like the industry 30 years ago. In 1985 NBC and ABC were both acquired after the emergence of cable shook up the industry. CBS was also nearly acquired by Ted Turner’s formidable Superstation—WTBS. Today instead of acquisitions of large television networks, we’re seeing the acquisition of Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MPVD) like DirecTV and Time Warner Cable. Over 30 years ago companies like Turner and HBO led the way to a booming cable industry, flipping the television business upside down in the same way Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others are doing now. That period brought many predictions of “the death of network television,” that sound exactly like media columns published today.
The “death of network TV” notion was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. Online video isn’t a web technology, it’s the new TV, and marketers should treat it that way. It’s an amazing opportunity, and media companies should stick to what they do best—making great content and programming. To succeed in this changing media landscape here are three things CMOs should keep in mind:
For years media companies and brands have housed their content on third-party platforms like YouTube and Facebook. It is cheap, seemingly low-risk and convenient. Today publishers need to ensure they gain more control of their audiences and brands need to pay attention to those who succeed in doing so. Traditional TV juggernauts like Telepictures have already launched innovative new ventures like EllenTube and other “owned” platforms with their sites, channels and apps. This doesn’t mean Facebook and YouTube should be abandoned entirely, but marketers need to avoid being dependent on third party platforms, diversifying instead of targeting audiences in one place. By shifting the focus to owned and operated media properties, marketers can create more consistent brand messaging alongside brand-safe content on major publisher sites and apps. The result is a more impactful and controlled experience that viewers appreciate and creates a stronger long-term impact than flavor-of-the-month platforms.
2. Embrace what works
Take advantage of the decades of research Network and Cable programmers have done to design programming to keep the largest percentage of audiences engaged. These techniques have been developed and enhanced over decades, and it works; the average American watches more than 30 hours of TV a week. “Traditional” TV concepts like major tentpole programming, strategic lead-ins and curating a unique channel tone are all just as relevant for websites pushing out video.Programmers and distributors need to create viewing experiences that are like TV, only better, because the web is built to make it easier to program content to users on a one-to-one basis.
3. Leverage Data for Smarter Programming
Online video offers marketers unprecedented information on viewers, which is an invaluable tool for appealing to them and keeping them engaged. You should be monitoring where audiences are engaged with your content, how they’re watching it, what content performs best, and most importantly, why. It’s important to have systems in place that allow you to track this information and make the most out of your spend, whether you’re a publisher or a brand. The companies that learn to do it best will come out on top in this new era of the TV industry where viewing is device, platform and time agnostic.