Want to watch the next season of "Stranger Things" when it comes out? I know I do, so I pay for Netflix each month. "Jack Ryan"? That's over on Amazon Prime. "The Handmaid's Tale"? Hulu. If you think Picard was the best Star Trek captain, you'll need CBS All Access – but at this point in your budget you may be choosing between that or "The Mandalorian," for which you'll need Disney+. And let's not forget the new content exclusive to HBO Max, Apple TV+, BET+, and NBC Peacock.
Most of us are aware of the recent fragmentation of content across subscription streaming services, and we've either had to make some hard choices about which content we will watch or else we're now paying bills for streaming services that resemble the bundled cable bills we paid before we cut the cord. And it's not just the cost that bothers us. When nearly everything was on one of just a few services, we knew where to find it. Now, keeping track of which services have which content – and whether we currently have that service – seems like a job in itself.
I don't think I need to convince most readers that this scenario isn't ideal for the consumer. So why are we here?
It's not that producers and distributors of entertainment content don't want to satisfy customers… they certainly do! But over the last decade or so, movie studios and television networks have seen the incredible power of using data analytics to inform decisions about what content to make, how to market it, to whom to market it and more. Subscription streaming services (like Netflix) observe everything that their viewers watch, and in turn use that information to determine what content to suggest to each viewer next. They even use it to inform decisions regarding what content to license or produce themselves and then to market that content most efficiently. They effectively create a series of personalized channels for each of their viewers, helping to connect you with content that you would love but might not be aware of. And in doing so, they can make investments in content in ways that differ from the traditional models and they reduce the inherent risk involved in bringing new shows and films to market. If you don't believe me, just ask the two professors from Carnegie Mellon who wrote a book about this.
In an era where there is more quality content – both old and new – available to us than ever before, it feels increasingly hard to know what to watch and where to watch it.
The problem that a traditional television network (or movie studio) has is that they do not get this kind of personalized data on each of their over-the-air or box office viewers – nor do they usually get these data from the subscription services that license their shows and films. Even if they had such data, they don't have a platform that serves as a direct connection to the consumer, and so they cannot personalize which shows they market to each viewer and how they market them. That's what subscription streaming services have been able to do. And for a while, networks and studios have felt pretty left out of the new data-driven entertainment revolution. This largely explains why so many major players in the industry want to have a successful streaming service now — to gather individual data about each viewer and have a personalized connection / marketing channel to every one of their customers.
If you are a major network or studio trying to get into the streaming game and you need to compete with an established service like Netflix – who consumers already know and like – what do you do? You fall back on what you are already great at and make content that everyone wants to watch, and you make it exclusive to your streaming service as a draw to new customers. Or you stop licensing your best catalog content to the established streaming players and make it exclusive to your new service (sorry, "Friends" fans, you'll need to pay for HBO Max!). Hence, nearly every one of the subscription services out there has at least a few shows that you probably want to watch, and great content feels fragmented across a plethora of services for which you struggle to remember all of the names.
Watchworthy's app is one of several trying to make it easier for viewers to find the content they're looking for, across services.
But even if the current fragmentation of content across so many services can be explained as a form of business competition, that does not make it ideal for the end consumer. I've already mentioned the obvious result that consumers are back to facing the choice of paying an ever-increasing multitude of subscription fees, missing out on content, or else turning to piracy. But there is another, less obvious consequence for the customer. When most content that was online was centralized on just one or two services, those services observed most of what a customer viewed online, and thus had a strong understanding of each consumer's preferences. Those services also had an incentive to recommend or market to you the content that you would like most.
Now, however, if you only do 15% of your online viewing on, for example, Hulu, they observe a lot less about your viewing preferences than when you did 50-60% of your television and movie viewing there. They just don't know you as well. Moreover, a service like Netflix or Disney+ only has the incentive to recommend to you the content that is on their service, even if there are shows or films that you would meaningfully prefer on other subscription services. And this leads us to the irony that in an era where there is more quality content – both old and new – available to us than ever before, it feels increasingly hard to know what to watch and where to watch it. By fragmenting content across so many services in an effort to draw in customers and have a more personalized relationship with them, players in the industry have unintentionally left customers struggling to search for and find the content that is best suited for them.
One of the most commonly offered solutions to streaming fragmentation is that we should just bundle the services again – some have suggested that you should be able to pick up a bundle of Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, etc. for perhaps half of what it would cost to buy them each separately. This may partly solve the customer's budget problems, but note that it does not solve the problem outlined above – if our viewing is spread out across a multitude of services, then the underlying viewer data are still fragmented. No one service knows us particularly well, and no service has the incentive to connect us with the content that best matches our preferences.
Where this eventually leads is a subject for another article – perhaps we will see the failure or consolidation of some of these services, or perhaps a third party can solve the problems I have described even while a number of subscription services retain exclusive content.
There are examples of companies trying to address this issue such as Likewise, Justwatch, or WatchWorthy, but it is not clear whether or not they will succeed (disclosure: I myself am involved in a stealth startup working on a solution to this). Either way, I see this problem as one that requires a consumer-friendly solution, and I fully expect that the market will provide this one way or another.
- Can Niche Streaming Services Survive in a Netflix World? ›
- Peacock, NBCUniversal's Streaming Service, Takes Flight - dot.LA ›
- HBO Max Is Hoping to Get You to What You Want, Faster - dot.LA ›
- Watchworthy App Aims to Make it Easier to Choose What to Watch ... ›
- Making At-Home Healthcare As Easy as Ordering Pizza - dot.LA ›
- The LA Dodgers Get Into Food Delivery - dot.LA ›
- Streaming Piracy Is Now a Billion-Dollar Industry - dot.LA ›
- Streaming Piracy Is Now a Billion-Dollar Industry - dot.LA ›
- Warner Bros.’ Films Will Be Released in Theaters, HBO Max - dot.LA ›
- Streaming Trends to Watch in 2021 - dot.LA ›
- Amazon Buys MGM for $8.45B, Acquires Bond Franchise - dot.LA ›
- Documentary Plus Will Share Streaming Data With Filmmakers - dot.LA ›
- New Streaming Data Underline Quibi's Struggles
- John Legend Takes to Wave's Virtual Stage
- TIkTok Reportedly Rakes in $200M
- Snap Rolls Out Pride Lenses For U.S. Regions
Things started so rosily for Quibi, with a fat $1.75 billion fundraise, loads of content deals with A-listers, and a sold-out advertising slate. But lately it's been nothing but bad news.
Recent reports have depicted all kinds of troubles: low demand, executive departures, unhappy advertisers, an ongoing intellectual property lawsuit, and a potential rift between its two chiefs, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. All this on top of a global pandemic that has done no favors to the company's initial value proposition of serving the "on-the-go" moments of consumers' lives.
Quibi is apparently trying to respond. Variety reported on Wednesday that the L.A.-based mobile-first, short-form video platform has been negotiating with Amazon and Roku to accelerate its availability onto connected devices. Company executives have also reportedly taken pay cuts.
Data provided to dot.LA by JustWatch, an analytics firm with offices in L.A. and Berlin, show that in May, Quibi and its content library captured just 0.5% of the U.S. streaming audience's interest. Netflix led the way at 31%, followed by Amazon Prime Video at 18%, Hulu at 11%, and Disney+ at 8%.
Industry observers have frequently cited Quibi's lack of a hit show, combined with its nonexistent back catalog of familiar favorites, as a key reason why it has struggled since its April launch.
JustWatch's data suggest that Reno 911!, which debuted on Quibi in early May, was far and away the most popular show on the app last month. The firm estimates that the rebooted police satire was four times more popular than the runner-up, The Stranger, and 12 times more popular than Quibi's third-ranked title, Most Dangerous Game.
Quibi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
John Legend Takes to Wave's Virtual Stage
Wave, an entertainment technology company that turns performers into digital avatars and puts them on virtual stages where they can entertain and interact with fans, announced that John Legend will perform on the platform on Thursday, June 25th at 3:00pm PT.
Legend had previously been slated to participate in the L.A.-based entertainment firm's "One Wave" virtual concert series, but no date had been announced before Wednesday.
The performance, available via YouTube and Twitter, will feature new songs from the EGOT winner's upcoming album, "Bigger Love." Leveraging the Wave platform's interactivity, attendees will be able to send "visual gifts" throughout the performance, with 100% of the proceeds going to Legend's FREEAMERICA criminal justice reform campaign.
Wave is partnering with PEOPLE for the Legend performance. Sponsors also include Yamaha and Valence, a "new social network addressing diversity by connecting Black talent with economic opportunity." The Ad Council will also be providing public service announcements and resources during the show for fighting racial injustice.
Fresh off a $30 million Series B fundraise, Wave has hosted over 50 events, for up to 400,000 people at a time.
TIkTok Reportedly Raked in $200M
The Information reported Wednesday that TikTok earned between $200 million and $300 million in revenue worldwide in 2019. The news site also said the Culver City-based social media phenomenon's 2020 revenue goals are $500 million in the U.S. alone. These figures follow a separate report from Bloomberg last month that TikTok's parent company ByteDance raked in $17 billion in 2019, and pocketed over $3 billion in profit.
A TikTok company spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the figures, saying "we don't publicly share company data or revenue metrics."
In response to The Information's report that TikTok is considering hiring an American executive to oversee its sales team, the spokesperson said, "We are always looking at new opportunities to scale and attract great talent for our teams."
TikTok, which is now under the leadership of former Disney streaming executive Kevin Mayer, will be participating later this month in the NewFronts, the digital media world's jamboree of presentations to woo advertising buyers, which will be virtual this year.
Snap Rolls Out Pride Lenses For U.S. Regions
Courtesy of Snap
June is Pride Month, and instead of the annual in-person festivities, L.A. Pride has been celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of virtual events. Now, Snap is adding augmented reality (AR) to the mix. The Santa Monica company released five new AR lenses on Wednesday in partnership with L.A.'s Pride Media. The "community of storytellers, innovators and influencers" reaches over 6 million monthly unique users, which Pride says surpasses any other LGBT media brand.
The new lenses, which is Snap-speak for the digital overlays that transform a camera image, "spotlight diverse, queer-identifying changemakers advancing equity for all people in every U.S. state," according to a company statement. The release is paired with the annual "Champions of Pride" issue from The Advocate, a Pride Media subsidiary publication.
A Snap spokesperson describes the five new lenses as "art gallery-style spaces" that help Snap's young-leaning users learn about LGBTQ+ and BIPOC advocates. These include "Mighty" Rebekah, a 13-year-old who successfully lobbied for an LGBTQ-inclusive school curriculum in her home state of New Jersey, and Brandon Wolf, the first survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando to testify before Congress.
Snap tapped five designers from its official lens creator cohort to represent five U.S. regions. Each creator has regional ties and either identifies as LGBTQ+ or an ally, the company says.
Brielle Garcia, designer of the Pacific West lens, says, "I wanted to work on a Pride lens that was not just a celebration of the past, but a celebration of our future. I hope these Lenses can be an encouragement to everyone in the LGBT community. Encouragement that people as unique as you can have success in business, politics, art, or anything you can dream of. This message is important to me because this kind of success has not always been available to us. So many amazing people have come before us to pave the way and this is a celebration of their success and a guide to what you can achieve."
Joshua Keeney, repping the Northeast, says, "The takeaways that I want people to have with this Lens is that there is incredible diversity within the LGBTQ community, that everyone can be a champion in their own way, and can bring changes to their own communities."
- L.A. Tech Updates: 'Smart' Glass Gets a Boost - dot.LA ›
- Los Angeles' Tech and Startup Scene is Growing. - dot.LA ›
- Snap Stops Promoting Trump In its Discover Platform - dot.LA ›
- Snap Partners with Headspace For Meditation Tools - dot.LA ›
- Snapchat Rolls Out Pride Lenses For Every U.S. Region - dot.LA ›
- TikTok Threatens Legal Action Over Trumps Executive Order - dot.LA ›
- The TikTok Ban's Conundrum for Artists and Apps - dot.LA ›
- Snapchat's 'Spotlight' Lures Short-Form Video Creators - dot.LA ›
- TikTok Is Partnering with Ad Behemoth WPP to Offer Creators Potential Advertisers - dot.LA ›