2017 Emmys: A Tipping Point for OTT
Most accept that OTT streaming services are the future and cable TV is the past. The more contested question most recently has been, when will streaming services surpass cable? Not simply in viewership numbers, but as the world’s video zeitgeist. It may have already happened at the 2017 Emmys. Even Steven Colbert’s opening monologue highlighted the incredible growth in viewership and quality of streaming service’s content, jabbing that cable shows like his are merely an afterthought at this point. Joking aside, is 2017 the tipping point in which streaming services surpass cable in quality and popularity, how did they do it, and is there room for others to join them on their meteoric rise to screen domination?
For the first time in history the New Three (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) combined to win more Emmys than the collective efforts of the OG Big Three networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) 32 to 26 to be exact. Toss the 4th large traditional broadcast network, FOX, into the mix as well and Cable’s biggest names still fall one short of their streaming counterparts. Not to mention that HBO, with 29 Emmys, none of which were attributed to Game Of Thrones this year, has a business model deeply reliant on their OTT streaming service, HBO GO. Cable didn’t just get beat for the first time this year, they got clobbered.
Streaming services dominance at the Emmys this year means a few things.
- The streaming model works at scale:
If producing good content costs an arm and a leg, Emmy award winning content costs the rest of the body. Streaming services could not afford to put out shows worthy of Emmy consideration were they not seeing a return on investment. The fact that spending big and going for broke on production value is seen as sound spending for the New Three, means that massive audiences are there and engaged on these services. Going head-to-head with studios, and beating them at their own game, producing uber-premium content, means that mixes of SVOD and AVOD can support a streaming service with a billion dollar plus content budget.
- Data has never been more important.
Netflix, HULU and Amazon, all still very new to the content game, out-shine nearly every other network, many of whom have been producing series since the beginning of Broadcast TV. How is it that streaming services can so accurately predict which content will perform well with audiences and award voters? It is their unparalleled access to data. Whereas cable TV provides studios with only the typical Neilson psycho and demographics, streaming services are able to measure engagement and trends across 1,000’s of actions at the macro and micro level. From cohort analysis around different audience behavior, to the preferences of users on an individual basis, streaming services know their viewers inside and out in a way cable networks never can. Using this data takes the guess work out of producing content, meaning when a streaming service puts out a series, they already know they’ve got a hit on their hands. The era of Hollywood producers assuming they know what Middle America wants to see is no more.
- Netflix, Hulu and Amazon cannot be stopped.
There was a time when Disney pulling its content from Netflix would be devastating to the young company. Now, it is unclear if Netflix will even take much of a hit to its bottom line at all. The point at which studios could have blacklisted streaming services, choosing not to prop them up with their content, and instead crush them by self-distributing over OTT has well past.
The question is no longer, can streaming services survive, it is, can networks become streaming services to survive?
What is next?
The OTT streaming model works, from a financial and data standpoint, that much is certain now. Multi-platform digital distribution is winning and will continue to win. Although the streaming world is currently dominated by three of the early movers, Netflix, HULU, and Amazon, who are not going anywhere, there is a large opportunity with room for many networks at the table. Broadcast studios are already well situated to capitalize on an OTT strategy, with their large back catalogues of shows, and a consistent schedule of new content. Smaller networks also have a path to success with the ability to fill Niche’ content categories supported by passionate fan bases.
For some large networks, the solution thus far has been to develop their OTT service in-house. Many have found that instead, working with a tech partner to launch their own branded streaming service, allows them to focus on their strength, content creation and promotion, rather than technology. Some networks, such as Disney with its unlimited resources, accomplished this by buying their developers outright. Others see the value of an out-of-the-box OTT solution — such as Unreel — who can have them up and running with their own branded streaming service in a matter of days with no upfront costs. Unreel’s focus on big data, with patented technology and engagement features, is icing on the OTT cake for networks that partner with them.
Networks, content creators, and publishers just saw the first Emmys dominated by streaming services. The time is now for all of them to act and get in on the opportunity to take part in next year’s continued growth for brands who’ve gone all in on OTT.