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PERSPECTIVE

Unpacking bundles

By Richard Middleton 22-12-2017

Bundles are being unpacked throughout the industry, but will they simply be replaced by lots of smaller ones, asks Richard Middleton, editor of C21 International.

Unwrapping packages of all shapes and sizes is a bit of theme at this time of year, as Santa Claus prepares to make his mad dash around the world.

For those in the television biz though, especially in the US, it’s become a daily event that’s left pay TV operators trying to work out just how to stop the haemorrhaging of subscribers to the world of OTT.

It is hard to recall these days, but cord-cutters were at one time new. In the US, in particular, they have taken a knife to the TV industry’s modus operandi, keen to get rid of their bulging cable packages, and slashing and burning everything back until they are left with just a streaming subscription.

In turn, those streamers have not only kickstarted a reimagining of the way the industry works, they have also fuelled a creative drive the likes of which has never been seen before. It was topped of this year by Amazon’s US$250m deal for the rights to JRR Tolkiens’ Lord of the Rings, a fitting crescendo to another frenetic year for those involved in scripted product.

The best actors, producers, showrunners and source IP are all in demand, but recent entrants such as Facebook are delving into factual and Netflix is buying formats – of sorts.

Bearing the brunt of all this are traditional broadcasters. Those averse to change have already been left in the dust, and even those that have tried to adapt have found it tough going as platforms, mediums and viewer tastes change almost daily.

But plenty of people still watch linear TV, and many networks now have an online service anyway. Furthermore, broadcasters are cementing relationships to increase and improve their output – take the recent drama commitment by the Nordic region’s big five public broadcasters as a case in point.

For Joe Public, this content revolution has been a boon. We’ve benefitted from an ever-increasing wave of programming that has tended to increase in quality and quantity – wherever you live. Regional operators such as Starz Play Arabia or Africa’s Iroko have proliferated, and telcos are becoming increasingly interested in acquiring their own OTT offerings to feed through their cables.

Competition is, of course, fierce – Rupert Murdoch’s decision to carve up his 21st Century Fox empire is testament to that. And there have been other casualties – Foxtel and Seven West Media in Australia dissolved their SVoD joint venture Presto, while Canada’s Shomi also fell by the wayside.

But nimbler SVoDs are enjoying success and competing with the global operators, snapping up canny rights deals and offering their own local programming. Indeed, the surge in demand for domestic shows does not seem to be waning. If anything both broadcasters and streamers alike are increasingly looking for scripted programming that is firmly located in local environs. With that built-in authenticity and relevance, many such dramas are then able to use clever use of universal themes to become popular around the world.

Indeed, in many markets, having just one SVoD subscription could mean missing out on a whole range of shows. Cord-cutters are now amassing a host of monthly subscriptions – a bit of Amazon here, some Netflix there, a comedy streamer for one night, a factual-skewing SVoD for another.

International streamers might have torn apart the threads that kept the broadcast industry together, but there’s something familiar – albeit far more interesting – being created in its place.

today's correspondent

Richard Middleton Senior reporter C21 Media

Richard Middleton is a senior reporter at C21Media. Based in London, he covers the global TV industry for C21Media.net, C21 International, C21Kids and Drama Quarterly.

Before joining the company in 2013 he worked as a reporter and sub editor for BBC Online and has freelanced for publishers around the world including Trinity Mirror, Fairfax Media, Reed Business, DMG Media and The Independent.