By Guy Bisson 30-03-2017
A year ago, at MipTV, Vivendi unveiled a new concept in entertainment under the banner of Studio+. The French group’s strategy focused on some well-trodden paths for those already familiar with working in the digital-first entertainment space: shortform in length and bypassing television, the content would be regularly refreshed and aimed at a young audience.
All very familiar, you might say. But the two big differences from everyday digital-first content were the high budget and production values and the fact the content was designed specifically for mobile phone consumption, with a key target buyer being mobile network operators.
One short year later, the concept seems prescient. Media players are falling over themselves to exploit platforms like Snapchat and Instagram as the world order that previously meant a digital strategy need go no further than thinking about YouTube multichannel networks has evolved to require a multi-platform outlook. Every social platform worth its salt is not only hosting video but also offering users the opportunity to live-stream their very own Truman Show.
Browse Snapchat’s Discover portal today and you will already see the likes of NBCUniversal, National Geographic, Disney and Turner all adapting content to the disappearing format and storytelling portal.
There’s another moving part too. Millennials, so beloved of marketers and media commentators, are actually getting on a bit. The oldest millennials, now in their mid-30s, will soon enter a world that their forgotten-at-birth predecessors, the Gen Xers, have known only too well. Soon no one – at least no one in marketing or content creation – will care what interests them or what they want.
As Generation Z, the true digital natives, scratch at the door of adulthood, we may be about to engage with the first generation in history that has no concept of looking backward. No more the millennial obsession with ‘vintage.’ Gen Z is likely to continue to seek out not the previous, but the next technological and content innovation, and that is fundamental.
The youngest consumers are skewing heavily to newer social media platforms like Snapchat. Their engagement has evolved to focus on social media as the starting point and entertainment as the second screen. They invariably favour the mobile phone for video consumption when using their digital-first platforms and they show very specific content interests.
Let’s be clear, they don’t dislike sport and movies, they are just far less driven by these content types than their predecessors. They also engage less with traditional news, documentary and factual. Recapturing their interest is key. If Gen Z does turn out to be forward-looking, the content industry will no longer be able to rely on the viewer growing out of its young habits and conforming to the content drivers and consumption patterns of the past.
For programme makers and buyers, that potentially changes everything. Yes, the content itself needs to focus on the right format, the right refresh rate, the right way of engaging on an emotional and personal level, and the right delivery platforms, but business models need to evolve too.
In the traditional world, a programme slot has a fairly well-established value, be that based on advertising, or a subscription model. In the digital-native space, too – at least to date – advertising with revenue share has served well. But what happens when the monetisation of content becomes obscured? Netflix has already shown that not sharing data can act as a power-play. The much greater access to user data that digital-first consumption provides becomes a value-add in itself.
And when the target buyer is not a TV channel, but a telco or mobile phone network operator, the value return becomes even more obscured. As BT has shown in the UK with its Premier League soccer strategy, spending big on content doesn’t necessarily have to result in direct return, but can be used as leverage to bolster other business lines. Amazon too is a key example of this.
So while MipTV 2017 next week will undoubtedly still be driven by the traditional buying and selling of traditional-length and traditional-format TV shows, the noise that for the last few years has been created by shortform, digital-first and social-media video may finally become a roar that can no longer be ignored.
And with the ascent of new buyers in the form of mobile operators and telcos – whose businesses increasingly require a focus on content in order to maintain value in their contract bundles, navigating the Palais floor is set to remain as challenging as ever.