TL ; DR
To SVOD providers, start experimenting with FAST as a vehicle for content discovery and audience engagement. To AVOD-only content providers, get ambitious with your most premium content. To both of you… do it before it’s too late!
“War does not determine who is right, only who is left” -Bertrand Russell
Ink continues to spill about The Streaming Wars in business editorials around the globe. Once viewed by the incumbent Media & Entertainment giants as a rebellious, inconvenient skirmish in the frontier, the streaming siege now is fully underway.
There are functionally infinite combinations of acronyms, content categories, devices, platforms, geographies, and enablement technologies adrift in the OTT universe.
However, there are really only 2 ways to monetize content: Advertising and Direct-Viewer-Dollars.
In other words, unless your media offering is purely altruistic, you need to ask your viewers to fork over their credit card information, or you need a third party to sponsor the experience (i.e. an advertiser).
Traditionally, the mythology of the Streaming Wars centers around premium Subscription Video-on-demand (SVOD) services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max. No cable bundle required. Bring your internet connection and a valid form of payment, and prepare for all-you-can-eat access to content you (mostly) cannot find anywhere else.
Viewer budgets are not infinite, however, nor are their attention spans. Competition is fierce in the SVOD theater, and scarcity rules. But what about compelling content that’s not terribly unique?
SVOD services are not alone among large screen streaming formats. The free ad-supported television (FAST) space is booming, and it’s projected to double in the next two years, surpassing $4bn in 2023. Created in the image of their cable box EPG ancestors, experiences like Samsung TV, Pluto TV, Roku Channels, and Tubi offer the lean-back experience of channel surfing without the financial burden of a cable or vMVPD package.
If you have a CTV device or a smart TV, you have access to FAST, on multiple competing services in fact. The barrier to entry for the viewer is nearly non-existent.
Given the conflicting monetization strategies, it’s likely not a surprise that these two worlds live mostly independently of one another. PPV sporting events, films, tv shows, etc. that simply cannot be found elsewhere (without pirating) exist in captivity behind SVOD or TVOD paywalls in dedicated application environments.
News, weather, entertainment, and lifestyle content are different; these categories require a consistent flow of viewer oxygen and, thus, need to be everywhere at once, accessible within a few clicks. The FAST ecosystem provides the perfect aggregated environment.
“There are no foreign lands, only foreign travelers” - unknown
There is an underexplored landscape between large screen AVOD and SVOD formats, and only a handful of savvy publishers are taking advantage. Follow their lead… and quickly!
Moderately successful FAST offerings should create a premium SVOD service and drive the most loyal 1-5% of customers into a direct-to-consumer relationship. D2C services can easily be profitable with only a few hundred subscribers paying $5-15/month, and the math adds up quickly beyond that point. For example, an SVOD service charging $8.99/month doesn’t even need 10k subscribers to achieve a run-rate of $1M in annual revenue.
The possibility for success is worth the cost of experimentation, especially considering the cost of experimentation can be very reasonable. Cleeng supports 20,000+ self-serve PPV events per year with zero upfront costs. And for those with a bit more ambition, Cleeng has a vast partner ecosystem of application developers, streaming platforms, payment providers, etc. to fully optimize your D2C OTT offering. Leading OTT services like B1G+, Tennis Channel Plus, CBC Gem, and many more trust Cleeng for Subscriber & Billing Management.
As for the other side of the equation, even successful SVOD services are only capitalizing on true enthusiasts. There’s almost certainly a class of interested viewers either unwilling to pay the full price of a subscription or entirely unaware that the SVOD offering exists. FAST offers a compelling solution for these interested viewers, and it also presents an attractive marketing opportunity as a vehicle for content discovery.
The window will not stay open forever, though. 2022 may be your last opportunity to experiment without paying a severe price for learning as you go. Choice fatigue among coveted viewers will ultimately diminish the ROI for late adopters and leave very little room for error. The time for experimentation is now.
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