By Bas De Vos – Global Director – Audiences and Targeting, Media Division
The video-on-demand space (VOD) is fascinating, not least because we have competing businesses approaching delivery strategies from opposing directions – with many now meeting in the middle and betting on a future that borrows the best from every model.
Later this year ITV, the UK commercial broadcaster, launches ITVX, a landmark moment that will see genres like scripted drama shift to VOD-first.
Meanwhile, we have subscription VOD platforms reappraising some of the assumptions that fueled their original growth – and now see a clear role for linear in their offerings.
It’s a tale of contrasting journeys and business models and shows just how much the market of gaining and retaining of audiences is derived from observing and testing different approaches.
Some might argue this is poaching the playbooks of other media owners – yet it all points towards market convergence over the remainder of the decade, and it will have significant ramifications for content windowing, monetization and advertising.
The right blend
Instead of offering rigid viewing choices, platforms – whether broadcasters or VOD natives – are reshaping viewing experiences by serving content based on different need states.
This point is noted in our latest report, The Future Viewing Experience, and leads to the conclusion that the 2020s will be characterized by blended viewing – with the winners in the platform wars deploying windowing strategies that strike the right balance between VOD and linear.
Broadcasters are adopting the aspects of VOD strategy that best fit with their positioning whilst preserving their points of difference, and VOD platforms are adopting long-established concepts like appointment TV and curated content discovery via linear channels.
For example, with live audiences for scripted content changing, broadcasters have begun to shift their windowing strategies to better match viewing behaviors and preferences – and in many cases have secured larger audiences using pre and post-broadcast VOD than through linear.
On the other hand, shared interest content such as news, sport, special events or big-ticket content still draws the vast majority of their audiences from linear, especially when broadcasters create a real sense of occasion.
Meanwhile, after years of VOD exclusivity, Netflix has launched the linear channel Netflix Direct in France; Prime Video and YouTube now offer live sport, and Paramount+ has launched a series of live streams dedicated to genres or specific franchises like Star Trek.
In a world of overwhelming media choice, it appears content curation is being reappraised.
Towards staggered release
We are also seeing a shift away from all-at-once release strategies, and a slight distancing from box-set bingeing. It has taken a while, but VOD platforms appear to have realised just how useful it is to drive buzz and increase the ‘watercooler effect’ by regularly scheduling content, just like traditional broadcasters.
This is a wise move; a sense of anticipation can have an enormous impact on audiences’ emotional responses – instead of feeding dopamine hits through instant gratification, platforms are able to exploit what psychologists call ‘worked or waited for rewards’, which more steadily release serotonin over the longer term.
This more restrained approach helps maximize interest in content for longer and opens up more meaningful, memorable and longer-lasting experiences.
Weekly episode drops also give time for discussions to build around shows, and potentially keep subscribers on board for longer, lengthening subscription revenue.
This is a tactic that is also likely to have a knock-on effect on other types of viewing content – and will see the art of trailers, teases and cut-downs reappraised.
Measurement in tune with viewing experiences
Finally, as viewer choice expands, and as platforms utilize a broader mix of content delivery strategies – embracing long-form and short-form VOD, live and on-demand, IP and broadcast – it will be essential the market uses measurement solutions that are both ad and content neutral.
To that end, it’s important to note that Kantar has built universal integrated measurement solutions – People Meter and Focal Meter – that are both device agnostic and place the viewer first in consented panels? They are also in tune with current viewing experiences, and – crucially – fit for a world in which video delivery is set to become more complex.
To download report, CLICK HERE.