We’ve all seen examples of great content getting pulled from an online video service over concerns about competition with “traditional” television (at OneScreen, we’ve dealt with this first hand on several occasions). Whether a content owner is publishing directly to its audience or syndicating through a video app streaming service, conflicts over rights often become roadblocks to offering audiences the best content experience possible. However, we’re living in a connected era where competition will not simply go away by removing content from a competitor. Audiences will find a way to watch the content they want in the environment they want, and other “competitors” will emerge to make sure they get access to it.
Not all that long ago, broadcast and cable networks were able to consistently deliver scale for individual TV shows, but the ability to achieve the same reach is a lot more difficult today when traditional television audiences are shrinking and audiences are fragmenting across devices. Although cable networks and broadcast networks still rule as the main forms of media consumption (144 hours, 54 minutes per month compared to 45 hours per month), online video is growing at a staggering pace. Cisco reported that online video services reached around 1 billion users worldwide in 2012, and that number is expected to double by 2017. At the same time, SNL Kagan reported that Pay-TV providers added just 46,000 customers collectively in 2012, with overall reach totaling 84.7% of all U.S. households, down from a subscriber peak of 87.3% in early 2010. Broadcasters are faring much worse, seeing a 50% collapse in broadcast TV audience ratings since 2002.
Of course, it’s natural for cable and broadcast networks to be fearful of online competition, but online video viewership is still relatively nascent and evolving. When you consider that competition is going to exist regardless, wouldn’t it be better to A) have television content available across all channels and devices where audiences are watching, with the possibility of driving audiences to the cable and broadcast networks, and (even better) B) partner with the content producer to support video app device experiences, effectively tying your cable brand to the online channel? We believe that increased collaboration between the producer and the publisher can lead to a better viewing experience.
If the audience wants it, they’ll find a way to watch it
One of the most important realizations for all content producers and publishers to have is that when the audience wants to watch something, they’ll go to almost any length to access it. Let’s be real – more likely than not, the video content they are looking for will be online somewhere. Think about the amount of illegal videos on YouTube alone, from your favorite shows to full-length movies, not to mention what can be downloaded through BitTorents. A recent study authored by American Assembly VP Joe Karaganis and Dutch researcher Dr. Lennart Renkema found that 45% of U.S. citizens actively pirate media (both music and movies), and those rates skyrocket to 70% with younger demographics. In fact, the WSJ reported that some movies, including Snow White, Fantasia, and Peter Pan, were on YouTube for up to a year before they were discovered and removed. And if you look beyond pirated content, there’s always the chance that a competitor will arise to meet demand for similar content online and in device environments.
Consider the audience
If there’s one thing to consider above all, it should be what the audience wants. Ultimately, it will be the audience who decides if content is worth watching. And there’s more of a chance that they’ll watch your content if it’s easily accessible in the digital environments they are using every day. When it comes to entertainment, there’s value in all forms of attention and recognition, and producers and publishers need to realize that this applies to video content. When we’re talking about a brand – or a TV show – it’s a good thing to have as large an audience as possible watching and creating a buzz around what they just watched. It doesn’t matter if they viewed it through a video app on their tablet or through the cable box, and it certainly doesn’t matter who owns the video app. Revenue and recognition can be shared.
In a perfect world, a content producer’s app should be able to run alongside content published by a cable network because the ultimate priority should be delivering that content to fans everywhere. The whole concept of rights and exclusivity needs to be reconsidered by publishers and producers because audiences have reconsidered their viewing habits. Producers and publishers need to go into relationships planning for all the channels where the content can live.