An Overview Of Streaming OTT & CTV, As At August 2021.
This is the second installment in a series of articles I’ve produced on the state of play in the content, marketing, and streaming OTT & CTV. The first article took a detailed look at Netflix after its Q2 2021 results and as in many respects it is the market leader, it’s to be expected that Netflix frequently appears in this series of articles.
The global streaming market is about commercial synergies and monetization and the battle to monopolize a consumer’s free time, their attention, spend and data. It’s a battle that requires maximising efficiencies of technology to deliver continual customer satisfaction in entertainment, UX and value on the customer’s terms.
This industry is constantly experiencing dynamic change, and there are so many moving parts and factors of influence to go in-depth on all issues requires a book, not an article. This article is a detailed overview of the landscape as it stands at end of August 2021. If you would like more information or information on an area of specific interest, let me know.
OTT, CTV & VOD GROWTH MARKETS VERSUS MATURING MARKETS
The Disparity Among Global Streaming Services
More developed countries have been the testing ground for all things streaming and IOT because they have the technology infrastructure or the ability to create it, made, more importantly, they had the volume of customers desirous and capable of buying the smart devices, TVs, and content packages that would pay for it.
In other countries, the uptake of streaming media has been delayed by inadequate infrastructure or a dearth of potential subscribers with the budget or devices that could receive streamed content.
For instance the US and Australia have already implemented EDGE technology ie. Localised data distribution that’s faster and more efficient, while other countries are still trying to get their Internet infrastructure established.
According to The Conviva State Of Streaming Report Q1 2021, there are stark differences in the year-on-year growth of streaming time in different regions. Growth in time streaming ranges from 240% in South America, 149% in Africa, and 122% in Europe. Whereas growth in more established markets of US and Asia was 18% and 15% respectively. In Oceana, the growth was a healthy 48%.
The market disparity significantly influences the market penetration strategies for streamers as they navigate ways to introduce their content to new global audiences within the socio-economic and infrastructure confines of each region. Suffice to say global streaming businesses are complex in deployment.
This explains why Netflix subscription prices range from $2 in India to AU$20 p/m or US$18 for Premium in Australia and the US respectively. You can view their international pricing on this page to see just how much market tolerance factors are in the variance of the Netflix pricing strategy.
Long term emerging markets provide scope for increased consumption of content, the channels it travels on and the devices it’s viewed on. As the access to more reliable Internet connection expands into the developing world, streamers are seeking growth by taking their content to, and making content in, new territories.
But building a library of video content, is not a competitive strategy, regardless of how much of it is original, classic, or has a cult following. The longer terms desires and demands of the global audience dictate the compelling streaming service will be at the centre of the viewer’s entertainment universe. Like the hub of the spokes of a wheel, consumers will want access to their everything entertainment in one place and only innovation and a focus on UX that will deliver that.
Regardless of short-term performance metrics, IMHO right now, ultimately Netflix is best positioned to win that race globally and Foxtel is best positioned to ultimately place the top two in that race locally. But anything can happen right…?
Territorial disparities provide barriers to entry that will sustain existing FTA networks in some regions for longer.
In some regions, the barriers to entry will allow FTA and cable networks to retain market share for a bit longer. The roll-out strategy for each streamer is impacted by the culture and economics of the territory, as much as the technology infrastructure. The regions in the area identified as Asia Pacific are quite diverse. It includes countries like India, which has a dense population, but lower socio-economic factors that demand a lower cost structure and entry-level strategy.
This region also includes Iran, which presents different challenges to streamers. As a country with some of the toughest Internet censorship, Iran has banned these services: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Netflix, Hulu, Telegram, Snapchat, and Medium. At the time of writing, Netflix.com is still blocked in Iran according to comparitech.com. Iran is also subject to the effect of sanctions, making it difficult for some citizens to access technology, and cultural considerations affect the type of content offered.
Spurred into action by Netflix’s global expansion, market participants charged into streaming, investing in content, acquisitions, and marketing activities in a concentrated attempt to claim their piece of streaming real estate. Each is competing for their share of subscriber revenue, and more importantly, consumer eyeballs that are the conduit to a healthy slice of the advertising dollars.
Netflix has a significant first-mover advantage in streaming. Disney’s former CEO Bob Iger, spearheaded acquisitions during his tenure, wisely acquiring Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and 20th Century Fox. Each of which has global iconic franchises and characters that compound Disney’s depth of market presence and product.
Netflix and Disney are the giants of streaming but there is an ever-expanding list of streamers globally that are eroding market share. From the sizable media competitors like Apple TV, Amazon, Peacock/NBC, CBS/Viacom, Comcast, WarnerMedia, Discovery+ Roku, Sky etc., (and combinations thereof), to niche FAST, AVOD and SVOD channels, consumers are flooded with choice.
Consumers have their choice of content old and new – a quick search of any movie you think of will reveal where you can view it. They have their choice of supplier, access package, and device, and they often make their choices after trialing a few options. Here’s a list of just SOME of the streamers active around the world today:
What’s The Rush?
Advertising budgets are transitioning to OTT and CTV from FTA broadcast, cable, and even digital display.
In June this year, Digital TV research identified massive growth in OTT revenue, forecasting it will reach $56.2 billion in the US in 2021, with China at $16.9 billion and UK at $6.9 billion.
That’s just the subscriber revenue, not what advertisers will pay to reach them. In their US CTV Advertising 2020 report, eMarketer project in the US alone CTV ad spend will surpass $11 billion this year and is expected to grow 61% by 2024″* (*Innovid, Decoding CTV Measurement August 2021).
I’ll explore the advertising side of OTT and CTV in the next installment in this series, but suffice to say here, advertising dollars globally are shifting to streaming as fast as consumer eyeballs. Global ad spend is shifting from FTA and cable, crossing the border to digital and especially streaming. Through spot buys and more inventive partnership arrangements, advertisers are heading into the new frontier, as streamers jostle for their share of advertising spend.
I like to use the analogy that the US was the wild west of streaming, with the pioneers rushing to stake a claim in a grand land grab, and the landscape is still being carved up. But in Australia we’ve been able to ‘take the train’ to the new frontier, allowing the pioneers to take fewer arrows in their hats.
However, the streaming competition in Australia has reached a beach-head for a country with a current population of just under 26 million across approximately 10 million households. That number correlates nicely BTW to the estimate of $10 billion of digital Advertising spend in Australia for 2021*, and the rising tide of that budget spent on video (Source: (IAB) Australia PwC Online Advertising Expenditure Report Q4 2020 $9.5 Billion and Zenith Advertising Expenditure Report July 2021estimate $10.5 billion).
Consolidation In Established Markets
The US streaming market is maturing and going into a period of amalgamation, consolidation, and even cooperation. Streaming services are being merged and taken over to achieve scale, take out the competition and strengthen distribution and content libraries.
By July 2021, the dynamic industry landscape is developing at such a pace, the Variety Intelligence Platform (VIP+) has found cause to produce five of their Dare To Stream reports in two years. As this slide from their report dated August 2021 shows, the US SVOD market is crowded and mature enough to demonstrate jostling for position, as well as take-overs and shutdowns.
Other market participants are finding their own ways to achieve scale. Recent deals include Disney buying Fox, the merger of CBS and Viacom, and Amazon did a deal to buy MGM. AT&T bought Time Warner only to announce in June a deal with Discovery that will see the WarnerMedia division (which includes streaming service HBO Max, Warner Bros. movie studio and more), spun out to merge with Discovery and become Warner Bros. Discovery.
DIRECTV in the US is also now running solo and evolving into a kind of hybrid model most similar to Foxtel, providing viewers with sport and other content from a range of suppliers (Netflix, Hulu, Sling, YouTube), on apps via a range of price points and packages.
The latest example is the announcement on August 18 that Comcast and ViacomCBS will launch a new streaming service SkyShowtime to over 20 selected territories in Europe in 2022.
The partnership initiative aims to leverage Sky’s market penetration, Peacock’s platform technology, and the collective content catalogues of the NBCUniversal, Sky, and ViacomCBS slates, including titles from Showtime, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+ originals, Sky Studios, Universal Pictures, and Peacock.
The service complements the recent partnership of Paramount+ with Sky in the UK, Italy, and Germany. SkyShowtime will deliver 10,000 hours of premium content to 90 million homes across Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
AMC+ (a complex hybrid of media assets and joint venture arrangements) is using Amazon Channels as one of their distribution channels and while this gives access to more consumers, capitalising on the exposure to and relationship with those consumers, is limited as it’s dictated by the host unless specific marketing arrangments are negotiated that allow independent opportunities to an interface. So there’s an element of constriction on the marketing through this channel.
AMC is actively diversifying its content, for example acquiring exclusive North American and UK premiere rights to New Zealand six-episode comedy web series Good Grief for cablenet IFC and SVoD service Sundance Now, alongside co-commissioning a second season of the show. Set in a small New Zealand town. It centres on two millennial sisters with clashing personalities who inherit a funeral home from their grandfather.
Although HBO Max, Discovery+, and Prime Video will benefit from the muscle and firepower of their parent companies, consolidation remains a dominant theme in the quest for scale, and the economies it offers. While the marketing and operations personnel of streamers grapple to deliver the best in service and satisfy customers, the finance division views Lionsgate and ViacomCBS as speculative M&A candidates.
The more mature readers of this article might experience de j’ vous of the late nineties when telcos went on global acquisition sprees. History demonstrates the acquisition deal is the easy part, it’s timing and the operational integration that will ultimately determine success.
Competitive Strategy In Streaming
Each of the global streaming giants is strategically positioning to compete on different strengths. Original content can be a draw-card but some premier content comes with an additional rental surcharge to the subscription. Exclusive content holds some appeal, as does a variety of content, offers to bundle or bonus with purchase, UX/ease of use, convenience (central depository), sharing privileges and a variety of price points and packaging.
Viewers have experienced ‘binge bulge’ and ‘subscription fatigue’ as they sample and experiment with the various content offerings. Subscription churn is slowing as customers settle on the alternative that best suits their ongoing needs, while content packaging and pricing models settle into more sustainable models. The benefits of content catalogues acquired through M&A, are providing a strategic advantage.
While the impact of Covid on the uptake of streamed content is obvious, the disparities in the comparative data in terms of ARPU and market growth require a broader understanding of the causal factors behind the statistics.
In brief, the major players in the international streaming market compete on the following basis:
For Netflix, the objective is to be the first choice of streaming entertainment by being a very satisfying streaming service with something on the screen for everyone in the household.
At the moment Netflix’s key point of difference is it offers subscribers a superior user experience with no ads, but the business is built on a backbone of innovative vision and purpose-driven technology.
Its first-mover advantage is its advanced proprietary established distribution channel presenting an extensive catalogue of licensed and original content that’s easily discoverable and pro-actively promoted.
While the licenses expire on some of the content the service was established on, Netflix continues to invest in a constant flow of original premium content, (increasingly from international origin), from the best, high-end creative producers and talent, contracted to Netflix. The company finally inked a five-year deal with Stephen Speilberg’s Amblin Entertainment and from October one Netflix will begin streaming the nine series of Seinfeld the purchased the rights to in 2019 for $500 million.
Its global presence and ever-expanding monthly global membership deliver admirable cash flow currently in excess of $7 billion PER QUARTER. Entry-level options are tailored to market tolerances in each territory. It’s why Netflix is introducing its product via mobile packages in 78 countries.
Despite market and industry analysts every quarter seem more consumed about short-term profit and progress indicators than long-term vision or strategy, Netflix demonstrates a propensity to take a calculated position and play the long game. Read more on Netflix in my earlier blog here.)
Netflix has been a market leader since its inception and the company’s long-term vision and dedication to customer-driven innovation continue to be evident in what it does outside of movie and TV content.
In an initiative that will reveal itself to be a masterstroke that ensures Netflix stays ahead of the competition, it has announced it’s expanding the range of content into gaming. It’s a move that will add value to a Netflix subscription, harness the mighty power of gaming and the core global audience entrenched in them, and secure audience dedication.
Gaming is a $100 billion dollar industry and the increasing intersection of gaming, game technology, provides opportunities to weld streaming value, pop culture, TV and film. This will likely be the most significant strategic move Netflix has made in the business since transitioning to streaming, yet it is utterly underexplored in most financial analysts’ review of the Q2 results where it was announced.
While their recent original productions have a movie or serial television format with high production values, games have a VERY long development time and are highly influenced by gamer community in their development and launch. Netflix is currently beta testing only two game versions, Stranger Things 1984 and Stranger Things 3, both of which are being tested in just one country – Poland.
Not by coincidence, Netflix is also launching its own suite of V-tuber characters, initially into Asia. VTubers create similar types of content as typical YouTubers and the popular ones can attract over a billion views each day. VTubers are associated with Japanese popular culture and aesthetics, such as anime and manga, and their online activities include playing games over livestream, talking to their fans, participating in viral trends, and collaborating with other influencers. Building presence in this sector will segway into the gaming segment to lift traction in Netflix games.
The timing of entering gaming is also ideal so as to be well-positioned to take advantage of advances in AR and VR in the coming years. In terms of owning engagement and interaction with its audience, I fully expect Netflix will either build or acquire a platform similar to Discord.
More on this front in the innovation installment of this series.
Disney’s existing operations give Disney+ a connection to customers and cash flow to ignite the growing number of subscribers and fund their charge into streaming. View a useful graphic of the Disney conglomerate from Titlemax here.
The expanse of Disney’s long-established international presence through its exhaustive array of corporate assets (see list here) provides a great marketing advantage beyond the brand and content catalogue.
For instance, a physical presence and local staff are essential for accurate language translation that ensures compliance, uniformity, and accuracy of messages in the local language in marketing and packaging.
Local staff also provide the ability to respond quickly to trends identified from having an ear to the ground and cultural knowledge. Established relationships with local media improve the efficacy of awareness campaigns, and existing brand partnerships are readily extended to new zones. Disney has to deliver, but in many ways an established global footprint provides a run-up head start to launch a global product.
Disney+ uses its multi-faceted global footprint, established family-friendly brand, and content catalogue to secure subscribers and sell merchandise that supports cash flow. Their tent pole premium content is a subscriber drawcard that strategically capitalises on the enormous fan following of high-end character franchises. The iconic character franchises include iconic Disney characters and those from IP franchises eg. Lucas Films (Star Wars and Mandalorian) and Marvel Entertainment.
Disney is content and distribution agnostic, positioning on constantly adding new content and merchandise product to their offering, online or offline. However while Disney can capitalise on its brand assets of iconic characters and customer connection, the Disney catalogue is aging.
Movies, series, or characters that Boomers or even Millennials recognise as iconic, don’t hold the same appeal for emerging generations and they’re constantly being superseded by a new product. This factor alone dilutes the value proposition of the Disney catalogue to consumers. The aging catalogue is a driving factor behind their content production slate and will be the catalyst to a major price adjustment in the longer term. More on this in the content installment of this series.
Some of Disney’s iconic stories are falling victim to cultural change. The global recognition of the once considered ‘timeless’ now outdated storylines of titles like the Disney version of Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, in terms of diversity, equality, and role models, will see them reproduced and reimagined. First example being Amazon Prime’s new release musical movie ‘Cinderella‘ written and directed by Kay Cannon its a modern take on an old story and stars Bill Porter as the FG (Fab Godmother) and Camila Cabello as the first Latino to play the lead.
In 2021 Disney is projected to spend in excess of US$30 billion on content, with its Direct To Consumer and International segment to spend around $13 billion and the balance of sports rights and content for its media networks segment. Its sports and family-centric entertainment will be its armor.
Apple TV+ is a subscription service launched in 2019 to 100 countries and regions. It’s the ad-free premium offering that tries to compete with Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
It’s not to be confused with Apple TV which was an early starter in the streaming market delivering video through their set-top box from iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN, Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services. To clarify further there’s also the Apple TV App, a free app/service that serves as a hub for content from various streaming services, including Apple TV Plus. It also allows individual subscriptions to certain channels as well as movie rentals or purchases. The app comes pre-loaded on the Apple TV set-top box.
It’s a late bloomer in the content wars and home of sci-fi drama See and TV series Morning Wars and Dickinson, inspired by Emily Dickinson, “it’s complex and inspiring and fearless” remarked star and executive producer Hailee Steinfeld. Apple TV+ has a library of original movies, TV shows, documentaries, and musicals that’s updated and expanded every month.
The service has been adding syndicated content it will take a long time to boast the same depth of catalogue of shows and movies as its competitors. Apple TV+ might have around 50 million ‘users’ but it’s difficult to know how many of those are subscribers given how many are on free trial, but it’s still a long way behind Netflix with 210 million and Disney+ with around 75 million
For around $8 p/month (or free for 12 months if you get access with the purchase of Apple product) up to six people can share your access to Apple TV+ which has a smaller range of high-quality original TV series content and great streaming quality (subject to your own Internet access of course).
Apple TV+ rather lackadaisically is used as a bonus with the purchase of some Apple devices for a promotional period, in the hope audiences will enjoy the experience enough to convert to paying subscribers. This tactic also collects an extraordinary database of users that is a marketing asset for later use.
But as the saying goes “hope is not a plan” and the VIP+ research shows only two out of five streaming trials convert to a paid subscription, so they will need to come up with a strategic marketing initiative that’s stronger than just giving the product away and throwing money at awareness campaigns. Its apathy in marketing is evident in Google Trends where Apple TV+ spiked around launch but has remained stagnant since. That’s especially telling during a global pandemic when we’re all at home streaming content.
Apple might have been comparatively slow to the content market but it’s absolutely entrenched in the device market having multiple types of equipment in billions of homes, all connected to ‘the mother ship’. It’s already offering this type of convenience with the ability to subscribe to Apple TV Channels, Foxtel has introduced a similar strategy. Apple has a physical international presence and at some stage, these two significant strategic advantages could make Apple the ideal central distribution hub for ALL content. Just a thought…
Amazon Prime uses its streaming content as a value add to keep consumer connection and add value to Amazon e-commerce users. In a deal that’s indicative of how deep pockets can super-charge a content asset, Amazon purchased MGM for US$8.45 billion in May 2021, allowing it to add a library of content of around 4,000 films and 17,000 hours of TV.
That’s a nice instant bonus up of content to bolster the Amazon Prime value proposition for consumers. It’s hard to compete with the spending power of the big players, but smaller streamers can take advantage of agility and ingenuity.
Samsung TV+ began in the US and at last count had around 140 independent channels on their advertising-supported linear platform in the US. Having launched earlier this year in Australia, there are currently around 60 channels available to owners of recent (2020/21) models of Samsung TV’s.
While most streamers compete on content, Samsung’s best channel is their distribution channel! Estimated to be in over 200 million homes globally (approximately two million in Australia), the Samsung TV in each household represents a future Trojan horse for any number of strategic initiatives for content. Let’s also acknowledge that smart TVs come with a range of features and functions that can be activated by the manufacturer or by content. Watch this space.
CBS/Viacom/Paramount+ intends on capitalising on their collective assets including Showtime, Nickelodeon and MTV, across broadcast, cable and streaming to provide a broad range of content including news, sport, lifestyle, and episodic TV, cemented by an exhaustive back-catalog of high profile TV and movies.
Locally I subscribed to 10+ in January 2021, initially for industry research, since then the service has relaunched as Paramount+ but as a paying subscriber, the rollout has been anything but convincing. They might have a fabulous catalogue of content, but I still haven’t watched any content on this service.
If you have a customer who is already paying, the 80/20 rule dictates they’re more valuable than the one you’re trying to capture. Unfortunately, despite having my monthly subscription and full contact details for eight months, Paramount+ is yet to get to know me beyond my credit card details.
Thus far I’ve seen some awareness ads OOH and received a total of eight emails promoting content I’m not remotely interested in. I’ve not been asked to volunteer any information about my content preferences. As a result, my experience is I’m just a paying subscriber that receives one-way communication pushing content I have no interest in.
If the subscription were not for industry research, for my particular household, I would not have been motivated or inspired to subscribe and I certainly would have unsubscribed by now.
Despite their considerable corporate size, this group is considered a take-over target at the top end of town.
Roku is an OTT streaming platform that also uses its proprietary CTV device (and mobile app) to deliver multiple channels with a broad variety of content, from multiple sources, on an AVOD, FAST or subscriber basis. Roku provides finely tuned ad targeting to deliver to the right audience, keep them engaged and interactive throughout the funnel.
They seek to provide the volume of choice from licensed and owned content and a highly satisfying viewer experience based on ‘super powering’ their user’s TV screen. This secured connection to viewers provides a valuable channel for advertisers.
With over 40,000 free movies and TV titles and 190 channels, their content is currently sourced from thousands of independent suppliers, including Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, who use Roku as a distribution channel.
Roku has an issue in that as pre-existing content licenses expire, the original owners are reclaiming content and designating the rights to be confined within new strategic distribution scenarios.
In an attempt to offer original and exclusive programming, Roku bought 75 titles from the now-defunct short-form streamer Quibi for under $100 million. Quibi content was designed for ad-supported viewing with built-in ad breaks, but it has some titles that have clever built-in attributes. Viewers can choose ‘turn-styling’ ie. the ability to watch landscape or portrait (useful for mobile viewing), or timed viewing eg. Watching horror movies that stream after dark.
Although not available in Australia, with an estimated 70 million subscribers in the US as of Q1 2021, Roku has device penetration at scale in households in the US and is expanding into the global reach to UK and Canada.
Foxtel competes in the local market on the premise of offering everything in one place, I see it as the mini, more local version of the Netflix proposition. A wise move at a time when consumers are swamped with choice. Having one remote (with a voice-activated option), one menu system that subscribers know how to use, a depth of content including sport, news, and entertainment, established customer support, one billing system, and a content catalogue expanded by joint ventures and licensing, improves the value proposition for the consumer.
Foxtel has also taken a strong position in terms of fostering Australian content, recognising its latent international market potential. The appeal of their approach is evidenced in their recent financial results demonstrating they had grown their subscribers to a total of four million, essentially split 50/50 between Binge streaming and cable.
Innovation in terms of the initiatives offered by their advertising platform is finding growing acceptance from an advertising community hungry for leadership and education in this zone.
Stan with an estimated subscriber base of two million, rates a close second in popularity behind Netflix in Australia, according to one industry survey by techradar. The Stan service is price competitive in terms of its closest rivals Netflix, Disney, and Foxtel and as part of the Nine Entertainment Company (NEC:ASX code), enjoys the opportunity for cross-marketing in other media assets and cross-pollination of talent and content for maximum value.
The long-term established relations with advertisers, production houses, and consumer database assets are strategic assets that are beginning to deliver advantage through initiatives like Powered By, a division of Nine that seeks to capitalise on the advertiser relationships and audience reach of the combined assets of the NEC, by providing creative, production and commercial support to agencies and advertisers in the area of content creation. Although marketing managers are not often versed in the complexities of content production, license, and distribution, this is a sound initiative and one I perceive to be very much in need.
The chart below by JustWatch.com demonstrates the local market share for Jan-June 2021.
Niche channels like WWE and Pokergo.com are blossoming. They compete by attracting viewers in volume to their site based on the content of niche interest eg. Wrestling, hobbies, country of origin, travel, cooking, home renovation, parenting channels. The niche audience provides highly targeted audiences for advertisers.
Analysts Look To Netflix As The Litmus Test For Streaming
Even with a little slippage due to competitive forces, there’s no doubt Netflix is the global leader in SVOD and its appeal is solid in new distribution regions. In Q2 2021 Netflix announced 1.54 million new international subscriptions (one million from the Asia-Pacific region), but that does not make them immune to competition and their constant nipping at their heels to steal market share.
This article explored some of the confluence of a great many factors at play in the world of streaming, media, entertainment, and marketing, a lot of which are sometimes given a scant evaluation by market analysts. The next installment in this series will look into the content component and should you require more information please contact me directly.