• Inside the Stream Podcast: Are FASTs a Road to Gold or a Road to “SLOW?”

    On this week’s podcast, Colin Dixon and I boldly  introduce to the industry a new acronym (technically it’s a “macronym” or “nested acronym”).

    We’re all aware that free ad-supported TV (“FAST) services are currently all the rage and that many are predicting it will become a multibillion dollar streaming segment in the years ahead.  

    Content providers, TV OEMs and TV networks are seizing the opportunity by launching new FAST services to capitalize on two key trends - advertisers’ insatiable demand for premium CTV ad inventory and viewers’ SVOD fatigue especially as economic uncertainty surges.

    All of this makes FASTs a “road to gold” in the short-term.

    But, in the longer-term, an unintended consequence of FASTs’ growth may be to precipitate accelerated churn among SVOD providers. Hence the new macronym: SVOD Losses On the Way (“SLOW”).

    There are still only 24 hours in the day, and viewers constantly make choices about what to watch, what services get displaced and what they’re willing to pay for. If viewers reapportion their viewing time to strong FAST services that are flooding the market, then they’re being “trained” to consume free premium video via FASTs. Further, their expectations for ever-better shows to be accessible without payment also escalates.

    SLOW is a concept I’ve been contemplating for some time, especially as I read one FAST-boosting report or article after another, as well as observing the slowing growth SVODs are already experiencing.

    But this week’s announcements of WBD moving “Westworld” plus a trove of other programming to Tubi and to The Roku Channel FAST services really crystallized things for me. After all, “Westworld” is a show that garnered 54 Emmy nominations and 9 wins in its four-year run. Its popularity has faded recently and HBO cancelled it, but it still boasted a familiar, name-brand cast. For HBO, it was no “Game of Thrones” or “The Sopranos,” but it was respectable. Now all 36 episodes will be available completely for free on Tubi and The Roku Channel.

    To be clear - and as I say in the podcast - I remain a fan of FASTs. I’m only raising the caution flag that the decision-making around which FASTs to launch and what premium content will be included must be made with a lot of strategic awareness. Companies condition their customers what to expect; once this conditioning is set it is incredibly difficult to recondition them.

    Note: There will be a dedicated session on whether FASTs are a road to gold or a road to “SLOW” at VideoNuze’s CTV Advertising PREVIEW virtual event on Feb. 28th afternoon. Sign-up is complimentary. Initial speakers being announced next week.

    Listen to the podcast to learn more (38 minutes, 2 seconds)

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  • Performance in CTV Advertising is Complex; That Should Excite Us

    In 2022 we saw the biggest shift yet in what marketers want  (by which I mean “need”) from Connected TV (CTV). It should be no surprise that this shift happened. In addition to the ongoing decline of traditional TV, prevailing economic concerns and a stronger understanding by agencies and brands of CTV’s capabilities, the spotlight has been been forced to broaden from focusing on “checking the brand awareness box” to including measurable outcomes that make a more noticeable (and attributable) difference to a brand’s bottom line. In other words: performance.

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  • Inside the Stream Podcast: ESPN is Getting Squeezed From All Sides

    Cord-cutting is accelerating. Deep-pocketed Big Tech (Amazon, Apple, Google) are scooping up marquee sports rights in an effort to add value to their services businesses. Linear TV viewing is collapsing. Consumers' attention is fragmenting as myriad social media and other activities beckon for eyeballs.

    As Colin and I discuss on this week’s episode, ESPN finds itself at the center of this storm, as the venerable TV network gets squeezed from all sides. Adding urgency to the problem, and as we also explore this week, Sinclair's Diamond Sports Group, which owns Bally Sports, a big collection of Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) acquired from Disney as part of its Fox deal, is edging toward declaring bankruptcy.

    While Diamond’s demise is closely tied to the debt it incurred by overpaying for the Fox RSNs in 2019, it raises more consequential questions about the health of the sports TV ecosystem - and therefore the value of sports broadcasting rights themselves. These rights have been funded primarily through the “sports tax” on pay-TV subscribers who are not sports fans (see “Not a Sports Fan, Then You’re Getting Sacked for At Least $2 Billion Per Year,” which I wrote back in February, 2011). Non-sports fans are getting soaked for far more than this in 2023, with huge - and mostly unknown - sums embedded in their monthly pay-TV bills (partly contributing to escalating cord-cutting).

    Net, net, the delicate equilibrium in the sports TV ecosystem is under major pressure. With respect to ESPN, newly reinstated Disney CEO Bob Iger has a pressing - yet until recently unimaginable - question to address: long-term, is ESPN still a good business? And if it’s not, should Disney keep the network anyway, or seek to sell it off?

    Listen to the podcast to learn more (30 minutes, 18 seconds)

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  • CTV Needs Real Measurement - and Ratings Are Just a Tiny Piece of It

    While not all that surprising in hindsight, a recent study uncovered a minor bombshell in CTV advertising: brands are throwing away more than $1 billion a year in advertising spend due to the fact that their commercials are playing on streaming platforms even while TVs are off.
    How is this possible? Viewers don’t always exit or pause the streaming app they’re using before hitting the power button on their TV; the shows (and the ads) are still running in the background. About 17% of ads on TVs connected through streaming devices are playing while the TV is off, and being delivered to no one at all.
    What makes this revelation all the more astonishing is the fact that today’s CTVs are digital and connected to the Internet, which is home to the most trackable, measurable media in our world’s history.
    Yet, while CTV brings a lot of promise to targeting a growing number of consumers, measuring what and when those individuals are watching is still too hard. For CTV to realize its full potential – and justify ad spend from brands – we need to treat it like a true Internet-connected medium. Let’s look at three steps the industry can take to move in the right direction.

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