• Fullscreen’s New SVOD Service is Yet Another Willingness-To-Pay Test Case

    Another day, another new SVOD service. Yesterday, Fullscreen said that April 26th would be the launch date for its “fullscreen” $4.99/month ad-free SVOD service which had been teased last fall. Fullscreen is targeting 13-30 year-olds with 800+ hours of content that will include films plus scripted and unscripted online originals and exclusives from YouTube stars like Grace Helbig, Shane Dawson, Hannah Hart and Jack & Dean.

    Like Vessel and YouTube Red, two other SVOD services based on exclusive or windowed YouTube creator content, fullscreen is another test case for millennials’ willingness-to-pay for content that they’re long accustomed to getting for free (putting aside the differentiators of earlier access and exclusivity).

    While fullscreen will leverage its creators’ huge fan followings and viewership base, the success of fullscreen - and Vessel and YouTube Red - comes down to the fundamental question of whether there’s enough value to convert a free viewer to a paid one. Given all of the noise around cord-cutting, cord-nevering, skinny bundles, Netflix’s success, the pervasiveness of mobile viewing, millennials’ different expectations, etc. many believe these types of next-gen SVOD services are well-tailored to become successes.

    Of course success is a relative term. Yesterday, Peter Chernin, head of Chernin Group, which is a Fullscreen investor, said that “If we get 1% (of Fullscreen’s 600 million free subscribers), we’ll be successful.” Again, the bet here is that skimming just a tiny percentage of YouTube’s vast viewership and converting them to paid subscribers makes the SVOD approach worthwhile.

    But even getting to 1% is not trivial. With viewers being bombarded with offers these days, the pressing question is how will they choose what to subscribe to and what to instead ignore? To help answer that question with some rigor, a year ago I introduced a framework for how to score the appeal of these new services.

    I proposed 9 key criteria and created a Google doc so readers could score the services themselves. I’ve continued coming back to the framework over the past year privately to try to assess services myself. I’ll admit, it’s an imperfect tool, but it provides some baseline ways to compare and contrast.

    It’s too early to make any definitive statements about what new video services will succeed. No doubt Netflix’s success and traditional media’s anxiety around cord-cutting, linear viewing declines and advertising vulnerability will all continue to motivate the launch of additional paid services, meaning an increasingly crowded market.

    Ultimately it’s hard to see more than a handful of these new services actually succeeding, but then again who knows.