• Linear TV is Dead. Just Don’t Tell Jukin Media.

    After the Democratic Party primary results last night, lots of heads are spinning this morning, including mine.

    But my head was already spinning yesterday afternoon. Here’s why: In the morning I received the note “U.S. Media: Watching the Slow Death of Linear TV…Live (2019 Edition),” from Michael Nathanson at MoffettNathanson. Michael’s an old friend as is his partner Craig Moffett, and together they provide must-read data and insights. I began skimming the note and, as expected, it was jam-packed with all the current evidence supporting the “linear TV is dead (except sports and news)” narrative - especially for younger audiences who have moved to OTT.

    The head-spinning part of the day for me came later in the afternoon when I had a briefing call with Jill Goldfarb, VP of Linear Programming at Jukin Media. If you’re not familiar with Jukin, it’s a user-generated content / viral video powerhouse with over 200 million social media followers globally.

    Jukin’s PR team had reached out to me wanting to set up the call so I could talk to Jill about “People Are Awesome,” a new 24/7 linear streaming channel that Jukin had just launched on The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, Xumo and Redbox.

    Yes, you read that right….a LINEAR streaming channel. And this isn’t some Hail Mary effort; not only does Jukin already have 2 other linear channels (“The Pet Collective” and “FailArmy”) that launched in late 2018, but Jill said those 2 channels have doubled their viewership in the past year to over 5 million hours viewed per month - and that Jukin is investing heavily to create additional linear channels.

    In fact, "People Are Awesome" already has 60 million followers and 500 million monthly views on all platforms. The new linear channel not only packages UGC content, it’s also going to have originals, including one with skateboarder Isiah Hilt, along with licensed content, including a half-hour series from GoPro. Jill said 7-8 show will be constantly premiering. They are all free and ad-supported, with TV breaks/pods that are relatively standard for TV networks (i.e. no exceptionally low ad loads).

    With Michael’s report still open from the morning on my desktop, I asked Jill how she reconciles the “linear TV is dead” narrative with Jukin’s linear success. Admittedly this question veered far from how these relatively straightforward briefing calls tend to go. But Jill gamely gave her perspective: despite the rise of cord-cutting, people have begun settling on what they’re will to pay for. Beyond these choices, they’re still seeking out free, compelling content to consume, especially on their connected TVs. Perhaps most important, Jukin’s DNA is in social which enables the company to deeply understands its audience and what they’re looking for. For “People Are Awesome” specifically, its inspirational content focus resonates (my $.02 - the current political/global/health climate no doubts helps a lot). Jill ended by raising the age-old maxim “Content is King.”

    I very much agree with her assessment. On the one hand, we have more “premium” entertainment content than ever in the history of humankind, all available a couple clicks away - supported by lavish budgets, A-list stars, massive promotional campaigns, etc. Given this, it’s no surprise that overall, linear viewership on TV networks is sagging. But we are all still human beings. Our desire to have authentic, uplifting stories presented to us without having to do any work to watch them (e.g. even make on demand choices) or pay any money (even if our time is still interrupted by ads) still resonates. And connected TVs have created the perfect platform to easily enable these desires.

    Jukin understands all of this and is capitalizing. I know others in the industry that also do. I’m less sure that TV networks, SVOD services or big pay-TV operators do. Whenever you see headlines with conventional narratives like “Linear TV is Dead,” overall they are likely true. But also remember there will be exceptions to these conventional truths which makes things confusing and head-spinning.

    Sometimes these exceptions start very modestly. Other times they hit us over the head all of a sudden like a two-by-four. A week ago a lot of experts thought Joe Biden was on life support. This morning he’s greeting a totally new reality. So it goes.

    (Note: Jukin Media’s Founder and CEO Jon Skogmo will be speaking at our Connected TV Advertising Summit on Thursday, June 11th. Save now on early bird discounted tickets!)