Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Are PSBs up for the SVoD fight?

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast April 03, 2019

As more streaming services launch, broadcasters are learning to push back, says Kate Bulkley

Though there was much clamour in the content world when Apple officially revealed original TV shows – such as Stephen Spielberg’s Amazing Stories – on its new service

Apple TV+, the device maker is also launching a separate TV content aggregation service called Apple TV Channels. The latter is where streaming services, including HBO’s, can be purchased ŕ la carte.

Apple is not pioneering any new thinking here – it has taken a page out of the Netflix playbook with tentpole original content, and a page from Amazon Channels for its TV aggregation service. So far, so predictable.

What’s interesting is that public service broadcasters, led by the BBC and Channel 4, are starting to push back against how the big tech firms add PSB content to their platforms.

The BBC has pulled its podcasts, including the award-winning You, Me And The Big C (pictured above), from Google because it is not happy about how its content is being offered. The broadcaster has clear syndication guidelines and Google wasn’t playing ball.

More power to the PSBs, I say. These are battles worth fighting because as non-linear viewing continues to grow, smart devices and FAANG platforms are increasingly important in how viewers discover and consume content.

Apple launches its new streaming service later this year, but is it too late? Consumers are saturated with SVoD options and may not want another if they already have Netflix and Amazon. What about the appetite for Disney+ and Britbox, the SVoD backed by ITV and the BBC, both of which launch later this year?

BBC chairman David Clementi argues the BBC could become irrelevant if it’s stopped from pushing the SVoD envelope. At the recent Oxford Media Convention, he said the current British regulatory framework is outdated in an era when “well-funded international giants” dwarf the corporation’s financial resources.

As UK broadcasters are feeling the SVoD heat, UK producers are making hay and reaping the benefits of the appetite for original content. A whopping 85% of respondents to the Broadcast Indie Survey 2019 said they are in ‘active discussions’ with one FAANG or another.

“Netflix must become more local in its genres, but it will increasingly tread on the toes of the biggest broadcasters in those markets”

Netflix is currently the biggest commissioner: according to Ampere Analysis, it has made 360 titles and has another 238 in production, while Amazon has 96 originals commissioned. Meanwhile, Apple has 29 originals in production and two completed.

Netflix remains the one to watch because it is starting to expand the breadth of genres and the local appeal quotient it wants in original commissions.

Vice-president of original content Cindy Holland recently said the streamer uses data gleaned from its 139 million paying customers across 190 countries for several reasons, including where to “spot the white spaces” of opportunity, figuring out what to commission to appeal to certain audiences and how much to spend on a commission.

The data also tells Netflix if a show is working within 28 days of being made available.

Holland reiterated what all good distribution people know, which is that content that resonates locally has a much better chance of being a hit in another market. Essentially, the more specific and authentic a show is, the more likely it is to be an international success.

And there’s the rub: Netflix must become more local and more diverse in its genres, but in doing so, it will increasingly tread on the toes of the biggest broadcasters in local markets.

The question is: do the broadcasters have the clout to fight back? For the PSBs, the question is: how do you make sure that relevant content is available and discoverable by audiences in an increasingly crowded world?

Not all content lends itself to algorithmic discovery, and commercial negotiations and hold-back agreements have to backed up by rules if the biggest digital beasts are to be tamed.

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