MUMBAI: “One thing is always clear: those who embrace change consistently end up better off than those who can’t or don’t. All of this to say the entry of streaming into our industry is likely going to add more,” said FTI Consulting senior managing director in business transformation and a leader of the media and entertainment practice globally Phil Schuman. He was delivering a virtual keynote address "content strategies in the streaming era’ during the online version of MIPTV 2020 earlier this month. MIPTV is normally held in the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France every year, but was called off this year due to the Covid2019 pandemic, and the conference was streamed online.
“New technologies emerge in consumer taste and demands always evolve but in the end the industry is still going to be here; and content will still be king. Again and again we have seen that the new doesn’t kill off and replace the old but grows the industry, creating more opportunities for everyone, and when I say more opportunity, I mean a lot more,” he says.
“Let’s talk about the change in television. It’s been around as long as TV, but I have always found that my colleagues in the industry have the view that change is great, but just don’t change me! Every major change over the past 60 years in the television industry has been met with fear. Back in the 1970’s in the US when HBO started, people were concerned that it would kill theatrical, but it didn’t,” he said.
“When multichannel pay TV broke out in the 1980’s as a mass medium people thought it would kill broadcasting. It didn’t at all. Now the fear is that Netlfix is killing television; but let’s look back and see how the industry fared among these changes in the past. PTV turned out to be a goldmine for studios, creating new rights windows for film libraries and syndication of popular broadcast series driving massive new incremental revenue streams,” he explained.
According to him, the innovation of pay television also paved the way for retransmission fees for free-to-air broadcasters an entirely new revenue stream that is projected to bring in over 12 billion dollars this year. Now I know hindsight is always 2020, looking back it’s hard to imagine what the broadcasters were so worried about the emergence of cable and pay television was probably the best thing that ever happened to them.
“As we know the driver in television growth today has been the VOD segment and it’s been brisk at 15-plus per cent compounded annual growth rate since 2014. The number of scripted TV shows on TV now tops 500, growing 30 per cent in the last five years. And the diversity of channels and platforms has proliferated more in the last few years than in the previous 60. All this change has led to crazy stock valuations and huge mergers that have remade the landscape. Just five years ago, the capitalization of major players in the television landscape looked like this on the chart. With digital players being big but still close in scales of legacy players and they are being more major participants,” he said.
Today, he said, the major player comparative landscape looks quite different with major tech players with overwhelming capital size and fewer major legacy companies in pursuit and those legacy players are falling further behind in size to the digital players. “One point I would like to make though is that history tells us that today’s giants will not show all of the world they’d never seen. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to emphasize that point.”
“Do you remember when AOL met Time Warner they were going to be twice as big as their next rival and that spread fear in all the industry, and I don’t know that one worked out. How about when Comcast met Universal vertically integrating a major studio networks and distribution it was expected to be the end of non-exclusive network distribution. How about when AT&T met Warner Media. This deal also led to calls of doom that never happened and Disney and Fox? Looks to me these mergers generally add to the landscape after the integrations are completed. Now I will admit today is tricky. There is more competition, more diverse competition, than ever before. New guys have stormed the gates and everyone has had to adjust. Yes, Netflix can buy out Apple, so can Amazon, may be even Disney at this point,” he said.
Streamers are also making huge investments in funding content production around the world, unlocking opportunities for storytellers everywhere. “By our count, content spent by Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Hulu in 2019 was over 30 billion dollars, much of it incremental increase in spend in the sector.
The streaming sector itself continues to grow too. By our count, there are at least 15 sizable global or regional streamers, with more on the way.”
Regarding the broadcasting sector, none of these legacy players have gone or going away. They may be a little smaller part of the overall puzzle, but there is clear tried and trusted demonstrated value in broadcasting that won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
He asserts that broadcast is still unbeatable in reach. One major sporting event still brings an audience far larger than Netflix’s entire global subscriber base. Just look at the FIFA World Cup audience when compared to Netflix. This reach comparison remains true within local markets, too.
“Take a look at the UK for example. As you can see the broadcast reach surpasses OTT service penetration. Today, the content creation market is crowded and competitive, but open. In the global category we have the major powerhouses such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and Apple. These are already flexing their muscles in buying global rights of the content; but let’s be clear. There are potential emerging global players as well, such as HBO Max and Peacock Hulu,” he added.
The landscape for buyers and sellers is drastically shifting with an influx of new entrants to the buyer market; buyers becoming sellers, and sellers becoming buyers.
Creating organisations that are able to sell content tailored to their environment using an adaptive business model and varying return on investment. One related trend is to have in place financing for shows in advance for production as opposed to traditional deficit financing with later syndication.
Another funding model is co-productions between US premium networks and other global networks with upside and risk shared across the partners.
Go global in a local way. We have heard from streamers and broadcasters alike that the demand for locally produced content is very strong especially in Latin America. Local language content tops the most popular Netflix releases of 2019 in eight countries. So here’s the opportunity: while streamers may be building up internal development capabilities in the US and perhaps the UK, they have not yet built that capacity at scale in other countries, and when they do turn their focus to particular markets, they still need local production teams to satisfy content demand.
Consortium content creation among various localised participants is the most common success tack that we have seen. This model has one major benefit: it allows for higher content cost shows to be acquired in any given market, but with the cost spread so that all parties can obtain the content within their respective budget. Atrium TV with member companies in Europe, Latin America and Asia is a private company trying to create consortium is just an example.
There are also examples of ad hoc consortiums being created show by show where rights are shared.
"With respect to streamers’ best practices, Netflix and Amazon, they will likely to need more local production access and all participants can work with them on this. With respect to the emerging global streamers such as Hulu, Disney+, Peacock, HBO Max, etc. They will likely need additional content above their own supply and can provide good partners for local broadcasters," he said.