Congratulations on your new unscripted reality show hit, 90-Day Marriage to a Crab Fisherman! Millions of viewers for every brine-soaked episode didn’t come easily — nor will what comes next.
Now you want to expand and capitalize on the brand. In the works are two domestic spin-offs, three new market launches, a children’s cartoon from the crab’s perspective and two live streaming specials, all of which come with unique needs for content and ad delivery.
But, unlike that rocky boat ride on crashing waves that ultimately won over Kourtnie’s heart, subscribers expect a smooth, stable experience through all of it. That means delivering relevant and reliable in-market experiences for all of these subscribers on all of their devices.
With tight budgets and a need to drive more revenue, delivering reliable content and ads is more important than ever. If you fall behind the competition, the slim margins for error and profitability could leave the business shipwrecked.
Read on to learn how to adapt content and ad delivery to meet strategic shifts in the marketplace, now and into the future.
No script, no problem
Unscripted TV is the future of streaming media. While there will always be some demand for scripted programming, such as sit-coms, dramas and true crime, unscripted television has seen a substantial increase in the last couple of decades.
According to Statista, reality programming finished second among United States viewers in genre preferences (15.4%), trailing drama (27.4%) and narrowly leading comedy (15.3%). This share of the market is both significant and passionate, unlikely to miss a single episode and often watching it as soon as it’s available.
Reality TV audiences are very loyal, and the content is very profitable. Product might only cost a few thousand dollars, which contrasts starkly with some big-budget efforts from streaming providers over the last few years — several of which, ultimately, failed to justify the budget.
This rise in popularity of unscripted content should serve as a catalyst for media companies — and ad teams, in particular — to reassess their strategies. Of course, as streaming media continues to evolve, organizations should work to stay ahead of trends, rather than react to them later while the competition reaps the benefits.
For example, the recent Hollywood writers’ strike ground productions to a halt, causing months of delays in content releases and even some cancellations. Streaming companies, however, still have subscribers to please. An adaptive and forward-looking strategic approach might help these platforms navigate the uncertainty of the next few months.
But that’s just one newsworthy content shift. Consider also the popularity of live events, which have increasingly found a home on streaming platforms as more consumers cut the cord yet crave live programming. The demand is there, but the execution doesn’t always follow. Some high-profile failures marred otherwise promising live programs. Pre-event testing helps reach some standard of digital quality, but testing content and ad delivery during the actual programming increases the chance of high-quality experiences.
Ad delivery testing is especially important given the unpredictability of live, unscripted TV. Sporting events can experience weather- or injury-related delays. Live reality TV can experience similar delays. Both can be susceptible to technical difficulties. In these instances, it’s crucial that the ads deliver as intended, to the right users in the right market with the right customer profiles. The opposite, glitchy or overused advertisements, rip the subscriber right out of the experience.
As much as you can, develop your digital quality plans alongside content plans. The more resources you can allocate and pre-production testing you can run, the better you can meet the subscriber’s expectations. More time to plan means more time to test and validate ads. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to conduct proper localization testing, as content that works for a Latin American market, for example, might need substantial work done on translations, cultural adaptation, and regional ad delivery and validation in, say, the Middle East. The rest of the world might not be so enamored at the concept of a quickie marriage to a crab fisherman, or even grasp the concept at all, but nobody will watch, interested or not, if they get the foundational localization concepts wrong.
No revenue, big problem
Streaming brands must forge a path to profitability. The window for experimentation is closed as ad budgets contract and budgets are constrained. Subscribers are feeling the pinch too, prompting them to cancel monthly subscriptions they deem too costly or unimportant to their lifestyles.
Consequently, consumers are flocking to free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms as a way to consume content at a low (or no) price point. Larger brands, such as Netflix, are also rolling out lower-cost ad-supported tiers to meet this shift in demand, mostly to the delight of consumers.
FASTs and ad-supported platforms put even more pressure on ad teams and ad validation. While some platforms enable guest logins, the company should make every effort to onboard subscribers in order to gather insights from their data. What do they watch? What do they search for? Where do they live? These types of data inputs are table stakes for many customer-facing businesses today, and these insights can go a long way toward delivering customized and personalized experiences for subscribers, including relevant and even interactive ads.
Another streaming area that once seemed like a sure bet until recently is live sports programming. There will always be a demand for live sporting events, but high broadcast rights fees and shrinking budgets is putting the pinch on some regional sports networks (RSNs) — even leading to rights being revoked in some instances. Advertising is the life blood for RSNs, and they must take advantage of every opportunity to better understand their unique audiences and deliver relevant in market ads. Remember that just because a team’s audience might be strong regionally doesn’t mean that viewers won’t watch from other markets — yet another opportunity to deliver ads to that under-served audience.
The streaming ad marketplace is also changing in terms of its advertisers. Small business marketing spend has increased incrementally over the last few years, including more ad dollars going toward streaming platforms. Media companies need to ensure strong ad delivery for these small businesses, as any hiccups in presentation or poor results will likely push them to a competitor — permanently.
Whatever the near- and long-term future has in store for streaming media companies, they must be nimble in adapting to these trends. Commitment to digital quality initiatives go a long way toward a brand that resonates with subscribers, whose needs are dynamic and often complex, despite wanting a simple interface and experience.
Whether you’re a mid-sized media platform scrapping for revenue in your digital transformation or a massive player wanting to capture and retain market share, high-quality content and ad delivery are keys to the equation.
Applause helps deliver against customer expectations, tapping into a global community of more than one million testers who can validate content and ads for both live and scripted programming. Scale up testing for periods of high need, and scale it back when you don’t need it. Source subscribers around the world to gauge their feedback on localized experiences, new market launches or ad content delivery to help root out problems as early as possible.
Find out what many other brands have with Applause: when you invest in digital quality, that investment pays off repeatedly, in customer loyalty and brand reputation that follows you around the world. Talk with us today about how Applause can help you deliver high-quality content and ads to subscribers.