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Four under-exploited digital video opportunities

If you’re looking for opportunity in the world of digital video, four industry experts have some advice for you. They see gold in content discovery, ad-supported video, and documentary creation. But be wary of focusing on the latest bright, shiny thing!

Earlier this month, I moderated a panel entitled Today’s video mix: OTT, Cable, and Linear Television at the Digital Entertainment World conference in LA. I took the opportunity to ask my panel of digital media experts what they thought were the most significant under-exploited digital video opportunties. Here’s what each had to say.

Discovery still not getting it done

Hale Boggs Partner, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, thinks that video services have a long way to go with the recommendations they are making to us:

Hale Boggs OMelvyn and Myers“There is so much content, and how do you find it? Yes, we have these algorithmic recommendation machines from Netflix, etc. But they tend to take you where you’ve been, rather than where you might want to go through discovery. There’s got to be a better way to do that.”

He makes a good point. According to TiVo, 44% of consumers are aware that their streaming provider makes recommendations to them. 20% think the recommendations they are seeing are always accurate, 71% say they are sometimes accurate, and 9% say they are never accurate. However, the algorithms are tuned to show us content similar to the shows and movies we’ve already watched. How do we discover something new?

Anticipating the shift of TV ad dollars

2019 was a watershed year for ad-supported video online. Top free providers Pluto TV and Tubi said they each had 20 million monthly active users (Tubi now says it has 25 million.) As well, other companies continue to jump into the market. Peacock will launch with advertising on April 15th, 2020. CBS All Access is expanding to include a free ad-supported tier powered by Pluto TV. Even the venerable disc rental kiosk company Redbox has launched a free-ad-supported service.

Ed Laczynski, CEO of Zype, thinks the confusion in the marketplace will clear opening the massive TV ad budget to Internet TV providers:

“Satisfying all the demand in advertising in OTT on free TV Ed Laczynski - Zypeecosystems, the vMVPDs, there’s way too many slates and assets. Once that gets figured out, big TV dollars will start shifting over.”

An expanded audience for documentary

The documentary genre is undergoing a renaissance courtesy of the online TV industry. For example, Netflix is adding 49 hours of documentary content a month. Paul Cabana EVP, Head of Multiplatform Programming for History, Biography, A&E and Lifetime, sees this as a golden opportunity for creative people, many of whom a predisposed to the documentary format.

“Documentary filmmaking and documentary series now have much Paul Cabana AandEmore of an opportunity to find an audience. I would say that half of people that entered TV actually wanted to enter documentary, and I think it’s going to be a great decade for storytelling.”

Addressing more than one market need

There have been many gold-rushes in the era of Internet video. From the fixation with subscription models to the DIY fad on YouTube, it’s easy to put all your creative eggs in one basket. Michael Cohen, President of Whistle, thinks this is a mistake:

Michael Cohen Whistle“People got in trouble when they focused on one opportunity in particular. There are different gold-rushes which have happened over the last five years. We’ve been operating in this space since 2013 as a digital media company and we’ve had to reinvent ourselves five or six times. It’s about being adaptable. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t just bet on one single thing. You have to take a step back and understand what you are creating, why you’re creating it, and add value in your IP. Make sure you’re not over-indexed into any one thing.”

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