I was fortunate to moderate a panel at CES, hosted by Tim Shey, director, YouTube Next Lab at Google, with some great panelists: Sarah Penna, co-founder, Big Frame; Barry Blumberg, EVP, Alloy Digital/president, Smosh; Mitch Rotter, SVP, GM, Break Media; Beatriz Acevedo founder and president, MiTu; Lance Sloane, head of digital original programming Warner Bros; and David Tochterman head of digital media, Innovative Artists.
To frame the conversation, I started by asking the audience, “Who thinks ‘Gangnam Style’ is good content?” (feel free to comment as well below). My goal was to open the discussion, asking if it’s possible to bring scale to niche content -- and if so, what’s needed: Great content? Great distribution? Both? And how is it done?
Fortunately for me, the panelists in aggregate have billions of views on their channels, so they understand very well the life cycle of content from the moment it’s produced. Just Smosh.com alone has ~2 billion video views. Wow.
Forty years ago, when Archie Bunker was on TV, for a show to become successful, it needed to have a network broadcasting it after work hours. TV had only a few channels, so for content to get traction, it needed mainly to “show up.” Forty years later, in a world of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more, two things have changed:
1. Anyone can create content and put it out there.
2. There is no more “audience cap.” Your content can reach a billion people. The question is, how?
Some notes I’ll share from our panel:
It takes a lot more than the content itself, or the distribution, to make a show successful said Blumberg. For example, you have to treat your online content like shows are treated on TV, professionally, make sure you keep the channel fresh, upload new episodes, make them available at a certain time, and be consistent.
- Content creators have a lot to gain from companies such as BigFrame, Break or other companies mentioned above, as they can help to provide infrastructures that content creators need in order to build a loyal and repeatable subscriber base. Such companies can share best practices learned across the network, as well as provide monetization capabilities that get leveraged as they have scale.
- YouTube is NOT considered a threat to leading content owners, but rather a partner. Its player is easy to share, embeddable and is a mandatory part of the content life cycle. This was an answer to a question I asked: “Should content owners be concerned that Google will surface their content on YouTube before showing it on their own site? Isn’t that scary?”
- A KPI that was discussed at the panel was channel subscribers. Apparently that metric is even more important than a channel’s total views. Gaining q high subscriber base means you gain predictability into your traffic, so you can forecast that for every episode you upload, a certain traffic will follow -- and that’s worth a lot.
- Branded content, where “brands can drive sales by telling a story,” is definitely on the rise, with more brands experimenting with content versus traditional advertising, said Tochterman.
My fellow Video Insider, Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, used to share in his postings that content was never a business investors or VCs wanted to invest in. A few years into it, seeing all the companies now playing in this space, I wonder if we are embarking on an era where there is a real business attached to content.
I don’t think we’ll see another Archie Bunker happening again in the unique environment of a “captive audience” that existed at the time. People have too many options these days. However, I do think that we’ll see great new shows, introduced and capturing audiences in new ways.