It's hard to argue against the claim "content is king," but there's a bit of history in the media world that would suggest otherwise. Or at the very least, strongly suggest that there's room for two more thrones: distribution and mass audience.
These two other important elements receive short shrift, especially when the TV upfront kicks off. Here's why. First and foremost, TV networks work hard to generate excitement around stars they've signed for the fall, as well as the types of shows they have.
But the truth of the matter is that it doesn't really matter what the show is about. The pricing for most fall shows is driven by the time slot they're placed in. If a new show is behind a strong lead-in, it will be priced alongside the current strong show. If it's inserted into a "hammock," slot then the pricing will fall around what the other shows are priced at. And buyers accept these conventions based on historical practices. If there's a breakout hit that advertiser bought into during the upfront, then they reap the rewards of over delivery. If the show bombs, they'll get make-goods, and all will be well again. So one has to ask, "Is content really king?"
All of the hype leading up to the upfront and projected double digit percentage increases takes me back to my own experience several years ago. I remember sitting in my office at an agency when the World League of American Football was signing up advertisers. The salespeople came in, talked about the teams, the players, etc. We knew we were going to buy what they were selling -- it was sports, it was airing on a good network, and its time slot had a history of achieving a certain rating. We looked at what was going to be programmed against it, negotiated with the network, and settled on a fair CPM. Well, we all know what happened to the WLAF, but the point of this anecdote is that it sums up the issues of that historical time.
On the digital side, the online video landscape is white hot. Every conversation I have with agencies and clients revolves around it. In fact, eMarketer just released a survey noting that most agencies believe online video is more effective than other ads. And I've come to realize that in the online world, clients and agencies care mostly about distribution and reaching as many people as they can. The show idea could be EXACTLY what the brand is looking for in terms of environment, messaging, and content.
But the first question everyone asks is,"Where is it going to run?" And the second question is, "How many people are going to see it?" Those are the key metrics that the online video marketplace needs to be able to deliver to the buyer. It's all about distribution and mass audience. If it doesn't have those, it doesn't matter to the brands.
Next time you hear someone use that media refrain, "content is king," let's hope you remember that distribution and audience have a right to share the same throne with content.