Commentary

Life Beyond May Sweeps: Marketing And Measurement In An Always-On World

Marketers in the TV entertainment industry used to dance to a nice, predictable cadence. Programming was synced with the school year and punctuated by regularly recurring ratings periods like the just-completed May Sweeps. Three major networks had a captive audience that obligingly showed up at appointed times and watched programs from end to end. 

Vestiges of this orderly universe linger, but entertainment marketers must adapt to find new opportunities and be effective with the fragmented media channels serving an audience of fickle viewers with six-second attention spans who consume content on demand.

Consider the radical change in media consumption behavior as a growing mix of players stream new types of content live or on demand to an always-connected audience. Cliff hangers and special guests scheduled for season premieres, finales, and ratings Sweeps have given way to phenomena such as packet viewing, binge watching, and sleeper hits with cult followings.

·         Packet viewing: Using social feedback from viewers, media owners identify popular segments and packetize them for redistribution on YouTube and Facebook, hoping they go viral. Bite-size pieces of shows like “The Voice” and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” get consumed by viewers using smartphones as they stand in line at the bank or wait for the train.

·         Binge watching: At the opposite extreme, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon release entire "seasons" of shows all at once allowing viewers to consume them in one big feast. Netflix’s “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “Daredevil” are particularly popular with binge viewers.

·         Sleeper hits: Programs that wouldn't have survived more than a few episodes in the old network television world are sustained by cult followings that constitute commercially viable audiences. Shows that are very different or quirky—like CW’s “Jane the Virgin”—can be nurtured by cult followings as they seek a broader audience. Conversely, shows that misfire or fizzle out—like Fox’s “The Mindy Project”—are saved by cult viewers and picked up by streaming services like Hulu.

Media owners and providers in this new world must understand their viewers now more than ever to keep them engaged on different levels and across multiple channels. HBO showed us how with the marketing of its “Game of Thrones” fantasy drama, using a prodigious and synergistic combination of print, social media, television, contests, and real-world stunts to promote the hit show.

Technology has allowed audiences to consume content in their always-on world, whether in bite-sized pieces or binges. They suck media from the atmosphere on demand—almost like the air they breathe.
If you are producing or distributing entertainment content, you must operate in this same atmospheric dimension. With the right technology foundation, you can observe all these viewer behaviors as they occur, and use this knowledge to practice what we call atmospheric marketing.

A good atmospheric marketing platform has three key capabilities:

·         Utilizing real-time technology to understand what viewers are actually doing, and even anticipate what they are about to do. It isn’t solely about their past—even quite recent past—behaviors, but more so about their present. Data from different channels and marketing-system silos is instantly standardized and amalgamated into a comprehensive picture.

·         Once first-party data is normalized and enriched, atmospheric marketing technology uses it to create context-sensitive customer composites. With this insight, you can engage with consumers on a more intuitive level, provide the right thing at the right time, and influence their actions.

·         Such influence is manifested by having the right engines in place that trigger to deliver relevant and appropriately formatted messages and content across any channel and device a particular viewer is using at the moment.

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