Streaming TV And The Critical Importance Of Branding

I fondly remember the days on the agency side when we marketed the launch of new television shows coming out of the networks, both broadcast and cable. We created plans designed to drive viewers to sample the premiere of a primetime show and the network itself would be an integral part of the branding.

When you look at the top comedies from the past on Netflix including The Office, Friends and Seinfeld, does the younger generation even know who originally created them? Has Netflix genericized them and are now taking credit just because they have had the streaming rights?

With the streaming landscape heating up, how important is it that viewers know who was originally behind these programs? And how important will it be to brand new programming being developed by the streaming services even more as a way to differentiate and acquire subscribers?

The streaming rights for all 180 episodes of Seinfeld was just scooped up by Netflix for a reported $500 million. The demand for the 30-year-old series is the latest example of how streaming has not only altered viewing habits but also unlocked the value of long running TV shows that first became hits on the broadcast networks. 



NBC Universal recently outbid Netflix to get the streaming rights to The Office, a show owned by its TV studio, for its new direct-to-consumer service scheduled to launch in April of 2020 under the name “Peacock,” paying $500 million for five years. WarnerMedia paid a reported $425 million over five years to get Warner Bros. Television Friends away from Netflix and now plans to offer it on its streaming service HBO Max, set to launch in Spring 2020.

With nearly 500 scripted TV shows currently in production, iconic shows from the pre-streaming era such as Seinfeld, Friends, The Office and Parks and Recreation have clearly become the heavy artillery used on the next front of the streaming wars.

This brings us to Disney and Disney+. They have an enormous opportunity to unseat Netflix, build their subscriber base quickly and enjoy a strong connection of their programming to their brand, something they have always done well.

Disney previously fired its first shot across Netflix’s bow when it announced that it would withhold crown jewels of its content kingdom (Marvel, Star Wars) from Netflix and all other SVODs. Disney’s upcoming SVOD forays could, however, have limited impact on Netflix. After all, Netflix counts more than 150 million subscribers worldwide.

A recent survey found 45% of viewers say they feel they know Netflix like a “close friend,” the strongest brand association viewers have among the major TV network brand names.

But, let’s consider the landscape. Amazon Prime Video is already a massive SVOD player, as is Hulu (under Disney control). HBO Max will exclusively feature its own vast treasure trove of content like Friends (at Netflix’s expense). All of these “Netflix Killers” are investing big on their own exclusive programming strategies.

Apple TV+ is launching Nov. 1 at nearly half the price of its rivals, a price comparable to a single movie rental. Apple’s investment in streaming isn’t really designed to take a chunk out of Netflix viewers. It’s designed to give consumers an incentive to buy more Apple hardware.

Amazon’s investment in streaming television is intended as a way to entice Amazon customers to stay in their ecosystem as Prime customers.

The plan for Disney+ will serve to feed the appetite of Disney fans, who Disney is hoping can be counted on to continue buying Disney-branded items, watching Disney-branded entertainment and attending Disney-branded vacations. 

Faced with much-bigger and more versatile behemoths like Disney, there’s a lot of pressure on Netflix creative executives to come up with the next “Must See TV” to not only continue to draw in viewers, but to keep them there. This will, no doubt, continue to be an expensive proposition.

In the case of NBC, they just launched their very own campaign this month to reclaim brand ownership of their hit comedies. They want to emphasize the fact that some of the most watched half hours on TV, from the present and recent past, first aired on NBC. Hence the “Comedy Starts Here” line. Rather smart.

All these streaming services will need to stock their digital shelves with existing television and film titles and spend heavily to market their new content to break through the immense clutter that will be unfathomable a year from now. Sounds like a great opportunity for streaming services to hire agencies who best know how to drive acquisition and build brands.

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