One dominant theme at this year’s Groundswell Digital Marketing Festival was the rise of connected TV, as consumers continue to find new ways to watch their favorite shows. No doubt, viewers have more choice now than ever before, both in terms of the quality of available TV shows, and in terms of access to those shows through streaming.
“We’re at a sort of tipping point in terms of the consumer voting with their time on digital platforms where the convenience and the depth of the content from companies like ourselves… is just a very compelling offering,” says Krishan Bhatia, executive vice president of business operations and strategy at NBCUniversal’s advertising sales. Bhatia was one of several leading executives from global media companies who joined the Groundswell discussion about how and why this is a pivotal moment for television consumption. Here are four ways that premium content on digital platforms is a win for fans and marketers alike.
Premium content draws dedicated fans
On July 15, NBCUniversal launched Peacock, its video-on-demand streaming service, which offers thousands of hours of free programming, including movies and binge-worthy TV shows, paid for with ads (though it also offers a premium tier for those willing to pay a subscription). One of the shows being featured by Peacock is the hit comedy-drama Psych, which debuted in 2006 and ran for eight seasons on USA Network. The show stars James Roday as a novice sleuth who fools the cops into thinking he’s a psychic, and Dulé Hill as his reluctant sidekick. Two TV movies followed, including Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, which Peacock released on its launch day.
The stars of the show, who also serve as executive producers, welcomed the fact that Psych has found a new home on the Peacock platform. “I just wanted to make sure that we figured out a way where as many people, as many of our fans could see it as possible,” Roday said during the Groundswell Festival. The show has developed a cult-like following of fans, affectionately nicknamed as “PsychOs.” Referring to these devotees, Hill concurred. “I appreciate how [NBCU] allowed for the fanbase to find the product without having to pony up money,” he said. “The fact that there’s that much engagement all these years later and excitement for you… it always blows me away.”
CTV becoming a direct-to-consumer business
This kind of direct engagement with a specific demographic of fans has far-reaching implications for a media company, says NBCU’s Bhatia. “When you think about offerings like Peacock, which has been on the market for the past few months, those are direct-to-consumer businesses now, where programmers like NBCU now have direct relationships with customers,” he said. Bhatia added that having a one-to-one relationship with the viewer also allows the company to tailor its entertainment, as well as advertising from brands. User experience is also better on CTV, says Bhatia, as Peacock doesn’t run more than five minutes of ads per hour — significantly less than its older counterpart, linear TV. “We’re engaging with distribution partners in particular around how we create data partnerships that are at the intersection of our content offerings and their distribution platforms,” he said.
Digital platforms help democratize access to content
The consumer shift to digital platforms — especially ad-funded ones like Peacock— is democratizing consumer access to content. But this also helps to democratize access from marketers to those consumers. As a result, more people can be engaged because the cost of entry is lower in this new marketplace. “Way more marketers are now able to enter the premium video space in terms of getting their messages across to consumers and so as a result the utilization of that reach is far greater and therefore the value creation potential is much greater,” Bhatia said. This is a departure from the traditional television business, where the “legacy infrastructure” meant new marketers were locked out, he added.
Younger audiences engage with beloved TV shows
During the lockdown, audiences turned to television, both linear and CTV, watching binge-worthy shows in their entirety. This trend isn’t necessarily being driven solely by new productions, but rather reengagement with familiar, beloved shows that on NBCU’s Peacock includes Psych, Parks and Recreation, or 30 Rock. CTV has boosted this reengagement, said Philippa Snare, the senior vice president for EMEA at The Trade Desk. “I think there’s a rekindling of this love affair with television and this kind of entertainment,” she said, noting that it’s young audiences who are the most engaged via digital platforms.
Likewise, in the United Kingdom, younger audiences are seeking out shows, especially comedies some of which were produced 10 or 15 years ago, shows such as The Inbetweeners, and The Friday Night Dinner. That’s according to Jonathan Lewis, head of digital and partnership innovation at Channel 4. “Younger audiences have come back to TV in a big way after Covid, and I think that’s been quite a surprise,” he said. “In times of uncertainty, people go to places where they feel comfortable. Television delivers that for young audiences and maybe social media less so because of the scaremongering that goes on. There’s definitely this transition back to TV, which we’re welcoming.”