Hulu’s CEO Randy Freer said it best: “it’s a great time for content; not a great time for cable networks.” As such, cable networks that struggle to diversify their offerings beyond linear programming will fall behind as we have approached a new era of subscription-based content offerings and over-the-top (OTT) will continue to win the battle for consumers’ attention.
Additionally, as the dominant model shifts away from linear TV and towards OTT, there’s also been a loosening of structural conventions, liberating creators from traditional episodic structures. Writers of streaming shows are no longer constricted around episode lengths and the number of episodes in a season is no longer dictated by the traditional network schedules. As such, influencers have the opportunity to begin disseminating their content via OTT, knowing that the format is preferred by consumers and as social media networks make it even easier for influencers to create this type of content.
Furthermore, we may be approaching a tipping point where an influencer produced series for Facebook Watch or IGTV has a break out moment and reaches a point where it wins an award (i.e., Emmy or Oscar). As we enter this new era of influencer-to-consumer programming, it’s likely that we will begin to see a few influencers break through and partner with larger entertainment entities (i.e., Viacom or Disney), putting platforms like Netflix further on notice. It’s not unlikely that in a couple years, it’s no longer Netflix/HBO/Hulu going to award shows, but instead Facebook/YouTube/Google/Instagram will be going up with influencers to accept the awards.
Next we take a look at some of the biggest updates from social media and streaming service platforms that bring the convergence of TV and social even closer to a reality.
1. YouTube Adjusts Positioning to Your “Personal Primetime”
In the beginning of May 2019, YouTube hosted its eighth annual Brandcast event where it announced major updates to its ad offerings and its “Originals” programming, ultimately positioning itself as “personal primetime,” touting its ability to target audiences by niche interests.
In the opening remarks of the event, Google’s president of the Americas, Allan Thygesen, said that YouTube reaches more people aged 18-to-34 in one week than all cable TV networks combined. A recent Nielsen study also showed that half of Americans aged 18-to-49 are either “light TV viewers” or do not subscribe to TV at all, while 90 percent of this group watches YouTube. In another dig towards cable TV, YouTube said that 200 million people come to the platform every day to watch gaming videos, which is twice the audience of this year’s Super Bowl.
YouTube also outlined changes to its Google Preferred offerings to help advertisers maximize their ad efforts, specifically through updating its Preference Score (P-Score) algorithm by adding platform and production metrics. Previously, the P-Score had only looked at popularity, passion, and protection. YouTube also announced that it now supports Nielsen Total Ad Ratings (TAR), allowing advertisers to compare YouTube and TV reach simultaneously.
Next, YouTube confirmed plans to remove the paywall from its Original Series, making them free and ad-supported. According to YouTube, this means that advertisers will have more opportunities to engage with broader audiences, drive meaningful results, and align with top Hollywood talent and YouTube creators.
Influencer Marketing POV: Not only does YouTube have the highest share of reach and watch-time across all ad-supported OTT platforms, but also–thanks to the addition of TAR metrics–the platform is able to more directly compete with TV. For influencer-generated content, this will certainly help to validate influencers’ audience command, as this IGC can now be measured against the same metrics as TV and can, therefore, be tested in this type of environment.
2. NBC Universal Launches Shoppable TV
In the beginning of May 2019, NBCUniversal launched ShoppableTV, which lets viewers purchase products while watching TV by pointing their smartphone camera at a screen during “on-air shoppable moments.”
During a test run on the TODAY Show, NBCUniversal claimed ShoppableTV generated thousands of scans and six figures of sales “within minutes.” While no other data has been released, NBCUniversal says networks that plan to start using ShoppableTV include NBC, NBC Sports, Telemundo, Bravo, E!, CNBC Prime, and USA Network.
Influencer Marketing POV: Just when you thought the QR code was dead, it makes a dramatic comeback into your homes. Food for thought: if there is a shoppable item on the show, would that be considered a product-placement identifier? And if so, should the brand be required to have some type of sponsorship disclosure in the same way that the FTC requires publishers and creators to disclose sponsored content?
3. Instagram Supports Landscape Videos on IGTV
In an effort to attract more creators to post on IGTV, Instagram announced that IGTV will now support landscape video.
With the rapid and mass adoption of Instagram Stories, Instagram first launched IGTV to succeed where Facebook Watch and YouTube struggled: long-form video creation for the masses. In doing so, Instagram also intended to popularize a new medium of long-form, mobile-first, vertical video. Horizontal (AKA: landscape) videos weren’t allowed on IGTV. Up until now, the majority of creators turned away from creating original content for IGTV because they didn’t want to spend the time, energy, and money shooting content that wasn’t repurposable on other networks, and vice-versa – especially with no monetization options.
Influencer Marketing POV: This move continues to emphasize the fact that the current arms race between the “Big Four” social media platforms isn’t just for more ad dollars, but for more influencer and creator engagement. As we’ve seen over the past few months, those who design for even just beyond the minimum viable creator use cases have a chance at winning audience retention and viewership – and with that, ad dollars. Those that go above and beyond to deliver the best creator experience have the most opportunities for gains.
In order for Instagram to consider monetization for IGTV, it desperately needs user adoption, which is fueled by the creation of engaging content. While allowing for landscape video uploads could initially result in more content uploaded to IGTV since creators won’t need to reformat their YouTube videos, it won’t necessarily help IGTV to differentiate itself from competing platforms.
As for the potential influencer adoption of IGTV, the general consensus seems to be positive. As Miranda Mendelson of Slashed Beauty stated, “I think we’ll [now] see a boom in influencers utilizing this feature. Especially for those of us who upload content across several platforms, the need to re-format (or even re-film entirely!) footage for the IGTV vertical dimensions was the biggest pain point. This update is a step in the right direction, though I’m not sure about creators uploading [original content] exclusively to the platform until there is a way to monetize or run ads on the videos. Right now, I will definitely be testing out the new features of IGTV on more casual, less “produced” content or teaser videos leading to monetized videos on YouTube.”
4. Netflix Tests Feed In Mobile App
Netflix is testing a feed in its mobile app that brings together movie trailers, photos, and alerts for upcoming shows in a format that resembles the Stories features in Instagram and Snapchat.
The feed, called “Extras,” is geared towards helping users find something to watch while staying connected with favorite shows. Its videos play automatically without sound, which can be turned on with a screen tap, and users can horizontally scroll through images that aren’t available elsewhere in the app.
Influencer Marketing POV: As the lines between OTT and social continue to blur – largely due to TVs becoming more algorithmically smarter and more connected – TV will continue to become more feed-like. For Netflix, the move towards shareable, short-form content is a natural progression following its integration with Instagram in January that let viewers share a photo of a show/movie directly to Instagram Stories and link directly back to the Netflix app to watch.
For more on the latest social media and influencer marketing trends, check out our Q2 2019 Influencer Marketing Trends report. In the report we discuss some of the biggest feature updates coming out of the social media space and identify next steps and big ideas to inform your marketing strategy.