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What Can Broadcasters Learn from Niche Streamers?

With streaming demonstrating time and again that there are “riches in the niches” and the advantages of developing the agility to pinpoint narrower markets and superserve them with targeted content, how can broadcasters benefit from learning to think like streamers, and what strategies can they adopt to leverage that thinking? Rob Dillon, Head of Digital Product, Straight Arrow News, Michael Nagle, GM of Streaming, Gannett/USA Today, Ben Ratner, Director of News Technology, Boston 25 News, Eric Bergner, Partner, Manatt Digital and Technology Transactions, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Johan Bolin, Chief Business Officer, Media & Broadcast, Agile Content, and Corey Smith, Senior Director, Advanced Production Technology, CBS Sports Digital, Paramount, offer their insights in this clip from a recent panel at Streaming Media Connect 2023.

“Traditionally, broadcasters had to serve everybody,” Dillon says. “They had to be all things to everyone. Whereas a lot of the successful fast channels are ‘niching’ down. Are broadcasters really prepared to ‘niche down,’ and what can they learn from the people who have already done it?”

Nagle says, “I think for USA Today, we don't see ourselves purely as one thing. And it's a challenge when you have platforms that purely section things off from a genre standpoint because sometimes we're news, sometimes we're lifestyle, sometimes we're entertainment. And I think viewers aren't necessarily looking for something in a single lane unless they're watching a sports event or unless there's a major news event. I think it's important for programmers to have that flexibility and for the technology to lend itself to that flexibility because that’s where the advertising dollars are. I've heard everything from sports and news are the hottest to they're the hardest to sell to advertisers. I think it's important for brands, programmers -- no matter what side of the lens or the screen you're on -- to have the flexibility to be as many things to as many people as you can.”

Ratner notes that technology has improved, and its costs have lowered to the point where “You can produce higher quality content, literally just using a computer in some cases using your phone,” he says. “Cloud services…there's all these things where you can create what looks like traditional broadcast programming. So I think that's a way that some of the traditional broadcasters need to think in order to be able to hit more of these small lanes so they can [reach] everyone.”

Bergner highlights the flexibility of digital platforms regarding the ease of targeting specific viewers. “That's one of the beautiful things about digital,” he says. “You can use whatever metadata you want to make your content searchable in the way that you want it. So if you feel that you're straddling multiple genres, then you can code your content accordingly and pull in viewers who are looking for different things, and yet they wind up in the same place.”

Bolin speculates, “What can broadcasters learn from internet services in general who have been successful? Because at the end of the day, the internet has brought us some things that very few -- if any other technologies -- have ever done, one being instant global reach, the other is interactivity.” He argues that despite cost concerns, generating a more personalized experience and introducing interactivity with users is ultimately highly valuable. “We should look at how we can use the internet to redefine the product,” he says. “You need to use different tools and different pieces and put them together [in] more [of an] internet-style service and try to engage the user.”

Corey Smith emphasizes that the one lingering major issue is legal hurdles to equally distributing content worldwide. “The folks that are trying to monetize content and channels, they're still restricted by the rights holders,” he says. “So there's still this stranglehold in geofencing happening where it's not really an evolved platform where you have broader global reach because [in] a lot of those markets now you're walking on different rights holders, like what you have in the linear world. So until we can evolve that as a new business model where my rights and my broadcasts from the North American standpoint can reach into Europe and South America and Africa, etc., and we can get the content really going out there. There’s a lot of money to be made, but the fact is we’re still stuck on this designated market area (DMA) technology.”

Nagle reiterates the importance of the points that Bolin brought up regarding looking at the internet as an example of ways to broaden audience reach and interactivity. “One of the things that USA Today has been trying to do is really bring a similar experience to our streaming channels as our readers have enjoyed online and in the physical newspaper using QR codes,” he says. “If people want their news coming in a newsletter to their email inbox, they can use their phone to scan the QR code on our screen. We're running headlines at the bottom of our screen. We're taking video stories that appear in the local newspapers. We have more than 200 local newspapers in the US. Those are embedded journalists in these local markets. The reason we believe our news is unique is because the people telling those stories are part of the communities where those stories are taking place. And I think that personalization and that ability to curate that Johan [Bolin] is mentioning…that's spot on. Search, discovery, how you tell stories, and presenting new products to your viewers onscreen.”

Learn more about a wide range of streaming industry topics at the next Streaming Media Connect in November 2023.

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