Traditional media execs have been assailed in some corners for their allegiance to the notion of a brand — be it a network, a studio or talent — that they rely on to draw audiences to content.
An executive panel closed out the Streaming Summit at NATPE by considering how dramatically the idea of brands has changed — and in some ways how vital it remains.
Wall Street analyst Michael Nathanson said Disney’s public posture on its OTT strategy changed from, essentially, “kids only” last August to “OK, kids plus Marvel” a month later to, by December, “Kids plus Marvel plus a whole raft of Fox content.” His conclusion from that rapid evolution: “Only having a brand gets you so far in the world we’re going to. You needed to aggregate. You needed to be big. You needed to have something that was so overwhelming that a show is just one brick in a massive platform. Disney’s telling you where they’re going. They’ve got a great brand but in order to win, they need to aggregate a ton of content that could be bigger than the brand itself.”
Moderator Mark Greenberg, who exited his role running Epix last fall, noted that Hulu has recently pointed to its deep library as a competitive advantage. He asked the panel if they felt volume was an overlooked strategic element. Jordan Levin, CEO of Awesomeness and veteran of other top network positions, demurred. “Scale and reach, to me, is a different sort of exercise than engagement,” he said. “One is not mutually exclusive with the other. … But where you can get lost is not having enough scale but not having enough relevance at the same time.”
Sandra Stern, president of Lionsgate Television Group, said the company thrives on its deep library, and with every piece of content they distribute, “you’ve got to know your audience. That’s who you are trying to satisfy.”
Herb Scannell, an early leader at Nickelodeon before going on to the BBC, Next New Networks and now digital video giant Mitú, has seen plenty of change in the landscape during his career. And yet, he says, there are some familiar patterns. “It feels like we’re back to the big three, right? Back to the future. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are broadcasters.”