In a week where we’ve seen Nielsen tell us 20% of viewers are still addicted to DVDs, analysts declare Roku at the top of the connected device sales pyramid, and the press take notice of Cox’ flarePlay gaming subscription service, it may seem odd to focus on content. But in the end that is what the viewers come for – the first time, and every other time – and it’s been a fascinating week of sometimes-unexpected news.
AMC launched the latest mega-series, Fear the Walking Dead, set in the same universe as the desperately popular The Walking Dead, albeit timed for the very outset of the zombie apocalypse. As it turns out, despite being a spin-off (or perhaps because of it), the new show broke all cable records, with over 10 million viewers for the pilot episode. Intriguingly, the show went out ‘day-and-date’ in 120 countries, with AMC focused on creating a global brand. AMC Studios holds a greater share of the production ownership than for the original – as well as global access to viewers through its recent purchase of Chellomedia – and will therefore benefit from its future syndication deals. If this is successful – and the first weekend suggests it may very well be – the model of building a franchise to be leveraged beyond simply airing episodes is likely assured.
At the same time, Bruno Herrman over at Econtent has some thoughts on content production – and they aren’t necessarily in line with AMC’s strategy. As he suggests, “Creating a compelling customer experience begins when products are designed with customers in mind”, so simply dropping developed nations’ content into a different country may not create an offering that satisfies customers – or the advertisers who want to use the TV experience to communicate their message.
More cheerfully, Fox and MLB reached an agreement on playing out baseball games to local audiences. Blackout rules have prevented fans from playback when they are physically located in an area where local TV broadcasts are available. However, the increasing movement of those broadcasts off the airwaves and onto cable has meant trouble for local diehards. Fox, who owns the broadcasting rights to 15 teams, has now agreed to work with MLB’s BAM Tech division to service those fans. Play ball!
While MLB and Fox are playing nice, it’s a vicious market out there, and seems to have claimed a victim in Quickflix in Australia. As the company announced it has abandoned efforts to purchase a channel in China for expansion purposes, the question started to get louder: is this because Netflix is eating every other SVOD service’s lunch in Australia? Given that it has effectively killed off Ezyflix (though who knows if either company would agree with that characterization), and owns between and three and four times as many subscribers as all other services combined, one has to wonder how Netflix does it. It looks to be the content catalog – House of Cards continues to dominate, and the company doubled-down on some real blockbuster movies, including Frozen and Dallas Buyer’s Club. Who knows how long the competitors will hold out, but some really good content deals seem like they are a must (perhaps Fear the Walking Dead?).
Finally, let’s take a look at the world of User-Generated Content (UGC), as well as other content that is primarily intended for Internet consumption. YouTube stars are up in arms around re-posting to Facebook, which is apparently costing them a bundle. Because viewers often download the shows, then re-upload them to Facebook, YouTube ads aren’t being injected, so the producers are not getting paid. This is something Facebook will need to work on if it wants to build its own stable of online artists. Meanwhile, Vevo’s Super Fan Showdown has moved into its third season, and debuted with excellent numbers. With over 4 million views lifetime, the quirky game show pitting fanatical fans of featured artists against one another may be ready for syndication – putting Vevo into the world of House of Card, Fear the Walking Dead, and Mad Men.