Bloomberg event helps marketers prepare for the “streaming wars”

Jen Robinson

As streaming channels and content offerings have proliferated, pressure on marketers to find the right viewers and prove ROI has also increased. That scenario is poised to intensify in the coming year, as a slew of new entrants across media and tech ratchet up the competition, offer consumers more choices than ever and continue to upend business models.

To help marketers navigate this increasingly complex landscape, Bloomberg gathered senior marketing leaders for the latest event in its continuing Fully Charged series. Anthony DeMaio, US Head of Sales for Bloomberg Media Group, welcomed guests to the company’s New York headquarters. “It’s a new era in streaming,” he said, citing high-visibility forthcoming launches by Disney, Apple and others. “It’s a disruptive time, but an exciting time. Our goal is to help you unwrap it all.”

Bloomberg Businessweek Features Editor Max Chafkin moderated an expert panel that included Artie Bulgrin, EVP, Strategy & Insights, MediaScience; Noah Mallin, Head of Content & Experience, Wavemaker; Sarah Shriver, VP, Digital Content Monetization & Strategy, A+E Networks; Skyler Logsdon, Head of Sales & Strategic Partnerships, Tatari; and Geetha Ranganathan, Senior Media Analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

Bloomberg Media Group’s most recent Fully Charged breakfast took place October 18, 2019 in New York.

Ranganathan, who leads coverage of the media sector for Bloomberg’s investment research arm, kicked off the morning with a data briefing on the state of streaming – and what’s coming next. The streaming market is booming: “By 2024, we’re looking at about a billion global streaming subscriptions,” she said. That’s double what it is today, she added – and it’s only going to grow from there.

Streaming subscriptions are growing in the US as rapidly as they are globally. Established players like Netflix and Amazon will have to compete for these subscribers with new services from such heavy hitters as HBO, AT&T and Comcast, in addition to Disney and Apple. Yet “streaming is not a zero sum game,” Ranganathan said. “There is room for plenty of operators to flourish.”

Geetha Ranganathan, Bloomberg Intelligence Senior Media Analyst, gives a briefing on the streaming media landscape. Photo: Mitchell Goldstein/Bloomberg

Along with the explosive growth in subscription services, “what’s really interesting is a new trend toward ad-supported free services, some of which are doing very well,” she said. Together with the popularity of library content – “what we like to call ‘comfort food’ television,” Ranganathan said – the result is growth in OTT viewing on connected big-screen devices. Add in mobile, and ad-supported video looks set to grow in tandem with subscription video.

All of this is setting the stage for a battle royal – and also creating new opportunities. “The jury is still out on who wins the streaming wars,” Ranganathan said, but “there’s a new class of aggregators helping users consolidate apps on one platform, so you can toggle seamlessly.” The advent of 5G in coming years may bring additional ways to deliver on consumer needs. “In a way, we may go from ‘content is king’ back to ‘technology is king’,” she said.

Left to right: Max Chafkin, Bloomberg Businessweek Features Editor; Artie Bulgrin, EVP, Strategy & Insights, MediaScience; Geetha Ranganathan, Senior Media Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence; Noah Mallin, Head of Content and Experience, Wavemaker; Sarah Shriver, VP, Digital Content Monetization and Strategy, A+E Networks; Skyler Logsdon, Head of Sales & Strategic Partnerships, Tatari. Photo: Susanne Stansell/Bloomberg

“In the newsroom, we’re seeing story after story on this topic,” said Chafkin, leading off the panel conversation. “In the old days, there was a clear scorecard for whether a media product was successful. Now it’s less clear – we don’t necessarily know where the audience is.”

Capturing the largest swath of viewers is a central issue, for both media companies and marketers. “If there’s a battle, it’s a battle for who is serving up audiences at scale,” said Wavemaker’s Mallin. “When you look at it that way, it’s not just about emerging and traditional media – it’s also competitors like Facebook and Google, and the ability to have large reach across screens and experiences.” That explains, he added, why Disney sees getting bigger as crucial to its success. Media giants, like technology giants, will be able to provide the targeting and measurement across touch points that marketers seek.

Logsdon agreed that scale and measurement are must-haves, especially for the direct-to-consumer clients he often works with. “These CMOs have digital-like expectations – they want to know cost per visitor, cost per install, conversion rate. They want to know quickly which creative is working better, and be able to test small – but go big if there’s performance. If I can prove something works, they double down. Confidence is key.”

As fragmentation continues, the broad reach that drives growth among new users may be more difficult to get, said MediaScience’s Bulgrin – and there’s a challenge with measurement as well, he added. “Because we have powerful data within digital platforms, we know more about how to reach consumers – and there’s been a rapid movement to the bottom of the funnel, and away from brand building. That could be a big mistake – if you don’t build up brand equity, activations don’t happen.”

At the same time, said A+E’s Shriver, “Branding happens much more naturally now with integration, both on linear and in streaming environments where there’s no advertising.” Everyone has watched a favorite character drive a particular kind of car or wear a specific brand of shoes within the content they consume.

In fact, marketers are increasingly going directly to content producers, said Mallin: “Integrations and partnerships with content producers are a huge, growing trend.” If there’s real alignment with a brand and meaningful interaction within the content, he said, the brand message gets absorbed in multiple ways across varying experiences, versus at specific planned times. “Clients see the benefit in going that route, in addition to advertising.”

Increasingly, traditional advertising will live side-by-side with brand integrations and content partnerships, said Shriver. “There’s so many different marketing objectives, all the new platforms will open up new opportunities for marketers. One platform recently said 60-70 percent of its monthly viewers were cord-nevers – people who never had a cable subscription. That’s a tremendous opportunity for marketers.”

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