Why mobile-first TV shows will not work for broadcasters
November 12, 2013
Disney's Watch Disney Jr. app
Disney Channel and Viacom’s MTV have both embraced airing television shows via mobile before they hit the airwaves. However, the long-term sustainability of this strategy with other broadcasters is unlikely.
Disney and MTV are both using their branded video applications to give consumers the first look at new full-length TV shows. While these initiatives might be helpful in driving app downloads, mobile video measurement and scale will hold back other broadcasters from doing the same.
“For mobile to become a universal first screen option, the industry as a whole – both broadcasters and advertisers – will need to more concretely recognize shifting viewing habits and evolve with them,” said Jack Macleod, general manager of MXM Social, New York.
“Until marketing and advertising dollars are more equitably dispersed between on-air and digital platforms that include mobile, it's unlikely that a mobile-first strategy will be universally adopted by broadcasters,” he said.
Both MTV and Disney Channel are pushing mobile-first television series.
Disney will launch the animated 24-episode series “Sherrif Callie Wild West” within the Watch Disney Junior app on Nov. 24. The show will then roll out to the Disney Channel and Disney Junior TV stations next year.
Since launching in June 2012, the company claims that its Watch Disney Junior app has been downloaded more than five million times and has raked in 650 million video views.
The Disney app
With tablet ownership particularly high with families, the goal of the series is to give cable subscribers an extra mobile-only incentive to stick with their TV packages while also catering to a generation of preschoolers that do not know a world without digital devices.
The decision to go mobile-first highlights the aggressive moves that childrens’ broadcasters are taking to get a grip on online streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon that also want to control video content aimed at children.
There are also some interesting behavior differences with children that make mobile primed for younger viewers.
For instance, children want to rewatch episodes continuously to memorize every aspect of their favorite TV shows.
According to Darcy Bowe, vice president and media director at Starcom USA, Chicago, the financing and work in getting an animated series to air is so significant that Disney’s show will likely air on TV regardless of going the mobile-first route. Therefore, the brand does not have much to lose with pushing the content out first through an app.
MTV on the other hand recently used mobile to premiere its 12-episode documentary-style drama “Wait ‘Til Next Year.” The company pushed out all of the episodes before the series hit the air on Nov. 1.
MTV has set up the series for binge-watching to not only drive app downloads, but also better understand how the teen-driven audience responds to content before it airs.
MTV's video app
Advertisers are slowly shifting to multi-screen advertising campaigns as more consumers move away from solely relying on one screen to watch TV content.
Unlike a lot of the discussion going on in the online advertising industry, what is interesting about the Disney and MTV examples is that mobile takes on a first-screen approach instead of being the second or third screen that consumers are experiencing a TV show on.
In fact, Disney’s app has been purely developed for video as opposed to other apps from broadcasters that serve up both video and additional show-related content.
Although this does generate some advertising interest from brands that are first-movers in the space, the mobile-first content from both broadcasters is not scalable yet because it only applies to singular shows and lives within an app.
The model depends on consumers not only downloading an app, but also opening it to find the content.
“I think another consideration in all of this watching it on mobile-first is also taking into consideration what is the cost of production for these series,” Ms. Bowe said.
“Certainly when you look at an animated series versus a live action series versus a reality series for networks to take such a big gamble on something to potentially amass a scale of an audience – I think that’s where a lot of networks are going to be at risk because so much money has to be invested in the front end of a TV show that they need to get the word out there and have people see it right away,” she said.
“I think that’s something that definitely plays into this kind of strategy and what kind of risk a more broad swath of networks will look to in deploying this strategy just because they have so much money sunk into it that they really need to be able to again, pay off what they have already put into it.”
Mobile-first still a push
While younger consumers are increasingly untethered from TV sets, other broadcasters with bigger footprints might not be ready for a mobile-first approach yet, in large part due to measurement.
According to MXM Social’s Mr. Macleod, there is increasingly more talk among broadcasters about C3 ratings, which takes into account the ratings from the average length of commercials on-air plus an additional three days worth of digital video recorder playback.
Despite Nielsen’s recent announcement to include mobile viewing into TV and digital ratings, deeper insight into what and when a consumer is watching TV content is still a ways off (see story).
While TV marketers have the benefit of a roughly eight-minute chunk of advertising time during a 30-minute show, pre-roll ads dominate the mobile video advertising opportunity for marketers.
Monetization remains central to broadcasters’ success with mobile and digital video. However, some experts say that it is better for broadcasters to at least get long-form content out first and then worry about monetization later.
“Consumers have embraced long-form content on mobile, and as they do so, it has to be considered as a first screen,” said Gabe Misarti, chief strategy officer at Tris3ct, Chicago.
“Broadcasters will find a way to make it work because that is how the viewers will want to see it,” he said. “It will be critical for broadcasters to maintain viewership levels as the paradigm changes. They can figure out profitability later.”
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York
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