TV’s Big Questions: have direct-to-consumer services affected the market?

TBI Vision | by Jesse Whittock and Stewart Clarke
Published on January 22, 2016


Many believe 2015 was the year traditional pay TV broadcasters finally accepted they would need to go over-the-top to gain the dollars of the binge-watching, ‘cord-nevers’ generation. Here senior executive offer analysis on how this new trend has changed the market.

The announcement of the launch of HBO Now was hailed as a watershed moment in 2014 and heralded a seeming acceptance from traditional media that affluent, young audiences were not going to take a pay TV subscription, but would pay for an alternative that offered better access on the go.

Bob Bakish - President of Viacom International Media Networks

Last year saw many go the same way, with Disney launching DisneyLife, Viacom creating Viacom Play Plex and CBS deciding to put its upcoming Star Trek series exclusively on CBS All Access.

“These apps are designed to complement linear pay TV channels and allow our distribution partners to deepen and improve the entertainment experience they offer their subscribers,” says Viacom International Media Networks president Bob Bakish.

“But, Viacom Play Plex also opens up new distribution opportunities for us, particularly in the fast-growing mobile TV sector, and, ultimately, positions us to succeed in a world of more personalised entertainment services and greater consumer choice.

“By giving viewers greater control over how to watch our content, we believe we’ll help our distribution partners grow customer loyalty and, in turn, their customer base.

“For many types of programming – notably drama – being able to watch what we want, when we want, is far, far better than being forced to watch things at specific times,” says Simon Cornwell of The Night Manager prodco Ink Factory.

Simon Andreae - Naked Entertainment

“There’s been a marked change in how and where we consume television, with more and more consumers rethinking how they access video content and more people subscribing to direct-to-consumer online services and on-demand,” adds Andrew Cole-Bulgin of Komixx Entertainment. “Companies like HBO are looking to remove the barriers to those who want to access their content.”

“This will affect unscripted as well as scripted shows,” says Simon Andreae from Naked Entertainment, “with The Jinx leading the way and fascinating experiments like The Murder Detectives close on their heels.”

Sophie Ferron - Media Ranch

Sophie Ferron from Media Ranch sees the new platforms as bringing to the producer “a diversification of clients and more original content for the viewer”.

Chris Hilton from Essential Media says the rise of OTT services relates “directly to the unbundling of cable services in Canada and the USA”, and that some cable groups will “disappear” as a result, though Sam Barcroft suggests the platforms’ popularity gives hope to broadcasters that they can go direct to consumers to retain some of their market share.

D2C services “will probably dilute the live viewing TV audience more”, says Danny Fenton of Zig Zag Productions.

Nick Walters - D2C

Hopster chief Nick Walters says D2C has “profoundly” affected industry conditions, adding it means “pay TV will get cheaper; we’ll re-think what a channel means; some existing channel brands will disappear; commissioning will get faster and more data driven; and telcos will become major players in the distribution landscape”.

D2C platforms “will continue to expand the watch time of [companies’] shows and provide viewers with the control over viewing, which they are now used to,” says MoMedia CEO Lucas Bertrand. “Will it have any impact of the wider TV market? Probably not. Consumers will at some point have to decide which monthly subscriptions are worth keeping. That’s when things will get interesting.”

Going forwards, Renegade 83’s Peter Higgins expects traditional media groups to react by producing higher-quality content and develop their own streaming technologies.

Malcolm Gerrie from Whizz Kid, meanwhile, has a word of warning: “More choice means more eyeballs and if the TV industry isn’t to go the way of the record business then it needs to be able to improve choice and finds new ways of monetising content.”