Non-Originals Play a Vital Role in the Streaming Story

Picture it. A TV series with a mass audience, loyal following, and a tendency to induce binge streaming. People are talking about it. Seemingly it sounds like a hot new original from Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu… but not in this case. This scenario teases the rather common story of how a licensed show — broadcast months prior on network TV — achieves digital streaming success.

In the most recent 7Park Data Streaming Intelligence report, more than 80% of TV streams in the first quarter of 2017 were licensed, non-original shows. The truth is that every day familiar franchises including South Park, Shameless, and Grey’s Anatomy gobble up hours and hours of viewing each day.

The actual streams tell the tale. Licensed TV is watched during windows when viewers are waiting for their favorite originals to return. Licensed TV is watched during that post-binge “cooldown” and watched in the run-up to a new season on broadcast. Licensed TV is watched, perhaps most of all, by the cord-cutter that wants at least some of the familiar content that pay TV offers.

As the streaming services continue a legendary run of success and ramps up original distribution, major opportunities reside on the licensed side. From retention to the chance to deepen engagement, here are some places licensed content creators and distributors might look to grow:

  • Classics and Cult Favorites. They’re expensive to license, but they’re worth it. Golden Girls and Seinfeld. The Office, Family Guy, and Friends. All top ten shows on their respective, streaming platforms where they current reside. (‘Half-Hour Long’ series, March 2017). And there’s more where those came from.
  • Kids Content. A hallmark of kids’ viewership is repeat viewing. While physical discs have traditionally been the platform of choice for the young set, streaming platforms are now a central factor. Yet with only seven percent of the TV streams on the leading services in the first quarter of 2017, family content rated G, Y, and Y7 has plenty of room to grow.
  • ‘Micro-Episode’ Series. Viewed in delectable nuggets of less than 15 minutes, shorter-form TV feeds an increasing need for a briefer TV commitment. On Hulu, in the first quarter 2017, the ‘micro-episode’ segment actually accounted for eight percent of all TV streams. And the category is growing, up thirty-two percent in the first quarter of 2017 from the prior year. The growth driven not only by kids shows like Adventure Time (the number one ‘micro-episode’ series), but also Adult Swim titles like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken.

  • Mature Series. Ground-breaking content and a culture that has embraced the individual viewing experience are driving discovery of new titles. While family friendly fare is a target for growth, mature TV continues to be a strength, particularly for Netflix. On the service, TV-MA streams grew eleven percent in the first quarter of 2017 (from the prior year).

To leverage these opportunities, the right partnerships are a key. One measure of this collaboration is return-on-catalog. That is, an assessment of a studio’s share of titles in relation to its share of streams. Case in point: Fox Entertainment’s slate of TV on the leading streaming services accounted for about four percent of the titles streamed. Yet Fox Entertainment drove a much-larger share of the engagement with seven percent of TV streams on Hulu and eight percent of TV on Netflix (U.S., March 2017).

Cultivating a return on licensed content will be a critical piece of the streaming puzzle, particularly as we miss The Mindy Project (ending later this year) and wait longer for the latest House of Cards, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Stranger Things.

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