Streaming Wars Spur the Expanding Content Universe and Advertiser Opportunities

By Patrick Hanavan  | 

One of the biggest stars in the line-up of ads during this year’s Emmy Awards was Apple TV Plus with a slew of spots throughout the broadcast teasing the shows that will appear on the new streaming service after it debuts on November 1st. With all new, completely original, star-studded, content on offer, Apple’s strategy for earning TV Plus subscribers is through “prestige” storytelling. While TV Plus’s original-only play is unique—and some say too limited and too late to the game—it does speak to broad content trends that have implications for advertisers.

Be Original or Be Left Behind
In the battle for eyeballs looking at an ever-growing array of viewing options, Apple and others are betting that original content will prove to be the secret weapon that captures consumer attention and converts it to a loyal following. And Apple’s bet is a big one. What was initially a $1 billion investment in content development has spiked to $6 billion—a clear indication of the value Apple sees in bringing “the best original stories and the most creative minds in television and film,” as CEO Tim Cook described TV Plus’s mission at a launch event.

Others harbor similar expectations about the draw of original content. Motley Fool’s estimates put Amazon’s original content investments at around $6 billion as well. AT&T is at $14 billion, much of which is earmarked for HBO and HBO Max. Disney is at $24 billion. Walmart is reportedly developing original content for its upcoming Vudu-branded streaming service. Quibi, a mobile-first, short-form video content venture from top Hollywood creators and stars has already invested $1 billion and sold $100 million in upfront ad inventory with six advertisers ahead of its April 2020 debut. Most industry observers and analysts view these investments as a primary means of staying competitive with Netflix, which has also upped its spend on originals from $5 billion in 2015 to $12 in 2018. Netflix is reported to be doing so to guard against the all the new streaming entrants as well as to counter the much reported licensing losses of valuable properties such as Friends and The Office.

New Ideas for New Times
Because necessity is the mother of invention, the originality bug is making its way to advertisers seeking ways of tapping into both ad-supported OTT ventures, such as Viacom and NBCU, and the subscription services like Netflix and Apple.

For example, regarding the latter, Airbnb’s branded travel magazine is included in Apple’s recently launched News+ subscription services, and the company is also reportedly setting up a content studio to produce a travel reality show that will be part of the Apple TV+ lineup. Similarly, BEHR paint is launching “Color Explorer,” a branded travel series that features natural wonders in the US and Canada—and the paint colors they inspire. And then there’s 5B, a documentary about the nurses who worked in the first AIDS ward in San Francisco, which was commissioned by Johnson & Johnson and created in part by an advertising content studio. Trader Joe’s recently launched a YouTube channel of recipes and how-to videos to further the in-store experience renowned for engendering fierce customer loyalty.

As far as ad-supported OTT, advertisers have plenty of room to grow there too. As we’ve reported before, ad spend lags consumer adoption significantly. To keep pace with wandering viewers, eMarketer, Magna and other research firms expect that advertisers will continue to ramp up their ad investments in streaming.

Ultimately, media is an attention game and when tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon move into content creation, it’s really about getting consumers into their ecosystems and keeping their attention and money within it. For advertisers it means getting their ad creative everywhere across the increasingly far-flung media universe.

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