Great Minds At Work: Streaming

Presented by Magnite

Everybody loves a good story, especially if it has a happy ending. Company growth stories can be of particular interest when it seems the product pops out of nowhere and gains so much traction, you have no choice but to pay attention and find out more about it. In a panel by Advertising Week, presented by Magnite, we get an inside look into the billion-dollar growth of the company Pluto, which was recently acquired by ViacomCBS, how Roku navigates viewer and brand relationships, and how CTV opens a world of opportunities for live sports advertising. It’s time to get cozy and listen to how Amy Kuessner, SVP, Content Strategy & Global Partnerships at ViacomCBS, gives us the rundown on Pluto’s growth story.

Pluto announced 43 million monthly active users at the beginning of 2021, globally. In the US alone, from January to January, they have seen about a 40% growth. What’s more impressive is that they’ve seen massive growth in user engagement, about 30%, are using the platform and those stats right there, (as given by Amy Kuessner) really speaks to the quality of the Pluto content users are seeking.

Unlike other streaming platforms, Pluto is a free advertiser-supported video-on-demand service that has carefully curated content through digital linear channels that are designed to replicate the experience of traditional broadcast programming. With over 250 channels and thousands of on-demand movies, all for free, it’s no wonder that in this time of lockdowns and spending more time at home, that Pluto has seen the growth it has.

With so many streaming platforms popping up, some free and ad-supported, and some that you’ve got to lay down some money for, it seems like a no-brainer that people would choose a streaming platform like Pluto. However, with all those other platforms, it does beg the question, why go with Pluto? The biggest reason Amy Kuessner gives is that Pluto was acquired by the biggest name in the entertainment industry, ViacomCBS, so they can funnel content through the biggest brands and offer those unique channels that aren’t available anywhere else. Pluto is also more international than any other streaming service too which gives them a leg up on the competition.

Another huge reason is that every piece of content on Pluto is “self-selected by our editorial team, and that’s really the magic that makes us different from everyone in the marketplace in terms of what they are providing” says Amy. They are also dabbling more in the exclusive channel space instead of focusing on original content. Meaning that might pick up an exclusive with AMC and offer a Walking Dead channel for 6-9 months. Very exciting times for this company and it’ll be exciting to find out how their story continues!

Continuing with company stories, Alison Levin, VP of Ad Sales & Strategy for ROKU, talks about her role in advertising at ROKU. “Of the most amazing things about ROKU’s platform is their first-party relationships with their consumers which really drives the entire branded ad experience,” says Alison. ROKU can connect brands in a deeper way beyond just a 30-second ad spot. With ROKU obviously having their own channel, they also can produce their own original content which helps them sell their own ads. Because the number one thing consumers ask for is free content, ROKU can deliver that with the added benefit of new and original programming, also they make sure their ad experience for consumers is a good one and made sure that the ad to content ratio was low.

Up next in the panel presented by Magnite, it’s all about the opportunities that CTV can open up in the world of live sports. With company representatives from Disney, Fox, and Fubo TV, they give some interesting perspectives on leveraging those opportunities. Now that advertisers are starting to converge more of their linear dollars to CTV, they can plan and buy with more consistency because live sports drive mass reach. Marc Mallett, VP, Programmatic Sales, Disney Ad Sales mentions how fast DAI (Dynamic Ad Insertion) is growing and Dan Callahan, SVP, Data Strategy and Sales Innovation of Fox Corporation says they are teetering both worlds especially as they see traditional digital and linear come together and “I think the opportunity is there to take advantage of these live moments, and I think we’ll be able to toggle back and forth in between that reach and scale.” In the panel, Diana Horowitz, SVP, Advertising Sales, FUBOTV also talked about how their strategy has evolved especially with live sports and how it’s a huge advantage for them to be able to add DAI with more flexibility for their programmers on their platform.

As the panel continues, storytelling comes back into play with insightful conversations with WatchMojo, and how they build a video empire and with a film awards editor at Variety about the year that live theatre was replaced by our living rooms. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, CEO & Editor-in-Chief at WatchMojo, talks about the company history on social streaming and how they got their start with fandom culture and then started doing more top ten lists as they could see how their data was pointing them in that direction and it ended up being successful for them. It’s interesting to see how WatchMojo is constantly “innovate and adapt your content program to a platform format fit….and sometimes as a producer and storyteller, you have to kind of put yourself in the shoes of the platform.” says Ashkan.

This past year and then some have given way to an enormous opportunity to creatives, but it might be easy to forget how much we’ve lost with live entertainment, theatre, music, etc. We’ve seen the effects on Hollywood’s year in the home with a reimagined cinema experience. The panel with Clayton Davis, Film Awards Editor at Variety who gives his take on the impact the pandemic has had on theatres and if theatres can make a comeback. Clayton makes a good point that streaming platforms have been able to help during the pandemic in showing big blockbuster movies, however, the way we consume entertainment is much different than it was a year ago. “I think we are going to have to explore how the two (streaming platforms and theatres) will coexist. It’s almost like a two-sided sword. On one hand, day-of-release, same-day on streaming, you now have options for people to explore, however, how much of a chance do you give it at the box office?” For those of us that have consumed media this last year, it’ll be interesting to see how movie theatres and streaming platforms co-exist.

The final panel brings in some specific companies and talked about SVOD solutions for those more genre-minded viewers. Bonnie Comley, CEO & Founder of Broadway HD has had an important role in making sure Broadway is still alive after the pandemic shuttering of over 100,000 people in NYC theatres alone. Craig Engler, GM of Shudder, AMC Networks SVOD, considers their service targeted but not niche, however, they have a very broad and passionate audience as do Broadway HD and Crunchyroll with Anime, which is what makes them unique. They also have a curator that handpicks every film that goes onto Shudder. These companies rely on a subscription-based model but they are looking into ways to gain more revenue without compromising the content for their specific genres. Crunchyroll goes beyond that basic model and has branched out with merchandise, events, and awards which all generate a healthy revenue stream. Specialized genre streaming platforms like these are indeed special. Instead of being everything to everyone, they are being everything to someone.