How back catalogue shows can soften the blow from the Hollywood strikes in 2024
Photo: Georgia Vagim
It is that time of year when MIDiA Research makes its annual predictions for 2024. While there is a strong track record of accuracy, there will always be unforeseen opportunities and challenges that boost and buffet the music, video, and games industry over the next 12 months. As ever, the challenge for the whole industry will be remaining fleet of foot to seize the good times and ward off the bad.
However, there is one event in 2024 that streaming TV services should be preparing for: the fallout of the Hollywood strikes. Regardless of recent resolutions to the actors and writer’s strikes, disruption will still be felt in 2024. Talent and production staff downsizing in 2023, in part due to the rise of AI and other tools, have triggered delays to big-budget TV series and movies in 2024. As a result, streaming TV services must fill big holes in the release slate for the next 12 months and beyond.
This could not have come at a worse time for the video industry. Cinema chains are still piecing together a recovery since the cataclysmic hit to box office revenues during the pandemic. Meanwhile, streaming TV services want to reach financial stability by growing subscribers as consumers battle the cost-of-living crisis. Releasing a steady stream of exclusive shows remains the go-to tactic for persuading consumers to become subscribers. An absence of shows hampers this approach.
Bridging the content gap
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So, how do streaming TV services fill the void? The obvious answer is back catalogue shows. Licensing content is back in big way. By buying in shows with proven fanbases that were previously unavailable on their services, library content can feel like new to viewers. Video consumers also lean towards back catalogue engagement. When asked how they watched video as a standalone activity, more than a third said they watched something they are a fan in Q3 2022, while less than 30% said they put on something new. Netflix and NBCUniversal’s success with the legal drama Suits over the summer of 2023 (despite the final episode airing in September 2019) demonstrated the power of using back catalogue content to deliver watercooler moments.
Yet, simply uploading a welter of library content onto a streaming TV service will not make up for the shortcomings of having fewer new shows and movies. Consumers have become educated to expect new and exclusive shows for their subscription spend. They will still need fresh reasons to engage. Therefore, licenced library content should be paired with fandom-led experiences that deliver value for viewers. Outlined in burnishing the back catalogue are product strategies that can extend engagement time with library content. For example, a watch party experience where Godfather fans could watch the movie live with members of the original actors cast would provide Paramount+ with a fresh engagement opportunity and a social media moment. A spin-off podcast series can create a fresh engagement opportunity around a library asset, especially if licencing teams choose shows that have a cultural, political, or thematic relevance to today. However, streaming TV operators should house these podcasts on their own platforms, rather than on third-party services, if they want to extend in-app engagement time.
The fandom hub formula
The content gap left by the Hollywood strikes must be filled. Streaming TV services would be wise to provide added value to library content, or risk giving cost-conscious consumers reasons to churn. The disruption should be the catalyst for streaming TV services to transform their platforms into engagement-rich fandom hubs that provide consumers with multiple touch points for engagement. Anything less would be a missed opportunity.