News is The Marketing Plug in Streaming Video’s Offering Gap

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

Last week it was revealed that BuzzFeed News plans to launch a new video interview show to be streamed on Facebook Watch. The weekly show will feature 20-minute episodes with news-making personalities from the worlds of politics and celebrity. With this announcement, BuzzFeed has recognised a gap in current affairs in the transition to streaming video, most glaringly displayed by the two subscription video on demand (SVOD) majors of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The role of news in transforming streaming video into a substitute for linear TV

Ever since Netflix made its pivot to streaming back in 2007, news has been a noticeable absence in the content offerings of the streaming majors. SVOD prioritised the scripted drama format as its primary route to market due the strategic advantage of being able to create exclusive original content, highlighting the on-demand, value-driven competitive pricing compared to the cable and satellite alternatives. The rise of the trendy scripted drama series in the cultural narrative effectively positioned SVOD as an additive service, one that could complement existing TV subscriptions.

As Netflix plateaus at 49% weekly active use in the US (MIDiA Research Q4 2017 consumer data), SVOD now needs to offer mainstream programming alternatives to the current staples of US TV, which include news alongside sport and chat shows. If SVOD is able to offer these mainstream types of content which form an integral part of both pay-TV and free-to-air programming, then SVOD can become a substitutive, rather than an add-on service. It will effectively be able to replace traditional pay-TV with its contract-free significantly-cheaper monthly subscription plans.

News Shapes Digital Identities

One advantage news brings to the table, if it is to become a key part of the content mix in streaming video, is its ability to define identity in the digital landscape. 21% of consumers in the US share news stories, using it as a way to define themselves digitally. It is effectively digital peacocking through news content, rather than through carefully curated selfies. News then logically becomes a promotional content format for ad-supported streaming video in the way that scripted drama has traditionally worked for SVOD. The next challenge for the growth of ad supported video is how to leverage this increased engagement in a way that grows revenues meaningfully.

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