VOD buyers are pioneering acquisition in a post-COVID-19 world

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the process for acquiring content in the international television industry had been changing at an accelerating pace.

Needless to say, the growth of global streaming platforms – both the VoD giants and the thousands of smaller niche players – is a well-documented trend. But coinciding with these platforms’ rapid trajectory has been the emergence of a new breed of acquisition executive; one who tends to possess a “digital first” mindset.

I maintain, without too much generalisation, that a significant cultural difference exists between them and their traditional broadcaster counterparts. They understand that entertainment is now an internet delivered product and that, correspondingly, they need to move at internet speed and play by internet rules.

It’s no wonder, then, that when it comes to content licensing, these digital-savvy executives are more in sync with the idea of carrying out transactions via an online content marketplace. And, during these uncertain times when large volumes of content are required to fill streaming platforms across the world to keep up with the increased consumption by audiences, this new expertise will stand VOD buyers in good stead when having to make more deals than ever before and to do so faster than ever before.

Indeed, these are the nimble pioneers who are the segment of the television industry that is truly super serving niches. Whether that’s dealing with equestrian-based content at Horse.TV or specialising in sports programming at sportsflickglobal.com or wildlife content wildlifeconservationchannel.com, they have the capabilities to source content that appeals to viewers in an increasingly fragmented environment.

Online content marketplaces, more than any other means, provide them with the tools to find, negotiate and acquire content faster and far more efficiently than ever before, helping this new generation of content acquirers find fresh, new finished content to serve their viewers from anywhere in the world.

I am not for one minute suggesting that buyers at traditional broadcasters are less strategic or are incapable of doing the same job with aplomb. Far from it. Yet the difference lies within the culture of the internet-first company, which has been used to missives such as “move fast and break things”. Whereas a buyer at a free-to-air channel will be armed with broad brush – and perhaps delayed – ratings numbers to inform their buying decisions, an acquisitions executive at a VOD platform will work closely with data analysts, poring over instantly available crunches of big-data.

That means the VOD platforms knows – at an atomic level of granularity – who has watched what, for how long and when. This information can be crunched, and insights extracted, and as such informs far more-data driven content buying strategies. Essentially, this data has changed the role of the buyer as we know it. These days it’s less about “I’ve got two decades of experience and my gut feeling is this show will do well in this particular slot.” And more about, it’s “The data shows that this content will acquire / retain this segment of people, I need to acquire more of this content because the data informs me.”

Increasingly, this same data is now feeding into the way VoD buyers are now preferring to construct deals. For instance, streaming platforms are now interested in purchasing of content using performance pricing models. Apart from just making flat rate offers, VOD execs are moving towards making offers based on viewer count, or stream length or of share of advertising revenue. In essence, the value is ultimately determined not by “hard-bitten negotiation” but by how the audience consumes that piece of content (or not) and the thus it is the audience that has the final say (and not the seller nor the buyer). It’s a new world and a new way of thinking. But one, perhaps, that takes a fresh and innovative approach to content buying.

That’s not to say the old ways are over either, and as I’ve said many times before – there is still a vital place for face to face meetings at physical content markets worldwide, when they become possible again. However, internet technology and this new fragmented world is re-writing the rulebook, and it’s the new breed of VoD buyers who are leading the charge, armed with data.

Ian McKee is CEO of Vuulr






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