Waking from a content nightmare

The reverberations of the global pandemic’s impact on the TV production business are still the stuff of nightmares. For a business like ours, with productions in motion all around the world, it meant the almost total shutdown of projects that were months and even years in the making. But of course, we were not alone.

Although, two-plus years later we are all singing a different, more positive tune, the impact of that completely unforeseeable hardship lingers. But out of all periods of crisis, innovations and the subsequent Plan B, C, and Ds emerge. Call it survival of the most scared…or just the most-determined to keep their collective heads above water.

For many mid-sized companies like Insight TV, survival meant adapting to two major shifts at once: the shutdown in production AND the incredibly rapid acceleration of streaming services, especially AVOD and FAST. In actual fact, we were already ahead at that point, with our global footprint exceeding 176 platforms across 54 countries. However, how do you feed that beast when production is at a standstill?

The word “pivot” is an overused term, but in this case it really sums up what most of us in the TV business have had to do. Largely, what I’ve seen is companies moving from a single focus or distribution strategy to adopting a multi-platform, expanded business model with an eye toward creating many potential revenue streams. There are not many pure SVODs out there now, for example. Even the giants like Netflix have been eyeing ad-supported tiers and other hybrid strategies.

Still, you can multiply the number of platforms you’re on, create broadcast, SVOD, AVOD, social media and FAST versions of your channel and STILL have the underlying problem of being able to produce and fund content that will drive viewers to your channels. Insight TV’s original, millennial and Gen Z-focused content is what put us on the map in the first place and staying true to that mission became all the harder as demand for content increased.

While viewership on streaming channels of all stripes increased during the pandemic, so was viewership and engagement on social channels. Social media is an integral part of any broadcaster or streaming platform’s marketing strategy, but we took the opportunity to take that a step further having acquired social media channels which provided us with 3 million plus followers. By developing and growing our social content and digital strategy, we began to shift toward original, social-led content productions, and tapped into our brand partners and their broad network of creators and content to do so. By combining these resources with our distribution and production capabilities, we found a way to continue serving our audience with exciting original content on every platform.

For many of us, this Fall’s MIPCOM conference marks a re-emergence from the shadow of the Pandemic and a chance to share our experiences and ‘educational experiences’ with our friends and colleagues from around the world … and in person. But it will feel different; with conversations taking on an even more creative tone than previous years. Rather than simply the buying and selling of content, we’ll be looking at building even stronger content partnerships for a business that is continually shifting and evolving.

I can’t say we will be bullet proof against the next global disaster, but I think as a whole, this business has had a wake-up call and the comparatively easy days of the TV business have given way to a new definition of “content,” how we make it and sell it, and where and why audiences consume it.  Now that the nightmare is just about over, I think we’re all ready to dream up new ways of working together.

Graeme Stanley is chief commercial officer, Insight TV

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