For Networks, Binge Isn’t The Only Answer

While on-demand streaming services have been dominating the entertainment world, cable networks still have an opportunity to innovate and reimagine the TV customer experience.

Handsome
Handsome
Jan 16, 2019 · 6 min read

Let’s talk about Shark Week…

Since its premiere in 1988, Shark Week has become the longest-running programming event in cable television history. In a pre-on-demand world, counting down the days to Shark Week and staying glued to your couch was essential for staying connected to every other shark enthusiast at school or work. For the network, Shark Week was an advertising goldmine. For shark fans, it gave them a significant media event to look forward to each year. And for sharks, it eventually led them to renowned entertainment milestones like Sharknado.


A Study On Binge Behavior

We’ve worked with some of the top networks in the industry, and have found through immersive research that the path forward for TV networks isn’t as treacherous as it seems. Our team spent hours observing how TV viewers consume content in their homes, at work, or on-the-go, and gathered a deep understanding of what daily entertainment binging looks like across a spectrum of real-life people.

A research externalization exercise designed to map the various ways someone consumes content in their home.

Viewers want the best of both worlds.

Think back to Thursday nights in the 90s. NBC’s Must See TV was a golden era of prime-time content for viewers, where audiences launched shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and ER into the television history books. Media coverage for the season and series finales of Friends and Seinfeld drew record-breaking audiences in their final years, during the height of the watch-party and Friday watercooler-conversation era. Communities of fans thriving on the weekly anticipation flourished — just as they did around annual Shark Week programming — but the weekly cadence meant NBC could charge advertisers small fortunes for ad spots worth their time in gold each week, rather than just once a year.

What if you could take the best of both models, and make an even better viewing experience?

We tested a model that drops the first three episodes of a season at once, getting viewers hooked and allowing them to immerse themselves in a show’s content. Beyond the first three episodes, a weekly drop model can be designed to capitalize on the anticipation that’s built once a viewer gets hooked. HBO recently adopted this model for the season 3 premiere of True Detective, dropping the show’s first two episodes back-to-back. Creating an episode drop model that takes advantage of the immersive storytelling of binge-watching and the anticipation and social value that the weekly drop model brings will give viewers and networks the best of both worlds. Get people hooked, then engage them with week-to-week releases.

Viewers also want the most direct and seamless point of entry when looking for content.

Whether through backstories, spin-offs, or behind the scenes features, viewers want more than just a 30-minute or hour-long episode of their favorite shows. Couple that with a culture that demands instant gratification, and you get TV viewers that want all the content, all the time. And if you have a digital experience — like an app or streaming site — viewers expect those experiences to be continually feeding them personalized and relevant content based on their preferences and viewing history. If viewers have to dig for content, they’ll look someplace else.

Portable devices create an ideal platform for short-form content.
A content-forward re-design concept for www.amc.com.

Break the ad model to increase revenue and produce more content.

It’s common to think that binge-watching increases a viewer’s watch time per session, but we found during our research that binge-behavior actually has a negative impact on engagement with advertising; secondary research validated our findings. Interrupting the viewing experience with advertising is proven to discourage binge behavior. In fact, advertising engagement tends to peak at three episodes, and viewers become less responsive to ads over longer viewing sessions. This throws a wrench in traditional network viewing models that rely heavily on advertising. It also materially changes how networks monetize their content. In response to these new viewing options, networks have to rethink their strategy and take a holistic approach to how they get content into the hands of their consumers if they want to continue to be in the business of producing and delivering content.

Our recommended model for optimal advertising.


Handsome Perspectives

Thoughts, ideas, and learnings from the Handsome team.

Handsome

Written by

Handsome

Handsome is a holistic experience design agency. Clients include FedEx, Audi, Nickelodeon, AMC, Facebook and Keller Williams. http://handsome.is

Handsome Perspectives

Thoughts, ideas, and learnings from the Handsome team.

Handsome

Written by

Handsome

Handsome is a holistic experience design agency. Clients include FedEx, Audi, Nickelodeon, AMC, Facebook and Keller Williams. http://handsome.is

Handsome Perspectives

Thoughts, ideas, and learnings from the Handsome team.

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