The streaming industry may seem like a playground of a handful of streaming titans. Netflix alone spent roughly $13 billion this year on shows and movies, and huge international brands like Disney are gearing up to launch their own streaming platforms independent of the existing household names. In less than a decade, names like Netflix and Hulu have become heritage brands, just how CBS, NBC, and ABC are regarded in the world of linear cable.
How can emerging streaming brands dare to compete with this big money frenzy, even if their product offers something unique and desirable to audiences? Naturally, there are lessons to be learned from the successful companies that came before, but smaller platforms have something the big names don't: their small size, narrow focus, and adaptability.
Emerging streaming platforms can study what worked for companies like Netflix and Hulu and adapt those lessons for their purposes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these mega-brands likely built a tech solution customized for them. While a smaller streaming platform won’t be able to get their hands on that buildout, they can get their hands on some of the same tools utilized by the big players. These include flexible and cost-effective software that delivers a more positive user experience, as well as technology partnerships and audience-facing features.
Many newer streaming platforms may think that these goals are out of reach, but the tools market leaders utilize to make it happen are actually scalable to smaller platforms. For example, some of the world’s largest broadcasters, like ProSieben (Europe), Televisa (LATAM) and TV Azteca (LATAM), utilize a user-friendly SaaS platform which helps streamline their end-to-end operations. This scalability brings newer streaming platforms all the features used by big brands without any disruption to their services.
One size does not fit all: Audiences want smaller, pick-and-choose packages tailored to their viewing needs. One way emerging platforms achieve this is through a range of subscription packages that cater to audiences of all viewing levels. Subscription packages can leverage choice to entice viewers to pay more for an experience based on their interests.
Leverage targeted demographics for monetization: Platforms can increase their value proposition by creating a targeted demographic through personally tailored content experiences. For example, Amazon ties programming content in with retail opportunities relevant to a viewer’s content interests. In this way, your viewership becomes much more valuable to advertisers and sponsors who are looking to reach that demographic.
Data analytics that keep audiences engaged: To keep an audience's attention and optimize monetization, you need to have top-notch data analytics that allows your brand to continuously learn and improve both the service and the offering. Analytics can cover:
UX analytics: Understanding how someone is using your app and whether their experience is positive is essential to keeping them engaged. Your interface should be easy to use and only have features that enhance the user experience.
Demographic analytics: Leveraging a targeted demographic can only happen if you understand who your audience is. Knowing who is using your platform, and why, is critical to building a successful streaming business.
Content analytics: Beyond understanding the audience, you have to understand which content they are consuming and why. This further goes to determining your demographic and niche, helping to define your platform’s value proposition and differentiate you from the competition.
These lessons are important, but matching the industry leaders toe-to-toe is a futile endeavor. What emerging streaming platforms really need to do to compete is adapt these lessons to their own strengths and employ them in a way that the big names cannot touch.
Emerging streaming platforms have a series of advantages that their size and scope grant them against the biggest players. Using those advantages in conjunction with the lessons learned from industry pioneers is the key to success.
- Your technology systems must match your working systems: The primary advantage smaller platforms have over market leaders is that they can quickly make changes based on viewer UX, audience responses, and market conditions, and they aren’t subject to rounds of internal processes. In order to fully leverage this advantage, however, streaming platforms need to ensure their technology is as flexible as their organization, enabling them to make changes on the fly. This means having technology with fast implementation and fast results, rather than technology that requires new code, new development, and long release cycles.
- A mix of revenue strategies can give you more security: Emerging platforms don't have to just pick one business model and stick to it. They can incorporate the best aspects of subscription VoD, advertisement VoD, and transactional VoD models into their service, crafting an offering that gives the best value to the customers as well as the best value to the brand.
- Develop a brand identity with a unique appeal: Trying to compete with the large services that offer a taste of every genre is never going to work for small platforms, but what they can do is focus on their own niche. For example, anime studio Funimation offers an all-anime streaming service for $5.99 per month. Netflix and Hulu both offer anime, but neither has the immense library that Funimation offers, which positions Funimation to be the go-to streaming service for dedicated anime fans. Go even further with live-events or community building within your defined area.
- Establish relationships with distribution and marketing partners: Emerging platforms have a more narrow appeal, which makes them great for partnering with traditional outlets that want to offer niche content to their own audiences. This gives small streaming platforms white-label opportunities and marketing or distribution deals that can expand their total reach into more conventional channels.
Flexibility and risk mitigation are key
Emerging streaming platforms can regularly adapt their content offerings and their business deals to provide the best blend of service and monetization possible. Investing in resources to maximize flexibility while minimizing risk should be a chief focus for smaller streamers. Emerging streamers have big strategic considerations to keep in mind, so it's important to have a technological platform that can respond to the demands of a highly competitive marketplace.
Platforms like Zapp from Applicaster are designed to maximize flexibility while minimizing risk. Having worked with some of the world’s leading media companies across the US, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, Applicaster built its SaaS platform, Zapp, to allow media companies to take the controls – and drive their technology partners, UX design, audience engagement, monetization strategy, and more – without taking the risk, effectively leaving tech management to Applicaster’s expertise. Applicaster takes the pain points of software development away from the media company's tech team, and substitutes a user-friendly, plug-and-play solution that keeps media companies as nimble as the modern streaming industry requires.