from the future-proof dept
The broadest, most obvious trend in media consumption is the shift to an on-demand world, where content is available when you want it on whatever device you're using. In the day-to-day, this gets lost behind neverending squabbles about licensing, and severely limited offerings accompanied by bold statements about embracing technology—but in the long run, what's happening couldn't be any more clear. Any long-term strategy for relevance and success in the world of media has to embrace that momentum by building new business models around such distribution schemes, while gracefully dismantling the business models that rely on dying habits and the limitations of antiquated technology.
Or, you can attempt to reshape the cultural norms of future generations by going to the source: kids. At least that's what analyst Todd Juenger suggests in a recent report about children's programming on Netflix. Juenger conducted a focus group with mothers and discovered that they really like Netflix as a source of entertainment for their kids, especially since they can put it on whenever they want—and that kids are growing accustomed this. To hear Juenger talk about it, you'd think this was both surprising and bad (it's neither). His advice to the providers of children's programming? Stop this trend immediately:
His advice for entertainment companies is to be cautious about how much kids programming they make available to the online video streaming provider and in which windows. "We remain firm in our belief Viacom and Walt Disney should limit their content availability on Netflix," Juenger wrote.
"Moms are increasingly directing their kids to alternative viewing modes for content control, commercial avoidance and time management," Juenger summarized the findings. "The moms we talked to originally subscribed to Netflix for themselves, but have recognized the dwindling supply of content for adults and are now using the service primarily for their kids…The content selection is perceived to be significantly better for kids than for adults, and the lack of commercials and ability to control the viewing choices are seen as positives.”
According to the analyst, the focus groups described children as device agnostic, "happily watching on TV sets, tablets, computers, even phones, with indifference." The result: “Our concern regarding Viacom and Disney’s kids’ networks has been reinforced,” Juenger said. “Viacom and Disney should do everything in their power to steer viewership toward modes with the best long-term economics, namely traditional TV and emerging forms of TV Everywhere VOD.”
Yes, he's confirmed that the "lack of commercials and ability to control the viewing choices are seen as positives", in case anyone in Hollywood was still clinging to the hope that consumers would grow to hate those things. And yes, kids are "happily watching" on a variety of devices, and we can't have that, can we? Some might respond to the observation of a clear consumer preference in young children by trying to embrace that change early (if anything Hollywood does with technology can be called "early" at this point) but Juenger thinks they're better off trying to hold back the tide, or at least redirect it into their proprietary canals.
The funniest part is that suggesting Disney and Viacom should try to "steer viewership" is appealing to the very power such companies are losing. Big media empires don't get to "steer viewership" the way they used to, and that's exactly why these new distribution methods represent a threat to them. Juenger is suggesting they keep the sinking ship afloat by tying it to... itself. That's not going to work.