Last Month, US OTT channel operator TV4 Entertainment and UK production and distribution group all3media launched Inside Outside, an OTT channel focused on gardening and interior design. The creation of the channel is part of a strategic partnership between the two companies to launch OTT channels across multiple genres. Under the arrangement, 500 hours of All3Media content has been licensed to the channel in North America. Additionally, all3media gets a first look at TV4 original series in the genre, which it can select and add to its global distribution catalogue.
In this weeks ‘5 Questions,’ Founder and CEO of TV4 Entertainment Jon Cody, and EVP Strategic Development of all3media international Gary Woolf discuss the new partnership and some of the biggest learning to come from it.
VideoInk: Gary, part of your responsibility at all3media international is identifying potential new OTT opportunities. What key factors do you look for when doing so and what characteristics did you see in TV4 Entertainment to partner on a series of targeted OTT channels?
Gary Woolf: At all3media international we are consistently looking at distribution opportunities for our library of over 9000 hours of content – and while our main business is licensing content to broadcasters and streaming platforms, we see there’s an exciting opportunity in the niche VoD space for areas of our catalogue.
The exciting opportunity with TV4 Entertainment is to have a partner that is already operating channels in this space, and brings a wealth of expertise in the space, especially given Jon Cody’s background, along with technical know-how. This allows us to focus on what we do best at all3media international – working with producers to bring the best content to market. It also means that in an ever-expanding market place, Inside Outside – House and Gardens is part of a bigger ‘family’, which we believe will open up greater opportunities both through OTT and through other routes to market.
Jon, TV4 Entertainment operates over 30 OTT brands, with worldwide direct-to-consumer subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) distribution. How did the experience of running such a large portfolio tie in with the decision of choosing a home and garden OTT Brand?
Jon Cody: Our approach to any OTT is the same with every genre we can in to: 1. Does the genre have a passionate community? 2. Does it have global appeal?; and, 3. Is it poorly served by traditional television. House and gardens hits that checklist and from there, it is a simple equation of is there a great partner out there that has the content and the domain expertise and we found that in all3media international. Also, especially attractive to us is that we can develop a significant amount of original content for the genre, and we gravitate to those opportunities where the OTT Channel can incubate intellectual property for the Company.
What have been the 3 biggest learnings to come from the new partnership between TV4 and all3?
Gary: The first thing to say is that the teams across TV4 and all3media international have really come together well. Once we’d taken the decision to move ahead with the Channel, it’s only taken us 6 months from concept to go-live, and that’s a testimony to all involved. What we’ve learned is:
- As a content owner/distributor, it isn’t necessary for us to massively staff up on the tech front to embrace this space;
- Assuming that you have your channel or service with a partner who understands the space, it really is about developing a brand that can stand out and has a real USP – which I believe we have with Inside Outside – House and Garden;
- While we can be ‘hands off’ on the technical side, it really isn’t a case of handing a partner a volume of content and walking away. We’ve held weekly touch-base calls, and had significant involvement in decisions along the way – working out how the programmes are positioned on the service, inputting into refresh rates, price points, what content should be available for free and a myriad of other points. What’s great is that while we will have an opinion as the distributor of the content, TV4 has previous experience and we can share our combined thoughts.
In summary, it’s all about collaboration, and understanding where your skills lie as a business.
- The Partner Counts – Echoing Gary, in our experience, the single most important part of getting an OTT service off of the ground is the Partner. The quality of the content, the competency of, but more importantly, the buy-in of the Partner’s staff is vital. In this partnership it feels like one team driving toward the same destination.
- Big Companies Can Be Smart, Humble, and Nimble – I give all3media international a great deal of credit, first for understanding that sometimes it isn’t easier to do it yourself. At sizeable companies, pride and money and politics often get in the way of getting stuff out the door. It may not seem like it takes fortitude to partner with a young company that can save the bid company money, time, energy, while giving it a great opportunity education on the future…but it does.
- Prepare For The Fire Drill – I have launched 50 or so OTT products over the last decade at Fox and TV4 Entertainment and never does a launch go without some type of hiccup. OTT products are complex, from content rights, product requirements, and making sure the tech actually does what you want it to do. The problem is very rarely the same, but you are sure to have one. As I say to the staff, you aren’t doing anything if your product launch doesn’t contain a fire drill.
What metrics/characteristics have you two noticed to be most important when determining the success of a show/OTT platform and why?
Gary: From our point of view it’s too early to talk about metrics as we only really launched in September. However, we had a soft launch on Amazon Channels earlier in the year, and what’s been exciting to watch is the number of viewers that not only sample episodes, but stay and watch the whole programme – that really confirmed to us that we have a compelling proposition.
Jon: Ultimately, it depends on the end-user business model, but the things we keep our eye in the first 3-6 months in a service is engagement. The beginning is not a question of how many people come through the door, but for the ones that get there, do they love it, and there is no better way to see that than engagement. In this case, we have seen early subscribers watching for multiple hours per week, which is a fantastic sign. As the Channel matures, our eyes are on subscriber acquisition cost, lifetime of that subscriber (how long do they subscribe to the service), and churn.
What is your Take on the current trend of OTT platforms adopting live stream entertainment?
Wolf: Live content isn’t really a space that we’re in at all3media international – but as the OTT space becomes increasingly crowded, it’s important for services to have something that makes them stand out. For some, that’s new original content – and we’re working with TV4 Entertainment and their production team to explore what that might look like for Inside Outside – House and Gardens; but I can see others may stand out with ‘live’. The most important thing for us is staying ‘true’ to the brand that we’ve created – and super-serving that audience.
Jon: Live works better in some genres than others. For our sports, music, shopping, and health networks, for example, Live is a must-have and most will be there over the next 12-months. In lifestyle and entertainment networks, it is a little less necessary, but we also believe in turning VOD channels into linear networks, so you can press play and sit back and watch without doing much thinking.
Jon, you recently said that you’d like to duplicate TV4’s deal with all3media with several production and distribution companies worldwide. How is that search going? And what do you look for in a company when partnering, is a big library the main factor?
Jon: In truth, we have stopped “searching” for channel partners and deals for about 18-months now. We take 5-10 inbound Channel pitches a week, from companies, rights-holders, and domain-experts. We have monthly launches scheduled through the end of 2018 already, so we are pacing ahead of our goal of getting to 100 Channels by 2020. On the Partner, first we look for good people, life is indeed to short. From there, it is one of two things we are focused on: do they have a big library in the category where they can be a one-stop-shop for a service OR are they a domain expert that is a member of the genre’s community. When we get both in one group, even better.