By nScreenMedia’s Colin Dixon
Building a video business sometimes requires unorthodox approaches. Night Flight’s CEO listens to the viewers, no matter how crazy their requests.
The new free white paper Building a Video Business: Night Flight – A Passion for the 1980s Culture looks at how to take a treasure trove of library content and create an SVOD service to showcase it.
From 1-inch tape to SVOD service
In the 1980s, cable television embarked on a huge expansion in the number of channels provided to its subscribers. USA Network was one of those early channels, providing a mix of sports and entertainment. Stuart S. Shapiro, Founder, and CEO at Night Flight was the producer of a cultural arts show, Night Flight, airing overnight on Saturdays on USA Network. The show ran for eight years starting in 1981 as a two-hour program. It quickly expanded to fill the 11 PM to 7 AM slot with an eclectic mix of edgy music, interviews, and other arts.
All the original shows were captured on 1-inch videotape. Mr. Shapiro acquired the archive ten years ago. He began to digitize the tapes and release the material through the blog nightflight.com. However, it was always Mr. Shapiro’s intention to launch a subscription video service with the “DNA of the original show.” He realized that ambition when he partnered with video distribution service Zype:
“Along came Zype and allowed a producer like myself to be able to afford to launch my own channel without having to spend $5 million building a content management system.”
[READ] Small Screens, Big Rewards: How Broadcasters and OTT Providers Can Achieve Mobile Video Success
Night Flight-Plus launched in January 2016 and provides a curated library that includes interviews, music videos, movies and related material. Subscribers pay $2.99 a month, or $29.99 per year, for full ad-free access to the content.
Listening to the audience
Since 2016, the Night Flight Facebook page has garnered more than 100,000 subscribers and delivers between three and five million unique visitors each month. Listening to that audience allows Mr. Shapiro to remain very close to their needs and to respond quickly. For example, the service curates the original 8-hour Night Flight episodes into 30- to 60-minute segments. These shows are very popular and allow Mr. Shapiro to cater directly to his users’ tastes: “My audience tends to like eclectic stuff.”
However, a portion of the audience wanted more:
“People demanded full episodes with the original commercials. Some people sat back and watched all 8 hours, and they liked the old commercials.”
Providing complete editions of Night Flight allows the audience to immerse themselves in the world of the 1980s. It was also the ultimate nostalgia experience for which a portion of the audience was ready.
Keeping the library fresh
Being able to react quickly to audience requests and providing a steady flow of new content is key to a service like Night Flight. It helps keep churn relatively low. Pay TV operators like Dish Network deal with annual churn rates as high as 25%, even though most subscribers agree to one- or two-year contracts when they sign up.[i] Since online video services typically require only a month-to-month commitment churn could be much higher. However, Mr. Shapiro says his churn is no higher than Dish Network.
To learn more about how Night Flight curates its content picks the devices it wants to support, and how it will keep growing through a hybrid editorial and subscription model download the new free white paper Building a Video Business: Night Flight – A Passion for the 1980s Culture.