“You might say there’s 10% of the content out there that is premium … but what about the rest?” Tubi Chief Content Officer Adam Lewinson says
With over 12,000 titles available on its platform (nearly double that of Netflix), Tubi is one of the largest and more popular ad-supported video streaming services on the market. But nearly five years since it launched, the company will soon face the most saturated streaming market to date.
Over the next two years, Apple, Disney, WarnerMedia, Quibi, NBC and a host of other companies are expected to launch their own OTT services — a move that will deplete consumer attention that’s already divided by the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Not only will Tubi be challenged by the big-budget streamers from deep-pocketed corporations, but the ad-supported player will also be at the mercy of shifting viewing habits, such as the increase of consumers that use mobile for their main means of entertainment consumption.
We caught up with Adam Lewinson, Tubi’s chief content officer, to discuss the company’s strategy for sticking out in a sea of streamers and his view on the rise in mobile use. Lewinson also touches on why Tubi won’t be getting into the original content business any time soon.
1. For the first time ever in the U.S., people are spending more time on their mobile devices than watching TV. Does Tubi see this shift in consumption habits as a good thing?
From a marketing perspective, just the power of push notifications alone can really just get people where they want to be. I think really the challenge is the number of apps people have on their phone and how many they actually use. Music streaming apps, for example, I probably have all of them on my phone and I really only use Spotify unless there’s a particular reason why. I’ve developed this brand loyalty and we’ve seen a lot of studies that people like maybe five or six apps in their life and that’s not five streaming services. That includes a streaming service or two, but you got your news, social media, et cetera. So I think really the challenge on mobile is if that’s where the eyeballs are, great. But now it’s just about how do you cut through the clutter to get in front.
2. Streaming has obviously hit the mainstream among millennials and Gen Z, but have you seen much adoption among older generations?
Yes, I can give you an example. So we have a content partnership with Lifetime, and that’s an audience of older women. I wasn’t exactly sure how well the content would do on my service where our median age is probably about 32, but it’s some of our most popular content. And if you look at the demos behind who’s watching these Lifetime series, it’s pretty close to who’s watching them on linear. That really showed me how much the walls have come down.
And part of this too I think comes to discovery. Where are you watching it? It might be surprising, but a lot of our viewership comes from a traditional MVPD and Comcast on the Xfinity box where we’re a standalone app alongside Netflix. So just by the nature of MVPD viewers, they’re not cord-cutters, it’s an older audience who’s completely embraced streaming to the point where there’s a huge number of viewers. Sure they watch some linear, but they are also migrating to VOD.
3. Unlike Netflix, Hulu or Crackle, Tubi’s library is not defined by its original content. How would you define Tubi’s approach to content?
Part of our content strategy is “something for everyone,” which really turns into a lot for everyone. So what’s really different for us year on year is people just going deeper down the rabbit hole. We have horror fans that predominantly come to Tubi to watch horror and at any given time we’ve got at least a thousand horror movies and some of them are big brand names like “Saw” and everything in between. And what we’re finding is we’re retaining more of these viewers. They’re having longer sessions and they’re having more and more visits. It’s really just figuring out what your viewers want to watch and how do you give more to them.
4. Original content is an important part of the puzzle for streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu. Why has Tubi steered away from producing content exclusive to its platform?
Given the economics of making high-quality content and then people actually discovering that content (both of those which really have to align at the same time) I think it’s best to let the people who are making content at this high level make that content while we’re focused on the other 90% of programming.
When you actually see some of the data behind first-run original series on streaming services, the numbers, for the most part, are pretty small. Then eventually the economics behind that really start to steamroll and you can get to a really bad place. Some streaming services think, “Well it’s good marketing,” and it can be if you have the right show at the right place.
It’s such a big competitive game and I think that is in conflict with where TV is going, which is microtargeting. So if I’m looking at the budget of an original series and I’ve got a project out the ultimate and I’m looking at all the various revenue streams etc., that’s great. But then who’s the audience? And if you can find that audience on the right platform — or linear TV, right? It is still a business — and if it pencils out, great. But I do think, just given how expensive is to produce high-value content, it’s getting harder and harder.
5. Within the next year, Quibi, Disney+, WarnerMedia and Apple will all have streaming services on the market. Is streaming fatigue among consumers a concern for Tubi?
The average consumer (outside of L.A. or New York) is open to having a max of two SVOD services in their lives. We’ve got a lot of data about how subscription fatigue has really set in. And the way I think about it is when we grew up, television was free and then there was this small subset of pay, and then Netflix came along and switched the model and they said, “No, no, no — television costs money — it’s the HBO model that is predominant.” And they’ve spent billions to back that up.
The pendulum is now swinging to, “Oh wait, I cut the cord and now I’m actually paying more money and maybe I’m actually getting less.” And that’s where this crazy model of free with commercials has all of a sudden come back in vogue. Really, it’s just an evolution and Tubi represents the natural evolution of where linear television is going. That’s really basically it.
And, by the way, we don’t see Netflix as a competitor, we’re complementary. You might say there’s 10% of the content out there that is premium — like, “Stranger Things” and “House of Cards” and it’s great! We watch it — But what about the rest?