Endemol Shine Group, one of the world’s leading production and distribution companies, has revealed how connected TV has enabled it to start diversifying its revenues thanks to the more efficient monetisation of its back catalogue of shows, some of which are being curated into genre-based or single-programme linear channels. Speaking on a panel at Videoscape Europe this week, Kasia Jablonska, Head of Digital Distribution & Monetisation at the company, outlined how direct-to-consumer channel distribution on Samsung TV Plus has dramatically increased revenue on library material, based on advertising.
Samsung TV Plus is the free, ad-supported streaming bouquet found on Samsung smart TVs, designed to promote a seamless user journey between free-to-air broadcast channels and a selection of linear ‘OTT’ services. Samsung TV Plus is in around a dozen countries including the U.S., Canada, UK, Spain, France, Germany and Italy, with channel counts of approx. 120 in the U.S. and approx. 50 in the UK, as examples.
Depending on markets, Samsung TV Plus includes Pluto TV through to Fubo Sports Network, ConTV and Minecraft TV. Endemol Shine Group and Insight TV, who also spoke at Videoscape Europe, add to the selection. One of the best known Samsung TV Plus channels from Endemol Shine is ‘Deal or No Deal’, dedicated to this one show title.
Samsung TV Plus is a notable effort to make streaming video more like television and provides an example of how IP becomes more about the delivery mechanism than a navigation/presentation paradigm. Viewers do not have to move between apps in order to watch the linear streaming channels.
“We have tried to tackle this from a user experience perspective, bringing in Freeview [free-to-air broadcast channels] programming alongside OTT programming,” explains David Burton, Head of Product, Samsung Ads in Europe, referring to the UK version of the service. “You can go in and out of traditional broadcast TV and into or out of streaming content.”
Samsung Ads Europe is the entity that helps content owners make money on the platform, providing a combination of rich viewing insights to inform partner content strategies and the advertising capabilities to exploit the audiences (including addressable advertising, or what they like to call ‘interest-based’ advertising). The company believes it has reach into the growing segment of light linear viewers that advertisers need to reach, including cord shavers, cord cutters and cord nevers.
Samsung TV Plus is a core part of the Endemol Shine Group (ESG) digital strategy. “As consumption models change and viewers consume more content but in different ways, that is having a major impact on the media industry value chain,” Jablonska said. “In the linear distribution world, [broadcast, as opposed to connected TV] we signed content licensing deals with broadcasters and the value was always in the first window. The older content got, the less value it held, so broadcasters paid less money.
“Two years ago, we decided to let viewers vote with their eyeballs by going straight to [connected TV] platforms where we may not get fixed fees, but we can generate some extra revenue. And it turns out this is an amazing opportunity. Viewers are hungry for our catalogue content. Some of the titles we have put on Samsung TV Plus are generating 5-10 times what we would get from broadcasters.”
She added: “We stay in control of the relationship with the consumer. It gives us the ability to resurface content.”
Endemol Shine now distributes direct-to-consumer through a selection of connected TV platforms including Vizio and Roku. In Europe, the company uses Samsung TV Plus in several markets including France, Italy and Spain. The direct-to-consumer (D2C) offering is a mixture of title-specific channels, like Wipeout, and genre-based curations. The latter group includes Masters of Food (food shows) and All Drama (scripted library content from different markets).
Burton reckons there is a strong market for library content, and not just iconic brands like Friends. “The industry headlines are often about the investment in new content, driven by the new technology-media companies, but we see that nostalgic television is incredibly popular – titles like ‘Master Chef’, and ‘Deal or No Deal’, which recently launched in the U.S. [On Samsung TV Plus] and is pulling in millions of viewers.”
Jablonska confirmed that while content licensing to broadcasters remains the ‘bread and butter’ at Endemol Shine Group, catalogue monetisation is becoming a bigger part of the business. “This is what connected TV delivers, by giving us the ability to go direct to viewers,” she stated.
This move into D2C had an unexpected benefit when the coronavirus lockdown arrived and new productions had to halt, removing the primary Endemol Shine revenue stream. This moment put the spotlight on the streaming activities, none of which was disrupted by home working.
Another company working with Samsung TV Plus to reach new audiences is the Dutch channel group Insight TV, which operates in 28 countries and has a strong focus on UHD/4K, offering shows spanning adventure, action, sports, lifestyle, plus more general entertainment.
Insight TV is not a born-digital media owner and is already found on various broadcast platforms, but according to Arun Maljaars, Director Content and Channels at the company, connected TV provides a powerful new route to the millennial and Gen Z audiences he wants. Channels include Insight TV Lifestyle and Insight TV InWonder.
Insight TV started life on Samsung TV Plus by taking catalogue shows from across its existing channels and playing them in a looped playlist, as a linear experience. Once the company realised that connected TV was a serious linear proposition for them, an IP output was added to the existing channel playout system to feed into Samsung TV Plus.
As Maljaars explains, “It is a linear stream, but delivered digitally. After six months of providing the library content [in the original curated loop] the uptake blew us away, so we started adding more channels.”
One of the biggest takeaways from this Videoscape Europe panel is the value of a linear schedule in the connected TV environment. Maljaars made it clear that his company does not believe streaming to connected TVs is synonymous with on-demand, and that the two things have to be separated. He believes what when younger consumers hit their mid-twenties and come home from work, they will be happy to sit down to a schedule that makes viewing choices easy.
“The linear behaviour is still so important for this target audience,” he declared. “They [millennials and Generation Z] come to our channels. I think the industry confuses linear TV with a cable subscription [Pay TV generally] but people still like scheduled viewing. We see people come into our channel and stay there a long time.”
Endemol Shine Group has also found that people will stay on a channel to watch show after show, and Jablonska agrees on the value of a linear schedule, and the value of the TV-like Samsung TV Plus experience. “Connected TV is already in the living room so there are no barriers to entry; there is no need for anyone to learn new technology. People can switch between linear and non-linear. It is easy to navigate and find content,” she said.
Returning to the power of connected TV to drive a production company D2C strategy, she added: “Audiences know our productions from the broadcast world so the single title channels are becoming a destination, like ‘Deal or No Deal’, ‘Master Chef’ and ‘Wipeout’. They are performing miracles for us because people recognise the programmes and they can watch them through the EPG.”
Samsung collects viewing data from over 5 million televisions in the UK, and as in other territories, the data is one-to-one and deterministic, and available in real-time. Viewing data is collected at glass level, meaning Samsung knows what the television set owners are watching regardless of the HDMI source, so can see viewing through the free-to-air broadcast tuner, a Pay TV set-top box, apps and consoles. The company can therefore track what Burton calls ‘platform surfing’.
Data insights from Samsung can help channel partners improve their content and distribution strategies. Jablonska noted that a heavy focus on data at the ESG digital team (for all streaming) was central to their success. The company monitors viewing at a per-title and genre level to understand trends (like how long it takes before viewing for a title hits a peak, what content works in which markets, and on which platforms).
The data has confirmed that on Samsung TV Plus, viewers currently prefer non-scripted content from ESG, which is one of the reasons behind the launches of ‘Master of Foods’ and ‘DIY Daily’ (curated genre-based channels). Endemol Shine Group is still distributing scripted content via the platform, but is less sure about the outcome.
Maljaars at Insight TV also hailed the value of the data he receives. “You see major differences between countries [in what content is popular]. In the U.S., sports-centric titles with a back-story work well, whereas scientific shows perform well in Germany.”
Referring back to when Insight TV moved from a specially curated linear stream showing catalogue content to a live simulcast of its broadcast channels (to connected TVs), Arun explains: “We are scheduling digital like traditional linear, except we get much better data, which means we have improved our scheduling compared to before.”
Burton thinks connected TV is a game-changer for the television market as a whole, providing a home for a growing television sub-culture of special interest channels in addition to well known brands. He cites the reach into light linear viewers and generous viewing analytics as key advantages compared to broadcast TV. And as Endemol Shine testified on this panel, connected TV provides the means for some media companies to go D2C and diversify their businesses.