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Ditch the Niche: It's Time to Come Up With a New Term

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You never know what's going to be controversial. We've had panels focusing on niche video services at the last few Streaming Media events, both in-person and virtual, but it wasn't until Streaming Media East Connect 2021 that people started pushing back against the term "niche." We saw a shift coming when we named a panel "Premium Niche Services—New Content Frontiers," but it seems as if it might be time to stop using the term entirely. 

And with good reason. When you call something "niche," you're immediately relegating it to "lesser than," to something that's so far outside the mainstream that it's easily dismissed. But does it really apply to a service like Revry, which focuses on LGBTQ+ content? After all, Revry's coverage of the 2020 Pride celebration drew more than 57 mil­lion viewers. Or anime service Crunchyroll, which has 4 million paid users and 100 million registered users? Or even smaller specialty services, like the family-friendly and aptly named aggregator Frndly TV, which has almost a half-million subscribers? You can watch representatives from Revry and Frndly TV, as well as Samsung, talk about the topic at go2sm.com/nomoreniche.

These aren't niche services, but rather premium content services organized around specific interests and demographics (really, isn't ESPN a niche service too?). And they are in many ways the future of OTT (or, as we like to call it, "television"). Disney+, Netflix, and the new Discovery/WarnerMedia behemoth might get all of the headlines, but they don't tell the whole story—and in many ways, they don't tell the most interesting stories. While Netflix and HBO Max, in particular, are doing a terrific job of delivering a wide and deep catalog of content that reflects the diversity of the human experience, it's the specialized services that really offer alternatives to the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

It's also crucial that we don't look at niche services as exclusionary. On paper, Frndly TV's audience might seem a million miles from Revry's, but as Revry's Alia Daniels pointed out during the panel, there are plenty of folks in "middle America" (Frndly TV's self-described target audience) who love watching RuPaul's Drag Race. 

It's time to ditch the "niche."

[This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Streaming Media Magazine]

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