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How to Transition from Pay TV to Streaming

What are some of the challenges of transitioning from broadcast to FAST (free, ad-supported streaming TV) and launching and growing streaming services? Jonathan Hurd, Partner, Altman Solon, kicks off the discussion by asking Christina Chung, VP Business Operations, Estrella Media, “What are some of the challenges that you've run into, and what are some of the ways that you've helped companies through that challenge from pay TV to streaming?”

Chung says that Estrella Media’s digital business is still quite new. Its ability to transition from broadcast to digital was helped by having a recognizable brand that already resonated with a specific audience. “How we did that was going through FAST channels, being available on all these different platforms, getting our brands into households, having consumers recognize who we are and the content that we provide,” she says. “We have unique content that's very much Hispanic-focused, and what we try to do is make sure that it's very culturally relevant for our audiences.”

“But it’s taken time to do this?” Hurd says.

“It certainly has,” Chung says. She outlines the ways they have steadily unrolled their digital presence and engagement. After building a presence on FAST channels, she says, “The year after that was working on our Estrella TV app, which we're always constantly trying to improve. And because of our app, what we're hoping to do in the future is really get more engagement with our audiences.” She emphasizes that Estrella is now focused on solidifying their fandom in their demographic sphere by creating a “whole viewership experience, not just content,” she says. “For us, that's important, and that's what is probably going to be the next play for 2023.”

Hurd then turns to B.J. Elias, Executive Vice President, FOX Corporation, for his insights. “You've got traditional, you've also got Tubi…tell us about what's happening there,” he says.

Elias notes that Fox has taken a more measured approach to streaming than some competitors. “You have not seen us out with a very wide broad-based subscription service,” he says. “And we are very happy with that. You don't hear us on our earnings call talking about the billions of dollars of losses that are being piled into streaming services. We're very committed to the pay-TV ecosystem, but we're making smart investments in the streaming space. So while we don't have a Disney+ or a Peacock that are losing billions of dollars, we have made smart investments in the Advertising-Based Video on Demand (AVOD) space. Tubi has been a phenomenal service for us. I think we just announced that it grew over 50% year-over-year in terms of total viewing time. That's tremendous growth. And then on the subscription side, we have the Fox Nation streaming service, which is a subscription service focused on the Fox News audience. So I think we've made smart measured bets in the streaming space, and that has been paying off for us.”

Hurd asks Chris Drake, SVP, Revenue, Quickplay, about his company’s experiences.

Drake emphasizes the importance of a highly data-driven approach for successful streaming enterprises. “You can't really underscore how significant the shift in the transition has been from this 50-year-old pay TV model to a near-overnight transition not just to online, but [to] the recognition of how diverse audiences and consumers are and what the demands are to remain competitive,” he says. He notes that while having good user data is essential, knowing how to harness that data best is key. “The big data challenge isn't so much that you don't have data, it's that it's too big, and it's in these silos and distributed formats and structures that can't really be captured and referenced in real-time,” he says. “And so a big part of what we are doing is…really bringing a data-centric approach and normalizing data structures, cross-referencing driving insights, providing the data to influence the decisions that you're making in real-time about your business. And so I think it's forcing a lot of media companies to start thinking about retraining some new muscles as well.”

Drake says that a “hits-oriented” content approach is now less viable because what will be popular is becoming increasingly relative to specific audiences in a diverse viewing population. “Our focus is really how do we bring real-time insights and data that influences and provides the blueprint of what you need to do as a media company and an organization around content, around experience, around business models and thinking of creatively about those models,” he says. “Not just the creative process about the content, but really the creative process about what it means to provide a digital service for today's consumers.”

Learn more about transitioning from pay TV to streaming at Streaming Media East 2023.

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