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The Key to Winning the Streaming Wars? Think Local, Act Global

In the last couple months, both AT&T and Verizon have given up their content businesses. Why? Because the traditional TV business model was built with a domestic attitude. It has always been a bit localized and tightly coupled with infrastructure, at a time when the media & entertainment industry needs to think and act with a global mindset to succeed.

Let’s explore the globalization of streaming TV and unpack the notion of thinking locally but acting globally.  What will it take to reach success at a time when streaming wars are at an all-time high, and the FAST (free, ad-supported, streaming TV) industry is booming?

What Does it Mean to Think Local but Act Global in Streaming?

Traditional TV, or linear TV, is by nature very localized. Linear TV programs are historically chosen for a targeted audience based on location, the leading demographic category considered by companies investing in sponsoring a program on their network. This has worked to meet viewership goals in the past, but the industry has changed and streaming services have disrupted this antiquated methodology. 

Since traditional TV strategies seem to be stagnantly tied to geography, it presents a unique advantage for streaming TV providers. Is streaming TV the new TikTok? It should be. The ability to watch anything, anytime, and anywhere has encouraged streaming services to think beyond viewers' regions. We saw globalization of content emerging as a trend during the pandemic. Viewers were hungry for new content, since production was at a standstill for most of 2020, and began to explore content outside of the recycled programs that traditional TV channels could offer.

For some, this meant turning to TikTok and other global social platforms to watch content produced by new-to-the-scene influencers, like Addison Rae. For others, this meant adding a new streaming TV subscription to the rotation—and smart providers took advantage of the trend, with big name platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Fire TV all releasing foreign-language projects on their platform as a way to broaden the scope of viewers through integrating content with various language subtitles.

What's the Key to Streaming Success?

Hub Entertainment Research's survey of 1,907 U.S. consumers found that the number of streaming platforms used increased by more than 50% (jumping from three to about five subscriptions) in 2020 from 2018.

With statistics like these, it’s no secret that the streaming TV market is booming. We can attribute some of the streaming service conversions that happened within the last year to the pandemic, but now that we are emerging out of our pandemic lifestyles, should streaming providers brace themselves for a plateau in subscribers or, even worse, a surge in subscription cancellations? 

It is likely that streaming service users will re-evaluate their paid streaming TV subscriptions. We’re already seeing it take effect. In the second half of 2020, streaming TV churn increased substantially. That additional 6-month HBO streaming subscription plan made sense during the worst months of lockdown, but could that money be better spent elsewhere—dining, fashion, travel—now that the world is opening back up? This is where the booming free, ad-supported streaming TV, or FAST, market comes into play.

FAST services offer viewers no-cost subscription models, access to content on various devices, and break down the barriers of entertainment viewing. By encouraging the distribution of independent content, they likewise encourage viewers to broaden their horizons beyond traditional, mainstream television. For instance, if a viewer is an avid golfer, instead of channel surfing and ultimately feeling forced to tune into ESPN through a local cable network to try to find coverage on the latest game, he could instead likely find a channel entirely dedicated to the game of golf—the ins and outs of the game, key player stats, and the latest coverage—on a FAST network. 

We are entering a new era of entertainment. Passionate watchers want to feel catered to—they do not want to mindlessly scroll through the same boring localized channel content that their cable TV networks can provide; they want to cut the cord, and then take it a step further. They want to watch content that meets their unique needs and interests; they want to expand their viewing horizons; they want to feel immersed, engrossed, and informed. Simply put, viewers want to make television watching an intentional act once again.

Streaming TV—and particularly FAST platforms—are not only aiding, but catapulting the globalization of content. To be a successful streaming service, one must curate global content that feels local, that caters to its specific audience demographics’ unique wants and interests. Think global, act local. Streaming TV is essentially serving as an amplifier—broadcasting localized, culturally rich stories to audiences worldwide. It may feel progressive, but it is a move long overdue.

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