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Streaming Media East '15: The Power of the Niche

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Over-the-top (OTT) content providers are finding out what many subscription-based content providers already knew: There is money to be made by serving people who are passionate about a particular niche. This was evident during the “How OTT is Disrupting the Pay TV Business” panel at Streaming Media East.

John Klein, founder and CEO of Tapp, said it best: “Gerneralism is the enemy.” Tapp TV was basically built on this motto. According to its website, “Tapp is building the most popular and profitable collection of niche television channels in the world, connecting super-fans to the personalities they can’t get enough of.” Those personalities include the likes of Sarah Palin and Steve Arterburn. Tapp users pay $10 a month, says Klein, “that’s more than Netflix costs because even though Netflix has ‘all that’ they don’t have ‘this’.”

“When the capability to understand [your audience] exists, then if you don’t you’re actually at a disadvantage,” according to Sterling Proffer, head of digital at Vice Media. This is a lesson we hear across the digital media spectrum—people want personalized content that interests them, and the OTT market is poised to really capitalize on that trend.

“Beyond anything else, consumers want choice,” says Chris Orr-Van Abbema, associate director of video at Bell Media. Users want the content they like on the screens they want for a reasonable price. “Content is king, and, from a customer point of view, choice is king.”

Panelists agreed that users—especially millennials—do not want to be “shoved into a bundle,” as Klein put it. But when you’re playing to the passionate few each niche is different, but “authenticity” seems to be at the heart of all great niche content. Whether you’re Vice, bringing a new kind of news coverage to a different audience, or Tapp, giving the world’s most passionate Sarah Palin fans unequaled access to the former governor of Alaska, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. As Proffer says, there are “three thresholds you have to consider when introducing barriers to content,” whether that’s a subscription page or a pre-roll ad:

  • Value
  • Patience
  • Trust

Alexander Kisch, EVP of business development & affairs at Vevo, says those three things also apply to ad-supported content.

But when moderator Rich Greenfield, media and tech analyst at BTIG, asked if cable companies were likely to start jumping on the OTT bandwagon by offering, say, the Sarah Palin channel to its subscribers, Bell Media’s Orr-Van Abbema was split. He understood why companies like Bell or Comcast would not want to give competitors like Netflix access to their distribution networks. Of course, the guys on the content creation side of the panel were happy to entertain the idea of putting their OTT channels on cable boxes across the country.

But it was Orr-Van Abbema who asked the question that is on many people’s minds: “Who will bundle the unbundled?” Will it be a cable company, or will be a company like Google or Apple?


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