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Video: How Acorn TV Grew Subscriptions Across Platforms

Titus Bicknell of RLJ Entertainment offers a new twist on the long-tail business model called the long-body, which more aggressively looks for revenue for niche content in an increasing number of market segments, which lessens the burden on long-tail marketing's traditional single point of failure. Bicknell describes the path to revenue growth he pursued with Acorn TV, a British television brand aggressively marketed in North America since his arrival at the company in 2014. 

Titus Bicknell: Acorn TV started in 2011, essentially as an exploitation of what we are all familiar with as a long-tail economic model. We bring licenses into the United States, and the first windows for those licenses are a broadcast window, DVD, and Blu-ray (which still actually remain quite a viable and important avenue stream). The notion then for what you did in digital was [to identify] a little bit more you could encounter with this property.

A large part of the challenge with a long-tail model is, if the platform costs and the technology involved in getting to your audience is complex, and fractured as a market, you end up having to spend a lot of money. If you want to be on Roku, and Fire TV, and Apple TV, as well as the web and as well as tablets both iOS and Android, you end up spending an awful lot of money to be in all of those places, to hopefully aggregate little pockets of audience all over those platforms and hope that you're aggregating something meaningful. That's the big question.

I think what's fascinating is that since its launch 2011, how Acorn TV has grown. By 2014, we were at 35,000 subs. By 12/31/2015, so we were at 190,000. As of the end of the first quarter of 2016, we were at 250,000. The scale of rate of increase is really interesting and rapid once you've got past that initial slow phase. I think the trick there—the point at which you, as a business, stop thinking about it as a long tail, and start thinking about it as what I would call long body—you're not relying on one particular window to give you the lion's share of your revenue. You're recognizing the potential of all of those windows with the same value of opportunity.

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