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Can Niche Channels Survive on Roku and fuboTV?

As streaming services proliferate and add FAST tiers, how will more niche channels survive in the streaming ecosystem without being overwhelmed by more prominent content or removed due to a lack of adequate market performance?

Magnus Svensson, Media Solution Specialist, Eyevinn Technology, Sweden, asks Jonathon Barbato, Co-CEO, Best Ever Channels, “Do we see that channels are getting removed so we don't end up with 200, 300 channels? And the last 200, no one is really watching, and [they’re not] getting monetized? Will they stay on, or will we see a constant curation of the number of channels in the platforms?”

“Well, right now it's a little bit of natural selection,” Barbato says. “I mean, if you go to Roku, there are thousands of channels, but not thousands of channels watched. So the audience is governing that to some degree. But I also think, as things fill up, people are going to need to take something off to put something else on. And I think we're actually moving into that phase of the industry pretty quickly.”

Svensson wonders if this evolving industry phase puts diverse programming in peril. “Are we then risking losing the independent small niche channels that very few watch in competition with the large shows, the originals, the more costly shows?” he says.

Cameron Saless, Chief Business Officer, Trusted Media Brands, emphasizes that some parameters need to be set in order for more niche channels to continue viably existing in the marketplace. “There has to be a bar, right?” he says. “There needs to be a certain amount of programming on a channel. You need to program it a certain way. I think two or three years ago people were phoning it in and just throwing up whatever, just organizing it into a wheel and just putting up there.” He notes that Trusted Media Brands is taking a more structured approach to programming. “We have a dedicated team,” he says. “We program it like television. We have dayparting. We're really thoughtful about that. So there's got to be a bar on the other end of the spectrum. It comes back to discoverability. I think we want thousands of channels that people can access. If there's something that you're passionate about and you're interested in, you should be able to find a channel that has quality programming. And you know, I think if we can use that sort of programming bar as a forcing mechanism and then add discoverability to it, it's really going to benefit everybody.”

Svensson asks Marisa Elizondo, Vice President, Content Strategy & Acquisition, fuboTV, what their approach is regarding the balance between mainstream and nice offerings. “How do you balance this with the big sports and the big events, with the more niche sports and maybe a little bit less popular things?” he says.

“It’s a good question,” she says. “We are looking to have constant curation. The good thing is that fuboTV is a relatively young company, right? We're seven years old and so we don't fit within the boundaries of the traditional space. So we are free to experiment, and we have what we think is right. I’m pretty sure the founders of fuboTV would have never imagined in 2022 we would be launching as many FAST channels, and we would be as present in the FAST space as we are. That being said, we want to make sure that the new channels we've added to the platform have a chance to bake…that folks can find them and that we give them a shot.” She says that while fuboTV remains focused on mainstream sports and other offerings, “We want to give channels a shot, especially for newer brands or digital brands that may or not be as well-known as the HGTVs of the world, etc. So for us, it's a matter of launching them and then taking a risk to add them and maybe taking a risk to take down if at some point we feel like they're not pulling their weight from a viewership perspective.”

Learn more about niche OTT at Streaming Media West 2022.

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