What’s Next for Netflix?

What’s Next for Netflix?

Connected TV

Remember when Meta shocked the world by announcing a historic drop in its stock price? Well, Meta has some company now that Netflix realized a massive drop in its own market capitalization after announcing that the streaming service had lost subscribers for the first time in 10 years. The news shook investors, but it also inspired speculation about new directions for Netflix – notably the likely introduction of advertising, a move that Netflix has resisted for years. But times have changed, and now Netflix must adapt or die. Here’s what I think will happen next:

  • Advertising will happen sooner than you think. Netflix said it will take a few years to integrate ads into the platform. But I’m thinking it will take months. The company has endured two consecutive disastrous quarters and forecast another bad one on the way. Netflix is under too much pressure to wait two years. Plus, its audience is receptive: two-thirds of connected TV viewers in the U.S. prefer to see ads if they can pay less for the service, according to a recent survey conducted by DeepIntent and LG Ads Solutions. On top of that, Netflix is already set up to create an ad business. The company is sitting on top of deep first-party data. All Netflix needs to do is partner with an ad tech platform to get an ad business up and running. (The Trade Desk has been circulated as a likely partner.) And watching content on streaming is a pretty straightforward experience: it’s easy to drop in ad spots before or after shows, and during them, just like linear TV. And connected TV offers even more options such as ads appearing alongside the search bar or in the screen menu. Knowing Netflix’s aversion to advertising, I suspect the company will avoid interruptive ads even for a lower-price tier.
  • Ads will get creative. Sure, we’ll see plenty of traditional commercial spots like you see on Hulu. But Netflix has been quietly building a merchandising operation over the past few years. The company recently launched its own digital commerce site to sell clothing tied into its popular shows. Netflix will likely create merchandise licensing deals to feature products from other businesses in its shows, such as Stranger Things. So far, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been reluctant to go down this route. But all bets are off now.
  • Netflix will get sold. I don’t think advertising will be a savior for Netflix. True, there is a receptive audience, but is there enough to sustain Netflix’s future? I predict that Netflix will be sold to Apple. Apple launched its own streaming service, Apple TV+, in 2019, and the company is hungry to grow. Apple has deep pockets and is eager to achieve brand cachet, which it lacks right now. But Netflix has plenty of brand cachet. I could see Apple buying Netflix but allowing the company to keep its own name. The most expensive part of owning a streaming service is creating contentNetflix gives Apple TV+ a way to accelerate content development.

What Brands Should Do

The Netflix news is a wake-up call for advertisers to embrace connected TV. The only reason Netflix has a future is because connected TV (CTV) has evolved far enough to allow for ads in the first place. Oh, and guess what? Executives at competitors such as Disney+ are doing exactly what Netflix is doing. Hulu, for one, already figured out how to crack the code with CTV ads.

According to Forbes, a recent study from the Leichtman Research Group estimates that 80 percent of TV homes in the U.S. have at least one connected TV device. That number represents a steady increase from the 57 percent logged in 2015, and 24 percent in 2010.

Predictably, CTV use soared during the pandemic: Forbes also cites a Nielson report, which notes that CTV viewing exploded from 2.7 billion hours during the pre-pandemic week of March 2, to 3.9 billion hours during the weeks of March 23, March 30, and April 6. Even during the week of May 4, when stay-at-home laws eased in some states, CTV viewing remained above pre-pandemic levels at 3.5 billion hours.

These stats are good news for advertisers embracing CTV. So is the fact that CTV allows brands to reach out to specific audiences. As Forbes notes, “CTV’s targeting capabilities are the ‘holy grail’ for advertisers.” Many CTV companies use ACR, or Automated Content Recognition, which collects data that can inform programming recommendations for users and better target ads to niche groups. Although audiences in the era of connected TV may not be as huge as the linear TV days, CTV helps brands better understand and reach their niche market effectively.

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The Roku Deal with Google: Advertiser Q&A

The Roku Deal with Google: Advertiser Q&A

Connected TV

The fight is over – for now. Connected TV provider Roku has reached a multiyear agreement with Google to keep YouTube and YouTube TV on its streaming platform. Thus ends a months-long standoff between Roku and Google that had resulted in Roku users losing access to YouTube TV (Google’s livestreaming service) and most likely the YouTube app. The deal will allow the 56.4 million active Roku accounts to continue to watch YouTube and YouTube TV without disruption. So, what does all this mean to advertisers? Let’s answer some questions:

Why does Roku matter to advertisers in the first place?

Roku matters because it’s a gateway to over-the-top (OTT) television viewing, which is gaining in popularity. OTT television refers to watching TV content that is streamed directly through the Internet – such as subscribing to a streaming service or streaming content from apps like YouTube on TV.

Approximately 2.3 billion people worldwide watch OTT content, and the number are growing. The OTT market will grow to $1.039 trillion by 2027, according to Allied Market Research. Of all the revenue made in the OTT market, 52 percent comes from advertising video-on-demand (AVOD). In short, advertisers are following the eyeballs.

You don’t need cable to watch OTT — but you do need a device like Roku.

Roku competes with devices such as Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV to offer audiences access to OTT. These devices collectively are known as connected TV. Roku is the most popular device, with a 37 percent share of TV viewing time in North America.

These devices control access to content on OTT. They need to support apps and streaming services in order for a viewer to get access to OTT. In short, connected TV devices wield considerable power. And Roku is especially popular because it sells smart televisions with built-in streaming technology along with devices that users can plug into TVs.

Roku makes most of its money selling ads on streaming channels and taking a share of the streaming services’ subscription revenue and ad inventory. In addition, Roku offers OneView, an ad-buying platform for TV streaming.

What was the problem between Roku and Google?

Roku had removed YouTube TV from its channel store in April as part of a dispute with Google over how search results were displayed on Roku’s platform. As a result, viewers could still watch the Google app, but access to the app was about to expire when Roku and Google reached a deal.

Roku alleged that Google interfered with Roku’s independent search results, requiring that it favor YouTube over other content providers. The company also claimed that Google discriminated against Roku by requiring search, voice, and data features not required of other connected TV devices.

As a result of Roku removing YouTube TV, an owner of a Roku device could not stream YouTube TV via OTT. The YouTube TV app allows subscribers to watch live TV channels online for a monthly fee. YouTube TV offers live streams of nearly 100 popular channels, including ESPN, CBS, Fox News, and CNN.

And, Google lost access to those viewers for its ad-supported YouTube TV service.

Why did Google and Roku reach an agreement?

Google was under pressure to reach a deal. Google would have lost out on millions of dollars in ad revenue in addition to the YouTube TV revenue that would have come from Roku. But Roku had motivation to reach an agreement, too. Competitors such as Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV carry YouTube. Roku could have lost customers to those competitors.

What were the terms of the deal?

Terms were not disclosed. We don’t know what concessions both sides made to restore access to YouTube TV for Roku viewers. Likely Google eased up on some behaviors that Roku deemed anticompetitive, but it’s hard to say exactly what might have happened.

What should advertisers do?

The news underscores why it is important for advertisers to understand the constantly evolving OTT and connected TV landscape. Connected TV makers are rolling out more ad units that increase revenue (for the connected TV devices) and reach (for advertisers). For example, Amazon is expanding advertising opportunities on Amazon Fire TV, which competes with devices such as Apple TV and Roku to stream content on connected TVs for millions of viewers. Amazon Fire TV is more than a connected TV provider. It’s a way for advertisers to reach people as they browse and discover new entertainment. One new ad unit, Sponsored Content Rows, is designed for businesses to promote content such as new shows and movies in the form of a row (or carousel) of sponsored content while people browse for shows on their connected TVs (akin to sponsored search results in a Google search engine results page).

Watch, learn, and capitalize on connected TV and OTT ad opportunities.

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For More Insight

Advertiser Q&A: Connected TV,” Tim Colucci