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Feature: Are independent voices becoming lost in streaming TV shuffle?

Navdeep Saini, co-founder and CEO of DistroScale, parent company of DistroTV, looks at the Covid content collapse, where the streaming market is headed, and what it all means for content creators

About 15 years ago, the streaming industry started out with a handful of pioneering voices, like Netflix, each set out to disrupt the framework of linear broadcast and cable television. Since then, a myriad of newer subscription services have popped onto the screen. Many in the streaming TV industry are now wondering how many subscription services an average consumer will maintain, fearing we will soon reach a tipping point as subscriber churn climbs to an all-time high

While options are great, have we reached a truly diverse array of content and service offerings? Not quite yet. When CTV first emerged, it was a disruptive spirit set out to change the at-home entertainment industry. Has that spirit faded out? How can we recapture the magic, and ensure that all content creators – including independent voices – don’t become lost in the streaming TV shuffle?

Exploring the ‘Covid content collapse’ and where the streaming TV market is headed

The pandemic intensified the CTV market surge, but are we headed toward an inevitable collapse? Major platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ saw staggering subscription growth in the past year. With lockdown protocols sweeping far and wide, entertainment viewing provided a much needed sense of escapism to consumers globally. 

Now, though, as we continue to slowly increase vaccination rates and set our sights toward the post-pandemic era, will consumers re-evaluate their streaming services and cut some loose? Perhaps that free trial for HBO Max that made sense a few months ago no longer serves its purpose now that a quasi return to normal life and activities is resuming, and monthly payment fees are settling in. 

So, what does this mean for independent content creators?

The streaming TV industry has made leaps and bounds in terms of delivering diversified content across platforms to its burgeoning global audiences. However, for all the efforts different platforms have made to increase viewership and grow content, the industry cannot afford to lose independent creators in the shuffle.

The independent projects that made service providers like Netflix great are slowly being phased out by flashy, big-name media streaming services such Disney+ and other traditional media conglomerates that provide, and have the means, to draw in high-budget productions. What these projects lack, though, is the true authenticity and diversity that convinced viewers to cut the cord in the first place.

Independent content creators are in danger of getting lost amidst all the consolidation and program partnerships brokered. Enter FAST services, or in other words, free, ad-supported streaming TV services. According to a recent report, the average American viewer uses about seven different streaming services; and 79 per cent of those respondents said that they would rather use free, ad-supported streaming TV than subscribe to another paid service.

With subscription-based streaming services on gridlock, FAST services have, perhaps unintentionally, stumbled into a unique opportunity to help bring more independent voices back into the streaming TV fold. Smart FAST providers are looking to do what subscription-based services are not; and that is, truly cater to a diverse and global-minded audience by showcasing content that caters to viewers’ unique needs and interests.

Where do we go from here?

We embrace the proliferation of the FAST market, but we don’t stop there; we take it to new levels of ingenuity. Now is the time for FAST and paid streaming TV services to work together to diversify content in a way that can eventually replace traditional cable TV outright. Now is the time for all streaming TV providers to not just say that they are a platform that offers diversified content, but to actually do so. In this era, channel creation is much more accessible than it once was, which means independent content creators have a real chance to get their content out there.

Specifically in regards to FAST services, with recent improvements to streaming TV’s technological capabilities, there is ample opportunity to build new, linear streaming channels for independent content creators at a very low cost. And FAST services have not just the opportunity to stream that content, but to give that content the means to reach the masses. Streaming services would do well to take a close look at their audience demographics. Understand your audience reach, and why that might be. By taking the time to analyse and assess, streaming TV providers will have a better understanding of what content is resonating, and which independent creators to partner with in an effort to not only attract new viewers to the platform, but to ensure the diversification of content is delivering value to the creator, as well. 

Now is the time to be in the streaming TV business. To think with an innovation-led mindset, to get creative, to give voices to those who deserve to share their stories, to help people connect and offer something meaningful and magical with the content being shared across platforms. Now is the time for independent voices to shine.