Streaming Video Subscription Services Struggle with Content

As HBO and CBS introduce their own streaming video subscription services, they may face a variety of content-related challenges, according to panelists at Variety’s Entertainment & Technology Summit on Tuesday. Companies will need a large catalog of titles if they want to compete with services such as Netflix. Then the content has to be marketed and distributed on a variety of platforms. The panel talked about how hard it is for a subscription service to compete for viewers’ attention today.

videostream“If you’re going the aggregation route, you have to really double down, triple down — have as much television and content as Netflix has,” said Erin McPherson, chief content officer at Maker Studios. “Or if you’re going the brand-specific, niche route, is your content strong enough? You can’t live in the middle. In the middle, you die.”

Redbox Instant by Verizon shut down earlier this month as Netflix and Hulu, and to some extent, Amazon Prime, continue to dominate the online streaming business.

“For us, with VOD, when I see these new services and what they’re pricing them at, does that mean people are taking money away from purchasing a film on a Friday or Saturday night?” asked Jason Janego, president of Radius-TWC. “Is the pie even larger now, or is it staying the same and we’re just dividing it differently?” Radius-TWC is a boutique video on-demand service and theatrical distribution label owned by the Weinstein Company.

“I don’t think the demand has quite caught up to the supply yet,” commented Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos.

Maker Studios and Fullscreen do not make money from subscriptions, but rather from advertising revenue. They experience similar challenges to video subscription services because they have a lot of content, but it’s not always getting to the right audience.

The panelists agreed that actively marketing their content is a must, according to Variety. People do not even know some of this content exists. Strompolos suggested building new marketing plans that do not completely rely on the talent to promote the content. Hulu’s head of distribution, Tim Connolly, recommends making the streaming services available on as many platforms as possible.