VOD fundamentally changes the way content providers do business. The old lores of granting a licence to a broadcaster and letting them get on with it will not work in this brave new world. Essentially the content provider/broadcaster relationship was a B2B arrangement based on licences. Now the content provider will increasingly become a B2C operator; in a retail market rather than a licence market.
If you get to do a deal with iTunes it’s now not merely a question of granting a licence and letting them get on with it. iTunes is a shop front in the truest sense, there to display your wares to the public who might or might not be interested in buying it. Selling on to a potential viewer is as much in the content provider’s interest as it is iTunes.
So what can you do with the programmes you have and the deals you can do to maximise the interest (and revenue) from these deals?
Marketing is a potent force to get your programmes seen. VOD sites have a front page and more often as not a carousel. Get a clause in the contract promoting your programmes on there for at least some of the time and the sooner they go up the better (VOD as a boost for long tail distribution doesn’t seem to have been as successful as some would have wished). From personal experience I’ve seen some programmes that should never have succeeded spike in terms of audience numbers because they were featured on the front page of VOD sites.
Think in terms of how your audience will find your programmes. Search is an obvious way so get the metadata right but social media is now an essential part of finding material. Facebook is the second biggest driver of traffic to YouTube after Google and not only that but viewers watch programmes for longer if they have been recommended by a friend.
Make sure your programme is tagged correctly so that viewers can find your programmes when they search but don’t mislead them. Potential viewers can be fickle and misrepresenting your programmes will not endear them to you. Let VOD distributors allow their viewers to embed links to your programmes on social media sites and let Facebook users do your marketing for you.
Be imaginative about what you do, where revenue is based on how many times your programme is watched you are as much to blame as the VOD distributor if you don’t maximise the potential of your deals.
And this is where another look in the trusted handbook of shopkeeper’s golden rules helps. We are all aware of the concept of loss leaders – supermarkets selling milk and bananas for less than cost to draw the public in – well, similar steps can be taken with programming. With a long running title why not put some of the earlier programmes up for free and place your newer offering behind a pay-wall?
Content owners will need to make bold moves and radically overhaul their thinking to make VOD pay; but with very exciting and infinite possibilities.
Jack Harrison is director of Media Rights Consultancy, offering services covering new media strategy, rights management and auditing, business affairs, negotiations and acquisitions.