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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The January 6 hearings highlight a significant growth opportunity for streamers

July 14, 2022 | By Christy Tanner, Founder – Coraly Partners and Senior Advisor Oaklins DeSilva & Phillips @christytanner

The January 6 hearings demonstrate a significant opportunity for streaming services – SVOD, AVOD, FAST – to provide public service and to engage new and existing audiences. Most people can’t take two hours in the middle of the day to watch the hearings in full. But they can time shift, binge, or play the hearings at 2x speed on connected devices. And in my experience (which includes running CBS News Digital and CBSN for more than five years) they will. This is: they will if video is available and easy to find. 

In fact, at this point in the streaming evolution, it should be easy for viewers to find most major breaking news events live and on demand within each of the major streamers. Unfortunately, it is not easy enough. And, in some cases, it’s nonexistent.

The reality

Most of the major streamers either operate news divisions or incorporate numerous news streams into their products. Based on the numbers and the research, it’s well known in the streaming industry that live, breaking news is both in demand and an expectation among viewers. In addition, there are no significant technology or distribution issues blocking these companies from streaming live, breaking news coverage.

So, it’s a major miss for the streamers that, when there is a major, scheduled news event in which it’s in the public interest to provide access, they continue to make it hard to find news within their services. It seems that most choose to continue to heavily promote tentpole entertainment properties – even in the middle of the day – rather than promoting scheduled news events that their properties already are covering.

The January 6 hearings have been among the most riveting live news events in recent memory.  The testimonies of Georgia election official Shaye Moss, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, and former Oath Keeper Jason Van Tatenhove were dramatic, compelling, and newsworthy. Yet the major streamers are generally opting out of the opportunity to serve their viewers by making the hearings accessible live and on demand.

The opportunity

The good news is that it’s not too late to fix this. Here’s how streaming services can make it easy to watch critical scheduled news, such as the January 6 hearings, using four simple, inexpensive tactics:

  1. Use front door promotional “marquees” to drive in real time to the live hearings and to communicate the upcoming schedule.
  2. Showcase on demand video of the full hearings prominently within said marquees and other promotional space. 
  3. Re-run the hearings on streaming news services and in VOD sections after hours and on weekends.
  4. Use their vast promotional and marketing capabilities including emails, mobile notifications, social, promotional trailers, etc. to put this coverage front and center.\

Audiences are intelligent, curious, and interested in making up their own minds. They want facts and are hungry for knowledge, not just opinion. Offering them the opportunity to easily consume these kinds of news events more easily provides a satisfying solution.

Delivery and growth

Every time CBS News streamed a major live news event, it increased our viewership base. When we made the full video of major news events available on demand, our viewers watched in large numbers. We created loyalty by delivering service and meeting viewers’ expectations for trusted news coverage. 

Simply by focusing on, and delivering solutions for these needs and expectations, our CBS News team grew the live streaming news service to more than 1 billion views in both 2020 and 2021. As the digital audience grew, we saw no evidence of cannibalization of the linear audience. In fact, we saw brand loyalty strengthened in multiple research studies conducted during a period of six years, starting in 2015.

Major streamers can do the same by showcasing news when viewers expect it, such as during major live breaking events such as the January 6 hearings. Considering the investment that these organizations are making in their content and delivery optimization, it is an oversight in terms of serving consumers’ information needs. In an increasingly competitive streaming environment, streamers who take the opportunity to engage and grow audiences interested in breaking news will experience a payoff in long-term loyalty.

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