Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCU struggle to balance the value of cable and streaming

American Sunisa Lee (gold) celebrates son the podium during the award ceremony of artistic gymnastics women is all-rounder final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Center in Tokyo on July 29, 2021.

Lionel Bionaventure | AFP | .

Self last year the largest company media challenge was launching streaming services in subscription, this year the unifying dilemma is understanding out what to put on they.

The tension between how balance video in streaming, theatrical release and linear TV is leading to some peculiar choices destined to confuse consumers in what is becoming an increasingly confused landscape.

“The challenge Everyone of these companies are fighting – the central question – is what? content goes where, who decides, and why? ”said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst at LightShed Partner.

Programming decisions eventually it reforms how the public consumes media. So far, most media companies have marketed video streaming as a complement to traditional pay television. That’s why so many of the products are called with the suffix “plus” – Disney +, Paramount + by ViacomCBS, Discovery +, etc.

In the long run run, his possible each streaming platform will become the home for Everyone of a media business planning. The “benefits” will essentially be cut off. ESPN + May just be ESPN, with everything ESPN has to offer.

But the world there is not yet. And the results they are more and more confused for consumers like new programming is made in particular for streaming services and the best of linear TV still doesn’t show up on streaming.

The maze in streaming

For scripted television series, media executives have in most of made the decision that the streaming services will be i home for the highest quality original programming. Disney, AT & T’s WarnerMedia, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS are all trying to convince Wall Street that they can grow further. traditional TV via cable. They are using new hit shows, including “The Mandalorian”, “Mare of Easttown “and” Yellowstone “, as bait to entice subscribers. The results they varied from service to service, but all of Mayor new products in subscription are growing by millions of customers each quarter.

For movies, there is a film-by-film disagreement between the different services. Disney put Pixar on movies “Anima” and “Luca” directly on Disney + for no additional costs upon release. For “Jungle Cruise”, “Black Widow” and “Raya and the Last Dragon”, the company decided to make users spend $ 30 in more for streaming movies before finally setting them free with a subscription. NBCUniversal placed “The Boss Baby: Family Business” on its paid level of “Peacock” but only “F9” released in theaters. WarnerMedia has decided to place his whole list of Films of 2021 directly on HBO Max but wonnon do it for blockbuster movies in 2022.

For news And sports, more media companies have kept the maximum valuable programming exclusively on traditional TV via cable. Programming in prime time most view on CNN, MSNBC and ESPN are still stuck inside the cable bundle. This allowed the executives to push against the steady but not yet overwhelming wave of cancellations of pay-TV, keeping in life a highly profitable business business which leads in billions of dollars each year.

Overload of choice

NBCUniversal is browsing the challenge of distribution valuable programming in what the Olympic Games broadcast. Executives can choose to air live and pre-recorded events on NBC broadcast channel, networks via NBC cable, NBC authenticated apps for cable subscribers, NBC is free apps, Peacock free tier and Peacock paid tier.

The variety of choices led to complicated ecosystem because NBCUniversal is trying to achieve multiple goals at the same time. The company wants to push Peacock subscriptions, placate pay-TV distributors who I have been in agreement for many years of commission increases because they were receiving unique content, and keep expensive TV advertising rates by attaching commercials in exclusive live programming.

“This is the innovator’s dilemma in action, “he said one veteran broadcast television executive. “You know linear TV world it’s collapsing, but you’re trying to stay on the Titanic for until possible. At the same time, you are setting up up the lifeboats, which are digital And in streaming “.

Making the numbers work

Disney is staring down an important business dilemma how soon how next year with “Monday night football”. The company secured the rights to stream the perpetually most viewed cable series on ESPN + in his new TV Rights Agreement with the National Football League in March. But Disney and ESPN have not said anything about when it will actually include “Monday Night Football”. on ESPN +.

ESPN is by far the most expensive network on TV via cable. He earned this distinction by being the only one way Americans can watch “Monday Night Football” and other popular sports events. If Disney starts moving previously exclusive programming from ESPN to ESPN +, pay-TV distributors will push back on future rate increases and millions of consumers will receive another reason to clear the TV via cable.

The math makes this calculation complicated. Starting August 13, Disney will charge $ 6.99 per month for ESPN + after a recent price increase. But Disney does more of $ 9 per month per cable subscriber for ESPN, according to Kagan, the media research division at S&P Global, in pay-TV distribution fees. When in bundle with the other ESPN networks, Disney Channel and ABC, Disney does more of $ 16 per month.

In other words, for every customer who cancels the cable, Disney loses more of $ 16 per month. He will do it need to start in load more for its streaming products in break even, and that doesn’t even count the loss in associated advertising with its linear programming, which belittles digital video ad revenue.

“Nobody is ready to pull the plug from the linear ecosystem, because it brings in much cash”Greenfield said.” So they are all in equilibrium how manage the inheritance assets with future free investments cash negative flow a show Wall Street they are trying. They are all walking on the tightrope. “

News programming decisions

NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia announced this month they will hire hundreds of new beef addicts up their streaming news Services.

Instead of simply by duplicating MSNBC, CNBC and CNN programming on “Peacock” and “HBO Max”, the media companies are taking a different path strategy. CNN is building a subscription news service, CNN +. head of CNN digital said Officer Andrew Morse he plans assume 450 people develop and market new series and news. Cesar Conde., President of the NBCUniversal news group announced plans hire nearly 200 new employees in all his news brands, the majority of What will be support NBC news now, the company’s flagship streaming network.

The decision to create a separate schedule for streaming – some of which can duplicate the content of what’s up? already being broadcast on Linear TV – can be viewed in different ways.

Skeptically, it could be seen as a waste of resources, filled with redundancies, as a “moment in time” decision to maintain exclusivity in the cable bundle that may no longer exist in two or three years.

But NBC News executives say the investment recognizes that the public in streaming is not the same as linear viewers. That should lead to programming decisions that it recognizes digital viewers tend to be younger and more diversified.

“We always think about how to optimize our journalism for every distribution platform, “said Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News. “How do we involve them? new public? Sometimes the answers lead to different faces on screen, different approaches to storytelling, a different goal on the world. “

It is not clear if there is actually an audience for a whole in streaming news network – especially one which requires consumers to pay a monthly subscription fee, such as CNN +, which debuts in 2022. The notion of programming for a younger audience is suspicious, like a video news broadcast, in streaming or on traditional TV, those under the age of 25 may simply not like it. The decision invest more in streaming news I could lead to a gradual decline in invest in broadcast or cable productions if total revenue is shrinking.

Chris Berend, Chief Digital Officer of NBC News, said he is confident in further investments in NBC News Now will pay off off because he can already see the growth in the time spent on on the existing product, which launched in 2019. NBC News is now free for consumers, supported by advertising.

“We are incredibly excited about the millions of hours public spend with NBC News NOW e how that continues to grow as we continue to invest, “Berend said.” That time spent, that includes more one hour per visit on some platforms [like YouTube], it’s a clear indicator that we are satisfying our audience on many platforms, each with their own demographic nuances “.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent society of CNBC.

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