The latest contestant to enter the streaming arena is mobile video streaming service NewTV, the brainchild of ex-Walt Disney Studios’ Jeffrey Katzenberg and ex-Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.
Do we really need another video streaming service, I hear you cry? Hollywood certainly thinks so. NewTV has just completed a $1bn funding round and backers include Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom, WarnerMedia, Lionsgate, MGM, ITV and Entertainment One.
The premise of the company, temporarily called "NewTV" (but should probably be called "Notflix"), is to produce video series that consist of 15-minute episodes, with users given the options to go ad-free or ad-light.
So to address the burning question – will we all soon be bingeing on NewTV?
This isn’t media’s first venture into mobile video content. Go90 – the OTT video service owned by Verizon – is the most recent casualty in this space after it struggled to gain traction with consumers. The problems with the Go90 proposition were numerous; it lacked scale, it didn’t have a strong consumer brand, its marketing didn’t resonate and its content wasn’t appealing to its target audience.
Although a long list, these are all issues that can be overcome with the right approach, and it’s possible that NewTV could really crack the market.
The key to success for NewTV will be in understanding behaviour in order to pinpoint what audiences actually want, both in terms of content and in terms of the mobile environment specifically. This will enable the service to produce a high quality user experience and content that resonates with consumers, which will be paramount.
Content-wise, the decision to produce 15-minute episodes is an interesting one. Shorter-form, high quality content, made specifically for consumption on mobile, is not something that has been a focus for the streaming market so far. In fact, platforms such as Instagram have been moving away from short form, something we can see with the introduction of IGTV as a feature, designed to enable long-form content to be easily accessible on mobile.
However it is clearly on the minds of competitors. Netflix and Amazon are both experimenting with shorter-form content, with Netflix’s 15-minute comedy shorts and documentaries and Amazon’s digital shorts, suggesting there is definitely an opportunity to be exploited here.
With younger audiences feeling social pressure to keep up with conversations about increasing numbers of series, offering shorter-form content is a smart way to allow users to keep up and avoid the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).
To build a successful series, NewTV will need to work with producers who understand storytelling in a shorter context. Offering snackable content that has been developed specifically for the mobile environment is important, but producing content that captures the imagination and engages the target market is going to be the main driver of success.
Even if it can get this right, however, a major challenge for NewTV will be the commercial model, both in terms of consumers and advertisers. In an already crowded market where people are paying for multiple subscriptions to other OTT providers and service providers, the price point is going to be make or break. It has to be able to justify the subscription to enough consumers that NewTV will achieve the scale to pay for the content.
From an advertising point of view, brands are increasingly making mobile-specific creative and doing so for this type of format will be vital. Cutting down a TV ad to fit within short-form content just isn’t an option when you’re up alongside artfully curated short-form mobile content.
Finally, getting partners such as ITV, Disney and Fox to cross-sell the platform on their own channels will be key to growth. The spanner in the works here is that a large number of parties involved in the venture are currently locked in fierce competition, not working with each other. It remains to be seen whether NewTV will receive the stakeholder support it needs.
In the grand scheme of things, and as mobile streaming services go, NewTV has a pretty good chance of success. As long as it does its behavioural homework and inspires a truce between its backers, we could be "NewTV and chilling" in no time.
Liz Duff is head of media and investment behavioural planning agency Total Media