There is nothing more alluring than a glimpse of a new piece of content on our feed. Stay-at-home orders have us binge-watching classics and scrolling through the familiar dashboards of Netflix & Hulu more than ever. The concept of “content is king” has never rung more true than it does today. In 1996, when online streaming was still in its infancy, Bill Gates penned his titular essay Content is King.  The then-nascent concept has become the key battleground on which the “streaming wars” will be decided. And now, as tens of billions of dollars are poured into its creation and acquisition, content is truly king – and one with a golden crown.

Of course, on its own, content as a service that cannot reach a relevant audience might as well be gold locked away in a vault. Among the 300+ OTT services available in 2019, 90 have fewer than 50,000 subscribers and 72 have fewer than 20,000. Even as networks invest in content that is ported into their OTT services, very few of these end up gaining significant traction. The primary reason is that aside from the breadth and quality of content, perhaps the most important element of an OTT’s success is its reach.

Netflix recently went dark with their advertising on Facebook properties, restarting their campaigns on April 24 after more than a month-long dark period (Source: FB Ads Library). They also do not have any active branded ads on Google search. Accounting for these facts in isolation, an argument can be made that because Netflix’s content and brand awareness are high, particularly in the US market, there is no need for an always-on marketing presence. Most marketers would assume that when Netflix moves out, other top brands like Hulu and Amazon would move in. However, Netflix was able to implement this test with little dampening in its overall momentum. The key factor is that Netflix has an unrivaled organic presence and owned media strategy and that can sustain its reach even without a paid presence.

Netflix’s organic reach in owned media is unrivaled in the OTT space, with over 65 million Facebook likes and 22 million Instagram followers. For comparison, Hulu has a mere 3.2 million Facebook likes and 673,500 Instagram followers. Even with its massive organic reach, Netflix still reactivated its Facebook ads on April 24th. 

The SEO for Netflix’s site is optimized to the degree that they outrank Amazon and Hulu – even on shows that they share like Community. This test of removing paid brand search campaigns was seemingly successful for their brand.  But before they were able to implement it, presumably there had to be two key pillars in place:
An advanced SEO solution to ensure their brand was protected

  1. An advanced SEO solution to ensure their brand was protected
  2. Strong attribution solution to measure the impact

There is always going to be surface-level overlap between the organic reach and paid reach of any brand, with OTTs as no exception. However, that overlap should not discount the massive unique reach that advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram can offer, or the tactical brand protection Google search has available. As intermittent stay-at-home orders are expected to extend well into the summer months, OTTs, in particular, must take a surgical approach to their media mix to capture these audiences who are spending more time at home and in front of a screen. 

Five strategies OTTs should test to maximize that reach:

  1. Run display ads programmatically on websites that have articles or sponsored content you are featured in.
  2. Launch non-brand campaigns that target entire genres of shows rather than limiting them to shows that are on your platform
  3. Test optimizing campaigns on different attribution windows, default windows do not always paint the full picture of the mid and long-term impact of your campaigns.
  4. Experiment with paid social platforms outside the Facebook & Instagram sphere. Three in ten adults do not use Facebook and up to 30% of users on platforms like Snapchat and TikTok do not use Facebook.
  5. Explore campaigns targeting outside your core age demo. Viewership habits have shifted, and digital impressions are at their cheapest, there is no better time to run trial campaigns targeting users that fall outside your core consumer.

The golden content of streaming services cannot be accessed if consumers do not know where it lives. So, while content remains king in the streaming wars, reach takes the 2nd place silver. 

— Khari Motayne, Digital Media Supervisor at Direct Agents

If you have any questions – or would like to learn more, please reach out to [email protected]