Good, Fast, Cheap

It’s a classic adage in business:  “Good, fast, cheap – pick two.”

If you want something fast and good, it won’t be cheap.

If you want something fast and cheap, quality will suffer.

And if you want something cheap and good, it will take longer.

While this adage holds true for most things, it doesn’t apply to the world of streaming media today.

Thanks to the FAST (free ad supported television) revolution, it is possible to get quality programming quickly for no cost.

Tubi, Plex, Pluto. Samsung, Roku and Local Now (the product owned by the company I work for) are among the top aggregators of free television today.  Each offers a wide variety of movies, entertainment, and news programming.  Local Now offers all those things plus the widest selection of free local news channels.  Shameless plug – You can check it out here

FAST platforms are a boon to consumers and a nightmare for traditional cable and MVPDs because they allow viewers to largely recreate the traditional television experience without the cost.  True, you won’t see top tier sports, first run television series or last year’s top movies.  But the quality of available programming has dramatically improved recently.  And it’s only going to get better.

WB Discovery, Disney, and Netflix are making plans to release portions of their content libraries on FAST platforms.  The folly of putting all their content in their own wall gardens is being exposed as these companies confront the harsh financial realities of the streaming business.  The way to maximize profitability in the content business remains the time-tested windowing strategy which gives studios the opportunity to get paid multiple times for the same product. Also, making select content available for free is great top of the funnel marketing for their respective SVOD services.

Take Netflix.  Eventually it will license the first season of “Stranger Things” to the different FAST providers.  In addition to generating incremental ad revenue, it will provide a great promotional opportunity to attract new or churned customers.

As great as the FAST revolution is for consumers, it presents a distinct set of challenges for media companies.  As I’ve written about previously, discovery is very challenging when there are so many options.  The various FAST aggregators have different strategies for sorting and presenting available content, which only makes it that much more complicated. 

The key to success for studios remains the same today as it has been for the past century – make great content.  The best shows and movies win.  But, unlike in the past, great content can no longer on its own overcome lackadaisical or inept marketing.

The major media companies are learning this lesson, sometimes painfully, with their respective SVOD services.  You can’t have a successful paid streaming service without great marketing and a world class user experience.  Much of the pivot in strategy we are seeing from the major studios is based on their learnings in these areas.

My prediction is there will be a similar, and likely painful, learning experience for these companies as their content migrates to the FAST platforms.  No content provider has mastered content discovery yet in this realm.  Some will be tempted to believe that their content is so good and beloved that people will seek it out without much prompting from a marketing campaign.  And while this may prove true in certain cases, studios that allow their arrogance to guide their decision making in this area will be disappointed more than they expect.

The era of “build it and they will come” content is now most decidedly a thing of the past.  For better or worse consumers are in the driver’s seat.  By making “good, fast and cheap” a reality we’ve trained them to expect nothing less.  Media companies that ignore this reality, or worse futilely attempt to turn back the clock to an era where they could ignore consumer preferences, do so at their peril.

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