The Amazing Streaming Balancing Act
by Cat Hausler
6 Min Read
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Cultural moments, challenges and FOMO abound as Netflix’s Chris Rock live special raised eyebrows with viewers and brands for more than one reason.
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Last week marked Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, which was Netflix’s first-ever live event, with an entire evening of live entertainment served before and after the show. Viewers were able to rewind, pause and jump to Rock’s current set—and latecomers had an option to play from the beginning or start watching live. Those who missed out completely could stream the set immediately following the live event, however not the pre- and post-show content—a unique proposition for a channel that was popularized for being on-demand. “It’s here and gone, just like live comedy should be,” comedian Ronny Chieng said of Rock’s special, who hosted the pre-show, featuring guests like Paul McCartney and Jerry Seinfield. This left some viewers a bit confused—after all, isn’t Netflix the company that pioneered on-demand television, so why are they reliving the days of appointment television? Is this a step back, or step forward in the right direction for Connected TV?
The move from Netflix is a smart one given that streaming services are now a dime a dozen, overwhelming viewers with choice. What better way to get viewers talking and stir up some good old fashioned FOMO than this? Robbie Praw, Netflix’s Vice President of Stand Up and Comedy told the Wall Street Journal that watching a comedy special “live on Netflix is a real change in the construct.”
This brings up two questions: Will this lead to more streaming networks picking up live events in the future, and secondly, is streaming adept to take on live programming—especially if it’s on demand? On one hand, this step might be a good opportunity to experiment with viewers who have benefited from having content at their fingertips on their terms, and gauge their interest in a return to appointment-viewing. Early results appear promising, as the live event ranked 7th in the Netflix top ten for the week of February 27th through March 5th.
On the other hand, networks shouldn’t forget the lessons they have learned by building an on-demand service. They still need to produce enough endemic advertising to create an audience in advance so that it becomes appointment viewing—which wasn’t the case with Rock’s special.
“It’s a free publicity move that’s going to have no impact on their business,” said Michael Pachter, Managing Director of Equity Research at Wedbush Securities, who commented to Yahoo! Finance about the live show ahead of its release. And it certainly achieved publicity in the hours and days following, both the press (and public) alike wanted to know how/if Will Smith reacted to it, and whether this marks the start of a new format beyond Netflix’s usual a la carte offering of on-demand content.
Chris Rock jokes aside, another live event is on the way—this weekend’s 95th Oscar Awards ceremony. And this year, it looks like viewers will be split into two camps: those who will be tuning in for the red carpet fashion, and then the ‘will there or won’t there be a Chris Rock and Will Smith style showdown’? And, will viewership increase this year based on last year’s drama?
One thing is certain—advertisers need a way to jump onto cultural moments like these. They need advertising solutions that prioritize agility, flexibility and the ability to react to cultural moments quickly. ‘Fastvertising’, as we like to call it at MNTN, helps brands plug into those cultural moments. And the digital nature of Connected TV affords opportunities for advertisers to get their TV ads live quickly, with references to these cultural touchstones—as long as they can produce the ad quickly enough, that is. The ad technology exists to get the ad live, so really it comes down to the speed in which the advertiser can produce the ad (something that Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort is known for being able to pull off). Netflix’s experimentation in live events continues to showcase streaming’s evolution, and only time will tell whether the on-demand or live model will win out for advertisers.
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