As user behavior and content consumption — especially among younger users — trend more toward social media, mobile devices, and streaming, E&M companies have to adapt to ensure they are building and strengthening their fan bases. For many players, this means developing powerful owned and operated showcase destinations, and designing experiences on partner platforms that grow and deepen the fan base.
E&M companies can take some pointers from luxury brands. The products of Burberry can be found at such global retailers as Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods, and KaDeWe. However, the fully expressed world of Burberry can be experienced only at the company’s global flagship store in London, Burberry Regent Street. At Burberry Regent Street, which opened in 2012, consumers can shop the company’s full lines for men, women, and children. The store also curates events featuring new creators in music, film, theater, and art. Burberry has used Regent Street to pilot innovations, including interactive displays and mobile apps that deliver in-store notifications and offers.
This “showcase” approach to owned distribution is relevant for entertainment and media brands that, like Burberry, possess a critical mass of passionate fans who will reward the richest, deepest experience with their time and money. The WWE Network, World Wrestling Entertainment’s subscription video on demand (SVOD) product, with 1.5 million subscribers, is a compelling illustration of how a media company can add a premium distribution platform to its arsenal while furthering relationships with distribution partners such as NBC-Universal, Facebook, and YouTube. This service has become WWE’s preferred home for popular pay-per-view events such as WrestleMania, along with new series including 205 Live and WWE Fastlane as well as archival content. The WWE network is now the second-largest specialty SVOD network, after Major League Baseball’s MLB.TV.
Even the largest, most well-regarded E&M content brands need the distribution scale that third parties can generate. Companies should thoughtfully select distribution partners that can create robust fan value versus lower-value eyeballs. The distribution partner needs to deliver concentrated reach efficiently in terms of either avid fans (therefore resulting in incremental engagement) or convertible fans (casual users who can be cultivated into avid fans). The partner ideally also shares information on users and fans to help further inform business as well as creative decision making.
As noted, with Mr. Robot, NBCUniversal’s USA Network has strategically expanded its digital distribution roster to add platforms including Amazon’s Twitch, Facebook Live, and Reddit. For shows with broader fan bases, NBCUniversal has relied on partnerships with players such as Verizon’s AOL to post video clips from shows including The Blacklist, Saturday Night Live, and The Tonight Show on the AOL On video network.