The 2022 NewFronts, which showcased publishers’ annual plans and innovations for “new” viewing formats like streaming and digital media, saw two key themes emerge over the past few weeks regarding areas where companies are seeking to compete in free streaming and advertising.
The bigger of the two is advertising, which based on the NewFronts can be split into two camps, between connected TV and social media.
In 2021, advertising revenue generated on social media — $57.7 billion — just edged the $52.9 billion that non-linear video achieved across desktop, mobile and CTV devices. Social media companies are keen to maintain that balance in their favor, with augmented reality and virtual reality — features CTVs cannot replicate — a key part of Meta and Snap’s pitches to advertisers.
The CTV companies and products — Amazon, NBCU’s Peacock, Roku, Samsung, Fox’s Tubi and Vizio — had two main focuses in product placement and in analytics and measurement.
Product placement technology has seen Peacock and Amazon both develop ways to insert brands into content as it streams. Whether or not this will prove to be distracting to consumers or considered invasive of the viewing experience remains to be seen.
Many streaming services announced that they would be making life easier for marketers by upgrading the analytics tools available to them to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. There is a big hole in this argument: For marketers who used to only have to consider buying across TV, and then TV and online, the current world where every connected device and TV set has its own system and mechanisms is totally overcomplicated.
Each company involved in content delivery wants to own the ad-sales experience instead of collaborating across the industry to develop one or two pan-device solutions. The reason for this is the scale of the non-linear video market.
In 2021, advertising on non-linear made up 44.5% of the total video advertising figure of $118.8 billion, with this figure expected to grow. Thus, companies are determined to stake their own claim via proprietary tools and systems, making the life of an ad buyer much more difficult.
Estimates from eMarketer show the amount of money committed by advertisers to CTV and digital video is anticipated to rise by 32% ($3.8 billion) in 2022 versus 2021, with 2023’s level set to be 65% ($7.8 billion) greater than 2021.
This fact has not escaped the notice of the many media companies operating in FAST and AVOD. Many of the major free streaming players were present at the NewFronts, save for Paramount’s Pluto TV, and all but Peacock announced expansion plans for their respective services.
The biggest trend to note in free content is that there is a growing battle for viewers. VIP+ has detailed for years the hypercompetitiveness of the FAST market, with one key result being that no company publishes U.S. user stats for fear of looking weak as rivals stay silent.
This audience battle is seeing free streaming services now falling into the same ways as SVOD services to distinguish themselves to potential viewers. No longer is it enough to boast a strong lineup of channels and content from big-name media companies. Instead, Tubi, Roku, Crackle and Amazon are increasingly turning to original content for free streaming as a key differentiator.
With Tubi and Crackle each committing to over 100 original titles for their respective services, it’s clear 2022 will see a new record for peak TV (a fact VIP+ predicted at SXSW in March). If this proves to be effective in attracting new viewers for services like Tubi and Freevee, then this will force the hands of other FAST platforms, which so far have stayed away from investing in originals.
It’s possible that this represents the next paradigm shift in FAST. It’s a growing industry that has already pivoted away from channels based on digital media shorts to channels dominated by big media brands and recognizable old TV shows. AVOD and FAST originals may be the spark for the industry consolidation predicted in VIP+’s “What Is FAST?” webinar earlier this year, but even if they aren’t, the commitment to content spend in free streaming shows that service operators view this as a serious arena to generate revenue.