Traditionally, engaging with content was its own reward. But in today’s hypercompetitive world, with more entertainment alternatives than ever before, viewers are beginning to need to be incentivized to stick around.
Sony’s PlayStation Stars is the highest-profile example of this shift in thinking. The new free loyalty program offers gamers rewards for a range of activities, from simply playing at least one game once a month to carrying out specific tasks or winning online tournaments.
Not only will PlayStation Stars allow members to exchange their points for items in an online PlayStation catalog, but it will also offer digital collectibles as a reward. These will range from commonly found items to ultra-rare collectibles, but Sony was quick to stress that these items are not NFTs.
Incentivizing audiences through NFTs is already occurring within streaming, with several examples to note. Free streaming service ALTRD.TV has embraced NFTs offering utility as a way to engage and boost audiences.
ALTRD’s Watch to Earn model, which will launch later this year, rewards audiences with cryptocurrency for watching and engaging with content. Asked about the reasoning for this strategy, ALTRD.TV’s COO Shelley Madison told VIP+, “In traditional media, the relationship between consumers and content has been wholly unequal. We are creating equity in that relationship by leveraging the disruptive potential of blockchain and are uniquely placed to provide data-driven insight to our advertising partners.”
Another company following a similar blueprint is Replay with its Rewarded TV service. This also incentivizes viewers with cryptocurrency — RPLAY, the service’s own coin — which can be used to buy NFTs related to content or unlock new content or ad-free viewing.
In addition, the Estonian movie “Free Money” is experimenting with a different use of NFTs, incorporating them within the film via QR codes. With NFTs having a finite supply, this encourages viewers to watch and rewatch early in order to collect, potentially boosting audiences.
Actively rewarding audiences for watching goes counter to the current model in TV, as exemplified by sports. Audience loyalty leads to sports leagues increasing the value of their rights and ultimately charging viewers more for their loyalty via pay TV or streaming services.
Yet with the likes of TikTok and YouTube making serious incursions into the viewing habits of consumers, traditional media may end up looking to the examples here as ways to get audiences back. Equally, big studios, already experimenting with NFT ticket stubs, may look to examples such as “Free Money” and add QR codes to the first release weekend in order to boost theater attendance.
It will be a slow process to convince traditional media of the gains new technologies can offer. It always is. But one network will eventually bite in an effort to revive fading ratings. And when one does, expect the results of rewarding viewers to surprise other networks and streaming services — and for many more to quickly pile in.