October 23, 2019

CIVIC Entertainment’s Sarah Unger on Premium Video’s Challenges

With the explosion of original, scripted television programming in the streaming space, what can the category’s niche players hope to achieve in such a crowded marketplace? This is the topic of the Streaming TV panel at the upcoming NYC Television Week conference, led by Sarah Unger, SVP of Cultural Insights & Strategy at CIVIC, a Seacrest Global Group Company. Sarah’s panel examines whether major publishers and content creators from outside TV’s traditional ecosystem can compete for audiences and revenue against the medium's powerful linear network incumbents. To catch this important discussion, register now for the full NYC TV Week experience.


People are referring to this as the new ‘golden age’ of television, an era where high-profile, high-quality programming is now widely available. How can the more niche players create opportunities to break through with compelling content in an environment that’s currently so competitive?


In some ways, the surge in competition works well for newer, niche players — the model has been cracked open in terms of who can play in the content landscape, allowing for nontraditional players to find audiences based on the cultural relevance of their offering and in some cases, partner with large platforms to get their content seen. The bigger players are more open to this than a few years ago, and, with so many content options today, consumers are more open to discovering programming that speaks to them coming from new and different players - especially as content choices become an identity marker, for many fans.


That said, distribution, marketing and branding are still important just to get visibility, so that is the biggest challenge for independents. Consumers are growing more reliant on curators to help find the shows they'll love.


Everyone seems to be in on the prestige TV game now, not just Netflix and Hulu. Do you think there are any untapped sources of stories or concepts that can help new online channels become part of the cultural zeitgeist?


With the dominance of platforms that have had their genesis in user-generated content (be it YouTube, TikTok or even fan websites), the process of finding “creators” has been somewhat democratized. Because creativity is an endless well, and these channels allow anyone to post, there’s a consistent stream of ideation flowing through — from more diverse, global voices, as well. 


Do the economics of making “TV-like” programming, as your panel description notes, work in favor of newcomers? Or is the deck somewhat stacked in favor of the current market leaders?


What constitutes “television” today has changed, so “TV-like programming” is a loose term. Sure, there are tropes we know from classic episodic television, or appointment viewing, but we’ve seen the industry already get disrupted — so for newcomers, the creative variety and openness to what can be “television” certainly works in their favor. It works in everyone’s favor, really. It’s a challenge to keep iterating and exploring new formats.


Every now and then a show comes along that re-writes the rule book and ushers in new entries and new players. So what’s next? Super-short programs? Mobile-only content? What will the next-generation next ‘must-see TV’ look like?


We’re seeing streamers put big votes of confidence in specific content creators with large, multi-year deals: Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rimes, Duffer Brothers, etc. With this vote of confidence in creators, the aperture opens to letting them explore shows and formats. In addition, the streaming landscape has also allowed for content to truly globalize, so we’re getting a lot more domestic exposure to IP that’s from other regions.


Don’t miss a deeper discussion of this and many more topics concerning Advanced Advertising, TV Data and Hispanic TV at NYC Television Week!