One might think this would be a prime time to start up an online video-on-demand service, with other companies already having paved the way. A new streaming service from Acorn TV has recently been launched in the wake of Netflix’s struggles.
While rival services from Amazon and Hulu Plus stream a substantial amount of television and movies for subscription customers, it was Netflix that broke out as the leader and innovator, bringing the largest variety of streaming entertainment to Internet consumers.
But both in technology and in its economic model, Netflix made its share of mistakes. By vacillating on how best to distribute its products both physically and via the Internet, Netflix cost itself subscribers, stock dividends, and consumer respect.
That was the news Acorn was watching while it built its server farm and scheduled its content. While Acorn has offered online catalogue shopping since 2001, it now is looking to fill the niche for lovers of British TV shows -- building on the content library it already possessed.
Senior director of marketing Jen Linck says Acorn learned plenty from watching its bigger rivals struggle. “I think Netflix has done an outstanding job of paving the way for all of the streaming services that came after it,” she says:
Not only have they trained consumers to think of streaming as a viable option, but they’ve also been the ones to break ground on application development that gives services like ours a way off of the PC and onto people’s television sets and mobile devices.
There may have been a few customer service blips in the recent Netflix history, but the reaction really only served to show how much people value what they have done and how much they have come to rely on it for their entertainment needs.
Linck considers Netflix complementary to Acorn’s service.
Now that its service, infrastructure, and business model are established, Acorn TV must ensure it gets enough users. Linck insists that the key is the team of IT professionals and software engineers that is making sure the Acorn service is available across the full spectrum of devices. “We think the primary key to building our subscriber base is making Acorn TV available on as many devices as possible, from set-top boxes, mobile tablets and phones, to TVs and Blu-ray players.”
The service is accessible via browser on iPads, iPhones, some Android phones, and the Kindle Fire, and Acorn is developing apps for the Roku players and Nook e-readers.
Meanwhile, Acorn’s online presence and aggressive use of the Website to recruit “Anglophile” fans has built its Facebook fan page to more than 20,000. While that doesn’t sound like a lot when compared to the following that Netflix can generate, Linck sees it as a decent start for this niche online streaming service.
Acorn’s IT staff is busy now incorporating community aspects into the Acorn TV service, adding reviews, shareable “favourites” lists, viewing parties with live chats, etc.
What we’ve learned from our fan base on Facebook is that they’re very devoted to British TV and quite knowledgeable about it. The interactions can get quite lively. We’re pleased to offer a forum for that and we think we stand out from the rest because we actively engage our fans and interact with them regularly, responding to questions and program suggestions as well as soliciting feedback and offering special opportunities.
Acorn must see if there are enough of those devoted fans to keep the streaming service afloat -- and if the provider’s simple subscription-based pricing will find the same acceptance that Netflix, Hulu, and other much bigger rivals generated.
— John Scott Lewinski is a journalist and author based in Los Angeles.