As big television networks and broadcasters move their content online, one big challenge that they need to understand is that unless you have incredible brand awareness, exclusively focusing on building your own destination site is only one small part of building a successful online strategy.
Going halfway is not a winning proposition. You have to commit to getting the content to all of the online destinations that make sense (i.e., syndication) -- that's distribution. It will entail headaches. You have to deal with multiple video formats, different policies, and different advertising models. To get content out there and to monetize it is a lot of work.
You have to think holistically. If you look at what the big guys have been up to -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox -- they've all built their own Websites to host their television content, but they've also invested in distribution.
Previously, broadcasters have seen the Internet as supplemental to the TV business; it's something they've used as a promotional tool. Online, broadcasters can go out and find an audience rather than rely on an audience to find them. Beyond promotional deals, it's that long tail that allows broadcasters to connect with an audience.
Here's an example: If a consumer watches Heroes for the first time on her TV and really wants to catch up on what she missed, she can go online and watch back episodes. In essence, that library of long-tail content becomes a destination. This is a nice driver for the market: Broadcasters can find out where there is demand and do some real-time determinations of what kind of content is popular.
Whether you're a broadcaster, a cable channel, or an operator, you need to create a destination to catch all of these viewers. But you also have to be willing to follow the consumer. If a consumer can't get what he wants at iTunes, then he will go elsewhere, because it doesn't end with having just one destination where you can catch these kinds of viewers. Your brand has to reach people across the Internet.
If a media company cuts the right distribution deals, its shows can land in the places where consumers are landing natively. You can reach customers in a way that's not quite the same as in the operator environment where walled gardens are the norm. This, in fact, flies in the face of a walled garden.
As more network TV content moves online, I think that we're going to see more pressure placed on the operators to open up the walled gardens a little bit and allow content to flow to more than one place. Ultimately, that's going to create a seamless experience for the consumer.
To see real success on a big scale (which, in this case, means selling space to major brand advertisers), you have to get content to a lot of places.
The garden walls haven't come down yet, but I do think you'll see pressure put on operators to enable interoperability across platforms. There are standards emerging, and it's becoming easier to interoperate among different platforms, but we're not quite there yet.
In the end, success will be worth the headaches.
— Ian Blaine, Founder and CEO, thePlatform