THE FUTURE OF YOUNG AUDIENCES

Younger generations are influenced by a diet of digital content at a very early age, fragmenting the audiences in a million different directions. Social media, online channels, video-games, mobile devices…it feels like a rat race for some of the distributors, licensees, and networks to defend their ‘real estate’ before is too late.

With the alarming shift of young people to consume mostly online content, networks are experiencing a demographic migration that might be tough to reverse. Recently a lot of buzz splashed the news about MTV struggle with the shrinking of their audience. But this is happening all across the board: Time Warner, Scripps Networks Interactive, NBCUniversal, Discovery, A+E Networks, Disney Jr. and ESPU all showed declines. The reason: many young viewers are watching programming on smartphones and tablets which are not included in the ratings, resulting in ad revenue decline. Networks are trying to reverse the trend of investing in programming and research, but the results are still in the works. Analyst agreed that Nielsen numbers aren’t the base for cable operators ad revenue, but they are indicative of trends. The question is how this will reflect on subscriber numbers in the long run.

This might sound as bad news, but depending on the perspective, this could be the glass half-full. Executives and cable providers were awakened by this decline to find new ways to make up that revenue. If played well, this shift can be view as a power-up for Cable Networks to find their Ch’i. This much needed “revival” would not only help companies to stabilize revenue but most likely could grow the linear TV business as a whole.

Children’s programming is crucial to pay-TV

Operators generally target families, becoming key drivers of on-demand offerings. Netflix is one of the largest provider of online children’s content through output agreements with DreamworksCartoon Network and movie deals with DisneyViacom moved their kid's deals to Amazon and Discovery moved its children’s content to Hulu. The cross-platform world is changing rapidly and the only way to keep up -and more important to lead- is to embrace innovation. Understanding innovation is more than tech, apps or social marketing, but as a mindset about how we approach business. It is a game-changer event.

Several companies are marching to this beat already. PBS is launching a free 24/7 multiplatform PBS KIDS on mobile devices and Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox One and Chromecast. AT&T is rebranding all TV products to AT&T Entertainment, moving in the next years to a cloud DVD architecture. ABC and Marvel TV just launched “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Academy.” A digital series aimed to engage fans to compete in the show. From the first “IronMan” movie and now with “The Force Awaken”, Marvel and Disney are building audience strategies for years to come.

Even Xbox users already spend more time watching video than playing games with the device and heavyweights like NickelodeonHulu and Dailymotion are partnering to create another avenue to connect with their audiences. Disney and Saban are also investing in a viral content platform “Playbuzz” to create and distribute content into social media outlets. A few days ago E! launched a daily Facebook Live talk show expanding the social giant’s push to bring premium content to their live streaming service. Comedy Central expanded the slate of original content for instant-image messaging app SnapChat to sell advertising packages with its TV clients.

Also, the NFL and the MLB are going after young audiences, encouraging their stars to reach out to fans via Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. The focus is to motivate youngsters who are not watching football or baseball on TV (but spending hours on digital) to watch streaming matches online and mobile. NBCU made a savvy move announcing a consolidated upfront -including Telemundo- next May in NYC since networks are selling advertising across platforms and marketers are targeting interrelated audiences.

These initiatives serve both content and business. The result is a much more efficient TV content, generating deeper engagement, thus building profitable revenue streams outside traditional pay-TV universe.

Today is the multi-platform online revolution, tomorrow maybe is something else, but innovation will always be the constant. Is the ability to transform the business and identifying what plays the best. A thought from Viktor Frankl comes to my mind: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.