A lot has changed regarding the media space since last week’s post. With a behemoth of Disney+ on the horizon (complete with the entire Disney vault, and library of everything from Marvel to The Simpsons.)
I’m aiming on writing up a more detailed post once it’s actually been released. For now the question is, how will this media space change in the wake of this tidal wave, and how will companies survive?
A NEW ERA OF TRANSBRANDING
Following on from Netflix’s success, the name of the game is now streamed entertainment. For a mere (insert figure here) you can subscribe to a company and get a whole load of acquisitions and original content!
This is how Netflix built an empire – content.
But now the question is how to maintain that empire.
As for Disney, they have brand recognition, family-friendly properties, acquisitions of Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, The Muppets, and now 20th Century Fox (and their entire library to boot – including 30 years worth of The Simpsons!)
In terms of content, they’re a force to be reckoned with, and for a monthly fee of $7.00 a real challenge for other platforms.
WHO SHOULD BE WORRIED?
The streaming service landscape already has some major players, and some need to be worried.
To start, there are local services that will always have a target base. Whether it’s Nollywood’s “iRoko”, China’s countless services, or the UK’s recent launch of “Britbox” – these sorts of things will cater to their domestic consumer, and will never even attempt to take on Netflix or Disney (they’re just different markets – the global consumer is not hyped about being able to stream Keeping Up Appearances).
Then there are smaller, more specialised service providers. Crunchyroll has a unique appeal in its anime content, and DC Universe also fulfils its niche of offering original content, comic books, and a social network element with its service.
They may be small, but they’ve got their dedicated fanbases who will happily keep them afloat.
As for Netflix and Amazon Prime, I think these two are safe.
I believe that Netflix has won over the goodwill of its consumer for the years it’s been active and will continue with its output. I imagine that Disney will quickly corner the family-friendly side of the internet, and Netflix will fill an edgier void in its wake.
As for Amazon Prime, not only is this a subsection of a much larger conglomerate, but its content is considerably vast and dissimilar to Disney’s. But most importantly, Amazon generates revenue through a vastly diversified service – offering food, straight-to-door deliveries, books … yeah, they’re fine.
Amazon Prime is really just icing on the cake for them.
No, there are two services that I believe should be concerned – YouTube Premium and the upcoming Apple TV+ (in the short term).
YouTube’s business model is typically AVOD – advertising video on demand. They make money through people, with or without accounts, watching a video with a short ad that they have to sit through.
Advertisers pay the site to host their content, users can upload videos – simple model.
But things get tricky when factoring in YouTube Premium – ads removed with access to a whole host of original content, and YouTube Music – exclusive to those willing to pay the $12.00 a month.
I gave the free trial a shot – but really only watched Cobra Kai (which was admittedly very good – like, 100% Rotten Tomatoes good!). As for their originals, there’s Logan Paul’s movie debut … and not a lot else.
As a globally recognised brand, this could pose a problem for them. Sure, they’re targeting a different market, but there’s nothing substantially gained by paying the extra money – especially if you can wait a few seconds and skip the ads.
At least YouTube has its streaming technology already up and running.
But the real concern (and questions) comes with Apple TV+ – and the new challenges posed by Disney.
With more and more consumers choosing services like Spotify over iTunes, the juggernaut now faces another challenge with Disney for original content.
That said, they do have the technology and there are already possibilities of Disney+ coming to Apple TV. But at this point, who knows.
I imagine it’ll be like Amazon Prime, where Apple’s revenue is generated more from tech sales – with Apple TV+ as an added bonus.
DC UNIVERSE: THE BLACK HORSE
With all this in mind, I bet you’re wondering why I’m focusing on DC Universe of all things for this post.
The short answer is their transbranding.
Much like Disney, DC has a decades-long history of iconic characters, animated series, movies, comics, graphic novels, and merchandise.
But instead of being a subsection of a larger company, they can still maintain their brand and core identity.
It’s been noted that this service has a “fan-first” appeal, with great original programming to really engage with their consumer.
That, and a smaller more niche service does have that bonus appeal of intimate authenticity – something larger streaming services will always struggle with purely due to their size.
Now, there is further potential in adopting a transmedia approach to their content – and it has been done successfully before.
Take something like the incredibly popular game Injustice: Gods Among Us. This game followed a story where Superman turned against the world after the death of Lois Lane. To better flesh out the world, they launched a thoroughly successful comic book tie-in.
This is a case of transmedia at its finest – using different platforms to tell a coherent story.
But with DC Universe, this offers not only film and television series, but also access to a library of literally thousands of digital comics.
I believe that this is how smaller companies can compete with Disney – creating a clear brand identity and finding a unique selling point.
Most importantly, this means that services like DC Universe have a greater community feel to it.
Disney, due to its enormous size, is going to struggle to appear as an authentic, intimate consumer brand. But smaller services have a chance tackle niche markets, and offer other benefits like comics, books, written work, bonus content, and fan communities. Only then, can they have a chance of differentiating themselves from the technological behemoths out there.
If I were to find any issue with DC, it’s that its very … fractured. Unlike Marvel, this has always been the case with DC.
Whenever they brought out another company, like Fawcett or Charlton comics, they would simply introduce another universe to explain how these characters existed – something that went on until their complex continuity was more effectively streamlined their continuity down in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
But where we are now is a similar position, with their movie universe (being soft-rebooted), their CW television series, as well as their separate animated series, and their current ongoing comic-book series.
This is fine, but there needs to be some form of context. If we had a character somehow interact with each of these continuities (someone like Booster Gold – a minor character with a time-travel gimmick) then we would have context for the service.
The brand is certainly strong but exploring the potential of a streaming service through a transmedia narrative – it could really set it apart.
After all, prior to Disney Plus we conveniently had Wreck-It-Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet, which contextualised Pixar, Disney Princesses, Star Wars, Marvel, and the Muppets in a broader metacontext.
So, I believe having transmedia narrative unify a brand has greater potential in creating a coherent brand identity, and philosophy, than simply looking to acquire more content and risk over-extending your brand integrity.
How many streaming services can one man have?
I think that’s the question that is going to be asked more and more. As services continue, their prices will rise, and their libraries will expand.
I suspect we’ll end up in situations where original and exclusive properties dictate the number of service subscribers.
That said, I still have a hunch that DVD’s and single-purchase digital downloads will have their own smaller market amidst the streaming revolution. Why? Quite simply because there may be some great properties on less popular platforms.
Take YouTube’s Cobra Kai for example – a continuation of the Karate Kid franchise, hugely popular, and on a service that seems more preoccupied with user-generated content. I would absolutely look for other outlets like DVD or BluRay to watch these series.
There will always need to be another outlet for the ‘exclusive content’ – at the very least to advertise the platform in other mediums.
Disney, Netflix, and Amazon will most likely dominate the pop-culture landscape – as each already have their own brand established.
Then we’ll have to see how Hulu and other similar services catch up in this environment. After Disney outright bought 20th Century Fox, anything’s possible.
As for niche services like DC Universe and Crunchyroll, I imagine they’ll survive based on their committed fanbases alone.
DC Universe’s merging of comics and visual media is particularly fascinating to me and opens a whole host of potential in solidifying a brand and fan base.
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out. But as of the end of the year, there are some real game-changers afoot.
This post was originally just going to be about DC Universe. But it got me thinking more about brand integrity and making the most of a streaming service.
Now something like DC already has a character-driven brand and identity, and they’re using that to better foster a relationship with their online consumer.
But Disney also has a distinct brand and identity.
Brand integrity is something that’s a defining principle of Disney’s appeal – the all-American, family-friendly entertainment company.
Now hosting a streaming service, and looking to build up on their original content, I’ll be interested to see how important that brand identity is moving forward.
What will the R-Rated Deadpool look like in the streaming service of the Magic Kingdom?
How will Disney manage their family-friendly appeal? Will they branch out into darker territory like The Mandalorian?
And can a brand identity even survive when their content is so vast and varied?
In a world where we can have Stormtroopers outside Cinderella Castle, we’re undoubtedly seeing a new age in convergence culture.
I’ll be fascinated to see how brands maintain their identity and integrity, but we’re about to see the biggest shakeup of the entertainment system in a decade.