Reporting the Trends in the World of Streaming Video with Ashley Rodriguez


Table Of Contents


Content Swimming Upstream

Streaming content is our world of television and pop culture. This has been the path we've been heading toward for quite a while now, but as we are all stuck at home with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Quibi, Apple TV are all here and more platforms are on the way!

Recently, our CEO, Stacy Jones got to sit down with a senior reporter from Business Insider to discuss trends they are seeing in the world of streaming video. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores the trends in the world of streaming video content from the expertise of Business Insider's Ashley Rodriguez.

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A Little More About Ashley Rodriguez

Ashley is currently a senior reporter at Business Insider, covering the Future of TV. She writes about streaming video companies like Netflix and Hulu that are changing the concept of TV, legacy TV companies like Disney and NBC universal, and the evolution of the TV bundle. Before Business Insider, Ashley covered media and marketing for both Quartz and Advertising Age. Ashley also teaches business journalism at the Newmark School of Journalism.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: What I'd love to start off chatting about is, what got you to where you are today? What got you to decide to be a journalist and working through the ranks, and now at Business Insider?
Answer: It's definitely been a bit of a journey for me. I started my career in the bookkeeping side of things, so I worked at a few ad agencies and really focused on the numbers. Somewhere along the line, I started freelancing a little bit here on the side covering local businesses in Brooklyn, NY. I just decided to take the plunge. I went to journalism school in 2013 and graduated class of 2014 at the Newmark school, studied business journalism. From there, I went on to Advertising Age, which was my first real newsroom experience. I covered on retail and financial marketers there for a bit.

Around 2015, I made the jump over to Quartz, which was an amazing learning experience. I was GA for a while, just covering general assignment news all over the place. At the time, there was nobody who had been covering streaming video and media there, so I thought, well this is an excellent opportunity. So much change was happening in 2015, Netflix was growing massively and Disney was going through lots of upheaval. This was around the time where ESPN long thought to be immune to Quartz coming was finally starting to see losses in subscribers. So, it just seemed like a huge opportunity that I happened to jump into around the right time. And of course, right around the time I started covering that, suddenly everyone was a media company. Facebook launched Facebook watch, Twitter was getting into video, Snap was producing originals. So this space really exploded, and I had an opportunity to cover things all over the landscape.

About a year ago I heard that Business Insider was looking for somebody to write about a new beat called The Future of Television. I thought that was frankly, really the crux of a lot of the things that I had been writing over at Quartz. It was an amazing opportunity for me and I have loved it ever since. I've had a lot of runway to kind of define what that means for me, what future of TV coverage looks like. As as you've mentioned, it's been a lot of the streamers that are getting started in what they do. But also, how that changes the economics of working in television. How producers work with product placement and brand integration on how advertisers try to get into streaming services, because they can't go the traditional commercial route. So there's a lot of the business aspect that's kind of changing behind the scenes, but it's been fascinating for me to explore.

Question: There are so many streaming video on demand platforms now, and we have Netflix, and Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus, and Hulu, and Amazon and, and, and it keeps on going. So, what are you seeing as the future here? Is there ever going to be a moment when there's too much?
Answer: That's an amazing question, and one that I feel like I've been trying, like waiting for that ramp, that peak probably since about 2017. And we're still not quite there yet. It seems like every year we get a new rush of streaming services that hit the market. This year, really since Disney Plus launched in November has been the push of on legacy media companies that are going over the top. That's really the phase that we're in now, and we'll continue through. Whatever, Viacom CBS, this platform that they launch - when that comes, they haven't given us a date yet. So we've got Peacock from NBC hitting this year, we've got HBO Max from ATN&T hitting and we've got quite a few players.

I would say last year was probably the rise of AVOF, or as you know it's called in the industry lately fast services. So these are companies like Pluto, like Xumo and that had been rising up. And I think there's a little bit of an overlap that we're going to see what that this year with folks like Quibi, that are going to be hitting the market and they've got sort of a hybrid ad model. Peacock has a similar situation, so I don't think we're hitting a peak yet. I think this is really just that we're going to see all the linear players move online this year.

Next year, I'll be curious if we start to see a retooling of some of the models. Everyone kind of comes out the gate with what they think is going to be their best business model, be it an AVOD, an SVOD, or some sort of a hybrid component of that. After these services are on the market for a year or two, I think they're going to... We're going to start to see them retool some of them, and refine some of those models. We're going to see them push more onto the international stage. So I think maybe here in the US, hopefully this year will be like the last group of streaming services that hit the market. But then, I definitely think they're going to be scaling up for another few years to come.

Question: Do you think any of these streamers have an even chance of catching up with Netflix?
Answer: The critic conventional wisdom when I talk to analysts and people who study this space is that, we'll probably end up having one or two streaming services that are going to be your base streaming service. So that could be Netflix for you. That could be Amazon on video for you, whatever your consumption tends to be. And then you'll probably add on layers on top of that. If you're a family, maybe you add Disney Plus. If you're someone who's super into sports, maybe you add something like G-zOne, or ESPN plus to your lineup. Maybe you want a premium offering, something like HBO Max. So I think they're going to be a couple of layers, and the idea is that this will allow for a few big winners.

So, Netflix could be one. There could be two or three others that sort of fill that same space as Netflix, as being their general audience, and then a few niche add-ons, maybe five different ones that people will pick and choose as they go along. So all that is to say, I wonder what scale is going to look like for any of these players? Does it become catching up to Netflix, or does it become redefined and redefining what that experience looks like for you? Because we're going to have multiple opportunities for people to win in this space, I think.

Question: Who do you think is best position behind them? Like, what are the couple or a few that you think are really chomping at the bit that have the true opportunity?
Answer: I think Disney has been really smart so far out of the gate in how they approach it. Of course, everything is changing right now with the corona virus outbreak, pausing productions. So that's going to push back a lot of the projects that were actually due to hit Disney Plus. So I'm going to be very interested to see, and how they kind of fill that gap. Yet with library programming, they brought Frozen Two to their streaming service this weekend to kind of give people something exciting and something new to watch. I think they're going to have to figure out how to fill that time, and they're not the only ones. HBO has had, and has a lot of things in production right now for HBO Max. So, I think that's going to be really interesting how brands respond to that.

I mean, HBO at a global scale is very well known. Even if don't know the HBO brand per se, because let's say they're in Europe and an HBO show airs on Sky, they know that programming. So I do think over time, HBO just has incredible content production on any incredible brands attached to them. So, I also think they could be in a pretty strong space. And I guess, I'm naming some of the brands that are most well known in legacy media. But I would also say I'm constantly amazed by the staying power of Amazon. I think it's a brand that, maybe here in the US doesn't get as much attention for the video service. But internationally, they're really strong and they remain one of the top buyers. So I think while they've been trying to find their content strategy for a while, they're not to be overlooked.

Question: You teach journalism and you interview a lot of people. What is it you look for? So for our listeners who are at various companies, at different levels, or entrepreneurs or at agencies, what should they be doing to make themselves stand out and get your notice? How do they get your attention?
Answer: That's a great question. So for me at Business Insider, a lot of what we think about, we know that our readers want to learn from us. They're entrepreneurs themselves, they're people within the industry. So every time I hear about a new campaign or a new project that somebody is working on, I ask myself, what can our readers learn from this that they haven't seen before? Sometimes that's just somebody who's willing to actually get into the weeds and break down the economics of things, how much are they making from on... And I'm just, this is a total example here... But if I'm a video service that's programming for different, a VOD platforms, or different on ad supported video platforms, how much am I making from this platform? How can I best position myself for Pluto versus Xumo, et cetera. Someone who's really willing to get in the weeds on those dynamics are things that I look for.

Apart from just sort of opening up, anyone who has a really interesting story, I would say as an executive. Let's say you came from a totally different industry, and then you found yourself in streaming and you found a way to really revamp that industry from your previous learnings. That's really interesting to me. That somebody who's gone through a bit of a career journey.

So those are a few examples of things that I typically look for, and definitely something unique. Anything that's a sign of a bigger trend. So one trend we've been following closely at Business Insider has been the rise of direct to consumer brands and how they're going to market. So something like that, that it's one company that can be used as a bigger case study is another thing.

I'd say those are probably the big three. Anyone who's willing to get in the weeds on the economics and really make a practical guide for our readers on how they should approach something. Someone who is part of a bigger trend, doing something really interesting or new. Or just someone who has a really cool career journey.


Check Out The Podcast!

This is just the tip of the iceberg of a truly educational conversation about the landscape of streaming content. Check out the rest of the interview on our podcast!

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