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Mavericks of Media 2019 Notes and Observations: Day 1

The 2019 Mavericks of Media conference kicked off at the WeWork Flatiron space in NYC, with several dozen media researchers in attendance. Here are observations from today’s sessions. Apologies in advance for any misquotes or omissions resulting from my quickly scribbled notes.

To open the conference, Jon Giegengack of Hub Entertainment Research, the conference chair, gave a short presentation titled The Disruption Has Happened… Now What?. Jon discussed some recent results from Hub’s series of reports. A few highlights included

  • Viewers use an average of 4.5 TV sources - which jumps to 5.5 among ages 18-34.
  • 36% of SVOD subs would drop an existing service if they added one
  • To get people to try a new service, having no ads or an ad-free option are most important, but interest in a 7 day free trial increased a lot in the past year
  • In terms of what people are looking for in an SVOD service, free w/ads or pay without ads are equally popular; but no ads is much more popular among younger adults under 35
  • Disney+ has a high level of people who think it’s an excellent or good value at its initial price point, particularly among young adults and those with kids

Following Jon was a keynote from James Petretti from Sony Pictures Television, the topic being Insights or Insanity: Living in the Aftermath. James tallied about the transformation of the SPT research team in recent years to reflect that “time is disintegrating” – everything is always on. They had to change their value proposition from “mailmen” (delivering data) to strategic partners. To do this they had to free their data – give more direct access to the end users and clients through a data warehouse. And they are just launching a mobile-first research storefront to help enable this self-service dissemination of insights and data.

The results of an NRG research project on pilot testing was discussed, which delved into the attributes of in-house pilots (eg, from ABC Studios) taken to series compared with those from independent studios (eg, SPT). The research showed that the independent pilots were held to a much higher benchmarks than in-house pilots. The benefit of this is that Magid research on series indicates that independent studios had higher positives and lower negative scores. These findings were felt to contribute to a very high success rate for SPT in the last pilot season.

Lastly, James discussed the need to mix and match data from various sources to analyze the performance of SPT series on streaming platforms. One example of this was that the release of the first two seasons of Outlander on Netflix correlated with a large increase in viewing of seasons 3 and 4, which are still exclusively available via Starz VOD platforms.

Next up was a panel called Conquering Cross-Platform, with Michele Meyer of A+E Networks, Laura Fitzpatrick of Comscore, and Lisa Ciancarelli of Quark Insights.

Q: What is required for cross-platform to meet immediate business needs?

MM: Deduplication – how many net eyeballs. Sales doesn’t want gross numbers.

LC: Components and reach within them. Performance of ads not just the content it’s within.

Q: What is most critical to measure – content or ads? The chicken and the egg question

MM: Content comes first. We are closer to measuring that but not there yet.

LC: All of it is solvable – it is the responsibility of everyone.

Q: What are the challenges to measurement?

MM: The different format for data from each provider. They are still “grossing” data, there is no average audience as with linear. Need to get to a normalized currency.

LC: Every source is different. We need to understand the market like CPG brands understand a grocery store – what is stocked on each shelf, how often is it turned over, when is it sold

MM: Can there ever be standardization given different business needs of each stakeholder?

LC: Can there be standardization among suppliers and users of data?

Q: How do we work together without overwhelming teams?

MM: A consortium like with C3. But are sound methods also affordable?

LC: Each team is set up differently and wants standardization that suits their own systems

Q: When looking at true unduplicated audience, is it sufficient to measure long form or do we also need to measure short form and clips from the get-go?

MM: Long form.

LC: Long form is always the priority.

Q: How do we work with walled gardens?

MM: Need to make it beneficial to all parties.

LC: Have third party providers create white label solutions

Gigi Wang of Invoke then presented Information Adds Authenticity to Ads. Her team was asked why some video works better than others. They examined sponsored content versus traditional advertising, talking to 150 people in a live session. Their findings:

  • Sponsored content works best when it’s informational
  • Paid influencers encourage cynicism; real ads are seen as more trustworthy
  • Movie trailers stand out in driving consumer action

Best way to socialize/sell the results to executives is to have them sit in on the live sessions – create a shared mindset through shared experience.

The last session of the day was from industry icon Colleen Fahey Rush of Viacom Media Networks, whose talk was titled Looking Forward with GenZ, the Digital Natives. This MTV-executed study looked at teen Gen Zs, age 13-17. These teens now make up 25% of the US population. Teens today are the same as previous generations, they want to know “who are we?” and “who do we want to become?”. These teens grew up in their own unique situation, living with terrorism, school shootings, the Great Recession, digital disruption, and a lot of cultural and social change – which has led them to be stressed out and anxious, and pragmatic about the future.

There are six main takeaways about Gen Z teens:

  • No assumptions: they are pushing society towards acceptance
  • Calculating consequences: they are mindful of their actions and try to reduce risks
  • Social media & self-esteem cycling: they use social media to try out different looks and personalities, which can lead to acceptance or rejection
  • Redefining intimacy: relationships are much more public via social media, but social media and tech also lead to relationships that are more virtual than IRL. Some wish for “old school” relationships without the tech.
  • Strategizing passions: teens have more tools to pursue niche activities, whether to build a resume for college, or to become an entrepreneur
  • Stressed out/Seeking escape: They take self-care very seriously and are destigmatizing stress and anxiety. But with all that, they are optimistic about the future.

Our afternoon ended with a cocktail party as we networked and digested the day’s insights with the help of a beverage or two. 

About the Author: David is an award-winning media research expert and author of “The Genius Box,” a new book about the evolution of the television-audience relationship. He is principal of TiceVision LLC, a media consultancy, and can be reached at david@ticevision.com.