"Internet-based video services don’t have the same constraints as pay TV when it comes to marathons. And perhaps more important, this is where today’s viewers are increasingly flocking for TV content." — Carl Schachter, chief revenue officer, Wurl
Viewers love TV marathons. According to Deloitte, 70% of U.S. consumers binge-watch television.
A TV marathon is a specific way of packaging reruns, which as we all know, have been applied successfully by broadcast and cable networks for years on traditional TV. The basis of a marathon’s success has been to use rerun content that typically has passed its VOD, streaming or syndication distribution windows. This, combined with proper in-channel promotion, gives marathons the feel of a one-time event, thereby increasing its appeal compared to a traditional rerun.
As a matter of fact, marathons can generate much higher hours of viewing (HOV), and therefore ad impressions, all without jeopardizing the content value. Just look at the success USA Network has seen with Law & Order: It set the record for the most binged marathons with 161 billion minutes of viewing. That’s 2.7 billion hours.
Marathons on Traditional TV
Cable and broadcast networks have used TV marathons as a promotional tool for a sequel release, a new season, or even a season finale, such as the Game of Thrones marathons that ran on HBO before the eagerly anticipated release of season eight earlier this year. Marathons can also be very popular when the content is related to a holiday, such as airing a Die Hard marathon on Christmas Eve.
However, on pay TV there are challenges to airing marathons. Because “air time” is precious, marathon durations have to be limited — typically to just a portion of a day, for example. In addition, it’s hard to assess the audience for a marathon and the ad revenue it will generate when compared to other programming alternatives.
In an attempt to address these issues, operators have experimented with “pop-up” channels, creating a new channel for a limited period of time. However, the cost of creating and promoting such a pop-up channel could rise to millions of dollars and potentially cannibalize ratings on their primary channels. It is becoming apparent to content owners that capitalizing on OTT as an additional distribution path to run pop-up channels is the answer.
Marathons on OTT
Internet-based video services don’t have the same constraints as pay TV when it comes to marathons. And perhaps more important, this is where today’s viewers are increasingly flocking for TV content. That same Deloitte study found that viewers ages 14-25 spend more time watching streaming services than traditional TV.
From a cost-savings perspective, the unlimited channel capacity of OTT services provides excellent returns. OTT TV marathons and pop-up channels are also more cost effective than traditional TV due to the fact that the software is readily available to stream a new “channel,” and the time required to build it is greatly reduced.
TV marathons on OTT TV allow for greater return on investment and more options for video producers, video services, and advertisers. Some marathons, such as Twitch’s Yu-Gi-Oh marathon, run for just a day or two. Others, like Twitch’s Pokémon marathon, run for multiple months. But both types of marathons result in millions of viewers and generate millions of hours of viewing. This kind of viewership can and has attracted a wide range of advertisers thanks to a greatly expanded inventory, helping to generate more ad-revenue for the producers and OTT services.
As viewers transition to internet-based video services, their love for marathons is not only strong, but growing. Because many viewers use marathons to catch up on shows they missed or perhaps re-watch a season they loved, using OTT to run those marathons could mean tens of millions of hours of viewing and millions of unique viewers over a year at a fraction of the cost for doing the same thing over pay TV. Furthermore, OTT not only allows you to extend the utility of your content in a cost-effective way, but it can also draw new viewers to a platform by enticing them to watch the marathon in the first place.
So when looking for new sustainable revenue streams, think of what content packs the most punch and then find the right partner to help you bring it to the masses. OTT is increasingly becoming the way to go for greater reach, efficiency and cost savings. Just ask yourself, can you really afford to miss out?
Carl Schachter is chief revenue officer of Wurl, where he is responsible for customer success and all market-facing functions.