The discoverability dilemma

It's the golden age of content! But with so many platforms and shows to watch, no one can find anything new. All week we're breaking down different discoverability problems and how to beat them.
October 28, 2019

By: Elizabeth Foster and Alexandra Whyte 

Forget Netflix and chill. Now, it’s Netflix and search through the menu for an hour looking for something the whole family wants to watch before finally giving up and turning off the TV. Streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have spent years amassing large catalogues in a bid to draw people in. But this bulking up has led to an unexpected problem: No one can find anything to watch. This is bad news for producers who pour their time, energy and money into creating a show and finding a platform, only for it to be lost among hundreds—if not thousands—of other titles.

Without the gatekeeping effect of a TV schedule, not to mention the marketing might of traditional broadcasters, what good is a streamer’s millions-strong global reach if viewers don’t even know your show exists?

“Getting a prime slot on air was the scarce commodity in the era of appointment viewing. Now when you’re looking at pages of a catalogue, the scarce commodity is getting prime real estate on a service,” says Frank Falcone, president and creative director at Toronto’s Guru Studio, which produces Netflix original series True and the Rainbow Kingdom. “You swapped a time-based scarcity for a space-based scarcity.”

In the past, broadcasters were able to help by creating curated experiences and then advertising their own shows on the channels—but the landscape has changed. Now, since most SVODs don’t have advertising, their ability to draw eyeballs to undiscovered content is limited.

“The marketing budget is slowly shifting from the channels to the producers,” says David Michel, CEO of Paris-based Cottonwood, which has its show Find Me in Paris on Hulu. “Our job is to help [platforms] have enough material and the right assets to do social media and digital promotion.”

And the stakes for producers to stand out in the carousel are high. Once the lifeline for cancelled cult favorites, streamers have begun ending shows at an increasingly rapid pace—particularly those lost in the algorithm. In 2019 alone, Netflix cancelled 16 shows, according to RadioTimes, including critical darling One Day at a Time. This leaves viewers to watch tentpole titles on repeat, resulting in a franchise arms race and ultimately leading to viewer–brand fatigue. Subscription cancellation is the logical next step.

Recent forecasts from Digital TV research predict that 77.8% of TV households in the US will subscribe to at least one SVOD platform by 2024, and the average household will pay for only 2.8 services. With HBO Max, Disney+ and Apple all entering the fray over the next year, there isn’t enough room for everyone. And if viewers can’t find content they like to watch, the ramifications are bad for everyone.

If you’re ready to take the future into your own hands, Kidscreen is breaking down the different ways to get eyeballs, and exploring how kidcos are beating the discoverability problem. So choose your own adventure on your quest to get onto kids’ screens.

Throughout the week we’re tackling this issue in four parts. Check back tomorrow to see: What the platforms are doing to tackle this problem.

On Wednesday we’ll look at: How to game the YouTube algorithm.

Thursday is: How to take social media by storm.

And Friday will finish off with: How offline events drive audiences online.

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