A host of new streaming platforms and creative partnerships usher in the next age of content.
Tech juggernauts Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube are launching a new wave of creative video and audio entertainment formats, reimagining the streaming experience.
Combining original podcasts, brand-curated playlists, audioplays and audiobooks, along with live, programmed and user-generated video content, and a multitude of other tie-ups, they reflect the increasingly blurred lines between editorial, branded, original entertainment, and consumer-generated content.
These platforms also represent a shift toward increasingly mobile-first entertainment, particularly among young smartphone users. According to Ericsson’s “TV and Media 2017” report, 70% of consumers now watch television and video on mobile devices, a figure that has doubled since 2012. The pattern is expected to continue, with Ericsson estimating that by 2020, 50% of all viewing will be done on a mobile screen.
Meanwhile, the explosion of audiobooks and podcast empires has carved out the smartphone and audio content as new primary channels. In the last two years, Amazon-owned Audible has released 77 original audio works, according to the New York Times. With nearly 150 more in various stages of production, the brand is also commissioning one- and two-person plays, as well as developing audio originals with actress Reese Witherspoon.
One billion monthly active users take to Instagram to share visual snippets of their daily life. Now, with the recent launch of IGTV, users can also share long-form video content. IGTV comes at a pivotal point, with viewers turning away from traditional television in favor of digital content. The move follows the rapid growth of Instagram Stories, which is used by 250 million people daily. Going head to head with YouTube, IGTV allows users to upload longer-form content, up to a maximum of one hour, hosted alongside celebrity-shared content.
Original Spotify podcasts and video
Spotify has begun moving beyond music by introducing video content and original podcasts. Earlier this year, the company announced Spotify Spotlight, which integrates video content into podcasts alongside audio. Courtney Holt, the brand’s head of studios and video, explains that Spotlight provides “a new format that merges great storytelling, news, information and opinion with visual elements.” Holt, who boasts a long career in digital media, plans to continue evolving Spotify’s video content strategy. “I know people are coming to Spotify to listen first, but we’re starting to build something new,’’ he explains. “I want to create content that can be seen and listened to.’’
Alongside experimentation with video content, Spotify is introducing original podcasts, most notably Amy Schumer’s 3 Girls, 1 Keith, which launched at the end of June 2018. With 75 million Premium subscribers, Spotify leads the market for paid on-demand music streaming. However, Apple currently dominates the growing podcast market, which is estimated at 73 million monthly users—a 5% increase from 2016, according to a 2018 study by Edison Research.
Original podcasts like Schumer’s add a new dimension to the Spotify brand, putting it in a position to compete directly with Apple for a share of podcast listeners. “We thought, ‘let’s get audio right,’” says Holt. “We are evolving from just music to non-music audio as well.”
In the midst of these platform crossovers, streaming providers are teaming up with leaders in the fashion and beauty industries in an effort to enhance user engagement.
Apple Music recently launched a show hosted by newly appointed Louis Vuitton men’s designer Virgil Abloh. The Beats 1 radio show, launched on the Televised Radio channel, is part curated playlist and part podcast. Described by Abloh as an “audio mood board,” it features new music alongside classic tracks, interspersed with discussions on art, design, fashion and music. “Music has an amazing ability to bring people together, and I couldn’t think of a better format to catalog all the multidisciplinary work I do under one umbrella,” the designer explains in an interview with Vogue.
YouTube has just announced the creation of a division dedicated to fashion and beauty content partnerships, led by fashion editor Derek Blasberg—a bid, many have argued, to compete with Instagram’s far-reaching popularity with fashion and beauty advertisers.
In this new role, Blasberg will cultivate relationships with fashion and beauty brands and influencers to enrich the platform. According to Pixability’s 2017 “Standing Out” report, YouTube has seen year-on-year growth of 65% in the beauty and personal care space. Bringing Blasberg on board puts YouTube in a better position to continue this pattern and develop the expanding usership. “I’m looking forward to bridging the world of YouTube creators with the global style and beauty industries in this newly created role and department,” says Blasberg.
Watch this space.
For more on where the entertainment industry is heading read our previous story on publishers creating new entertainment channels.