Where are the brands in online TV?


A couple of weeks ago, the new chief of WarnerMedia Entertainment (and therefore HBO), Bob Greenblatt, asserted that “Netflix doesn’t have a brand. It’s just a place you go to get anything”.  Well, that’s certainly a bullish way to start a new job.

I don’t feel that’s a fair statement about Netflix specifically, but Greenblatt’s general point is valid.  Over the last few decades, TV marketers and creatives have built strong, clearly-positioned and distinctive channel and network brands, but it seems we’re leaving our brand creation skills behind when it comes to online video players.

At next week’s Promax Europe conference in Amsterdam, Europe’s leading gathering of entertainment marketers, I’ll be demonstrating the striking similarity between the majority of online TV brands around the globe – how the players themselves look and how they’re promoted.

This is an urgent issue for many people in our industry because online TV is about to get a whole lot more competitive.  We’re living through an era of mega-mergers in the media sector and all the biggest hitters are set to launch new online TV services over the next few months.  We’re about to see Disney+, which will have a lot of Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars content, and a new offer from AT&T-owned Warner Media featuring content from Warner, Turner and HBO. NBCUniversal’s new ad-supported streaming service is set to launch next year. We know that, having bought Scripps, Discovery Networks has big plans in this space too, and there are rumours about Apple.  In response to this growing global competition, we’re seeing new alliances between national broadcasters launching their own combined online TV services.  For example, Salto in France will be a joint venture between France Télévisions, TF1 and M6.  And recently in the UK, the BBC and ITV confirmed the rumours that they’re planning to launch BritBox, which has already achieved some success for them in the US.

In my session at Promax Europe, 5 Ways To Differentiate Your Online TV Brand (Monday 25th March, 2.30pm, Grote Zaal), I’ll be arguing that the companies and networks that move first to develop stronger online TV brands will give themselves a big advantage over the competition.  I’ll be talking about the main battleground in the war for audiences amongst all these services.  And I’ll be sharing examples of five ways in which a minority of online TV brands, for example Hulu, are making themselves distinctive with innovative design and a creative approach to promotion.

If you’ll be in Amsterdam next week, I hope I’ll see you at my session.  If not, look out for a follow-up post later next week when I’ll be sharing more of the content.

Andy Bryant, Managing Director