thought leadership

Entertainment in a COVID-19 World

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the UK has tried to stay positive. In May, 52% people said that their main priority for the following month was to stay positive about the situation. This ranks similarly to the 51% of people who say it’s important to ensure they have the necessary items to survive. The population are introducing ‘little lifts’ – small moments on a daily basis that help their lockdown feel more comfortable and bearable. (Source: Global Web Index)

Entertainment has become a key way of providing these little lifts, with 43% of people saying it was their personal priority for the coming month. Demand for comedy podcasts has risen by 19% during lockdown, and the likes of Oprah, Jamie Oliver, Tom Hardy and Captain Tom Moore have all proved popular with UK audiences looking for entertainment. In fact, many have come to expect brands to offer entertainment – 65% of Channel 4’s audience agree that brands should offer light relief in their advertising. (Source: Global Web Index, DAX listening figures, 4 Youth / Core 4.)

Entertainment Trends:

Lo-Fi Content:

NOW: As production has halted and studios are closed for social distancing, the public has become increasingly used to lo-fi content for news broadcasts, talk shows and publisher content.

Another factor which has changed our quality expectations is that the content that we are used to on our screens from Netflix and YouTube are being shown in lower quality across much of Europe due to bandwidth. Additionally, TikTok’s rise as the latest and arguably biggest purveyor of low-fi content (the 7th most used social media app worldwide) has played a significant role in the quality of content we expect to see.

NEXT? Uncertainty for the future of restrictions means that we can expect more lo-fi content to continue to stay in the entertainment space for the rest of 2020. Lo-Fi content isn’t a new concept for social media users, but the popularity of TikTok means that there will be more lo-fi content being created than before. In addition, the circumstances that enabled TikTok’s rise in popularity (an increased appetite for entertainment and communication) means that as a platform it’s transcended the usual age barriers which similar social platforms have faced in the past.

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  • Content that was unsuitable for TVs might be right for phones. Should lo-fi content be part of our ongoing strategy?
  • Who in current or growth audiences are most receptive to lo-fi content?
  • How can lo-fin content be used to our advantage in the future? Can it be used to be more reactive or give audiences greater access?

The dive into the archives:

NOW: An antidote to new, lo-fi content is to revisit old but hi-fi content. In addition, nostalgia is a common response to times of stress or change – feelings that the pandemic has caused in most people. According to Google Trends, searches for the old and familiar have spiked since lockdown with searches for classic movies reaching a 5-year high. (Source: Google Trends)

NEXT? Returning to nostalgic classics isn’t a new trend; this pattern often occurs around Christmas or ahead of the release of a remake or sequel. Additionally, new content can satisfy nostalgic appetites – think Stranger Things. In fact, research shows that many people are feeling ‘content fatigue’ and that new content is still performing better.

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  • How can we make sure content ages better?
  • Can my brand trigger nostalgia? Or how can we tap into nostalgia to our benefit?
  • Can we partner with anyone to bring back classic content that’s right for our brand?

Streaming Skyrocket:

NOW: Since being at home, streaming patterns (both video and audio) have increased. Netflix saw 16m additional subscriptions in Q1, while Disney+ smashed their forecasted launch numbers, achieving 50 million users by April, after going live as lockdown began. TV viewing has increased by 13% but VOD has risen by 44% and longer-form content (more than 10 mins) is up by 27%.

Interestingly, the most popular genre that people have turned to is sports. The Last Dance (on Netflix) averaged 6 million viewers across all 10 episodes, making it the most-watched ESPN documentary of all tie. Amazon Prime’s advertising has been specifically promoting sports entertainment as a replacement for the live matches that we would otherwise be watching.

NEXT? Many people report that they will continue with their current streaming habits. Although growth will slow, current higher use is expected to stay. VOD needs to be a key element of any AV plan so that brands can reach the audiences that have migrated to streaming.

Additionally, as live sports begin to continue, but with social restrictions in place, it’s likely that some platforms will benefit from being the only window into the sporting world.

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  • What types of content will my audience want to engage with post-lockdown?
  • Are you spending enough on VOD to reach audiences who have changed their TV patterns over lockdown?
  • What other streaming platforms or formats can we tap into to serve out entertainment (e.g. podcasts)?

D2C:

NOW: With cinemas closed, films are being distributed in different ways. China’s Huanxi Media Group were due to release their Chinese New Year themed film “Lost in Russia” when lockdown struck, and postponing wasn’t an option. Instead, they brokered a deal with TikTok’s owner and were able to attract 600 million views. Other major movie studio moved titles to VOD earlier than planned or skipped cinema altogether. Frozen 2 was moved to Disney + well ahead of schedule and Trolls World Tour took a D2C route. Sky launched a premium VOD service (Sky Store Premiere) as a home for releases that would have gone to cinema.

NEXT? Because of the current circumstances, the D2C model is working, but it doesn’t mean it would continue to be such a success when we return to normality. However, movie financing is a big gamble, and the new learnings from this period could open new options up to companies. An interesting possibility is theatres being bought by tech giants. In the case of smaller films which may not prove a success on the big screen, their release could be reversed, appearing online first and then, if it’s a success added to the cinema roster later. This would prevent precious screen time being wasted on content that might not work.

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  • What upcoming content releases are best suited to a D2C trial?
  • How can I do this in a way that offers the audience value but limits backlash from vested parties?
  • How would I distribute this content beyond my current model – through own channels or partnerships?

The Growing Competitor:

NOW: Competing for audience’s share of time, mind and wallet has always been complex, but increasingly video content will join this competition. Gaming was already growing at an enormous rate, but during the pandemic, there has been an increased usage of 4.6 billion mins between January and April – an increase of 16% compared to entertainment’s 10%. Some entertainment brands are embracing this crossover. For example, Travis Scott took to Fortnite to launch music, digital merch and host a concert, while Sky has broadcast the e-sports EPL invitational on their YouTube channel, where footballers, celebs and influencers payed FIFA to raise money for the NHS. (Source: ComscoreMMX Multi-Platform, Adults18+, Jan & Apr2020, UK)

NEXT? The spread of growth transcends age groups – 25% of Baby Boomers are spending more time playing games – and the industry was seeing consistent, strong growth before lockdown, so it’s likely that this behaviour won’t change when we return to normality. It will be increasingly important to consider gaming as a competitor and as platform for opportunities in advertising to reach new audiences and forge more meaningful partnerships.

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

  • How much of my current audience overlaps with gaming? How likely is this to change over time?
  • Does gaming present opportunities to attract new audiences to my offering?
  • How can I use gaming to compliment my current offering (advertising or partnerships)?

Opportunities for Brands:

Podcasts – Podcasts were on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic but listening has accelerated since lockdown. Figures are up 20% week-on-week and during the week of 16th March to 6th April, Acast saw listening figures jump from 9 million to 11 million weekly listens. The disruption to usual routines has created new moments for podcast listening, and podcasts are quick and simple to produce without a studio or crew. (Source: ComscoreMMX Multi-Platform, Adults18+, Jan & Apr2020, UK)

Because they can be produced quickly, podcasts allow brands to be reactive and stay relevant. They’re low risk as they’re low investment but highly engaged. They also provide excellent access to talent, allowing you to partner with talent that otherwise may have been less available.

Ad-funded Programming / Branded Content – Although viewing numbers are up in the UK, programme-making budgets are under threat and producers and broadcasters need brands to help them fund more ambitious programming. There is an abundance of ideas that require partial or full funding to be produced. It’s more affordable to partner with a peak-time linear TV show on a broadcaster like Channel 4. In addition, it’s currently highly competitive with social and publisher partnerships in terms of cost and quality of reach.

There are both short and long-term opportunities. You could be reactive on shows with a quick turnaround but you can also plan shows further along the pipeline with the broadcasters and producers, which will allow you to have a greater influence on the narrative, helping you reduce risk and increase visibility.

Co-funding will allow you consistent brand presence throughout, helping you to build brand affinity, memorability and fans in a natural way. You also can benefit from a multiplier effect by sharing show assets such as brand, talent and channel.

Influencer Marketing – Social reach has never been bigger, and there’s a current huge spike in creator-led content. In March, love Instagram content saw a 146% increase, while TikTok and Pinterest had a 20-50% user interaction increase in the last month. Influencers are helping to contribute to this. Joe Wick’s PE classes broke a Guinness World Record for broadcasting to 955,000 people at once. P&G demonstrated harnessing the influencer power by partnering with Charli D’Amelio (TikTok’s biggest influencer) to create a #DistanceDance donation campaign to raise awareness about social distancing. The video has had 9.8 billion views.

For influencers, not having access to production studios isn’t abnormal. Influencing is reactive and relevant and allows you to reach new audiences, or those that are otherwise hard to reach. Finally, influencer content can assist you in better understanding your consumers from reading, interacting and acting on comments on social feeds.

Read the full report here.

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