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While We Social Distance, Media Gets Up Close and Personal

Article by
Lindsey Warner
VP, Media Director
EchoPoint Media
Placeholder Image? Lindsey

The rapid pace of change in the media landscape is impressive and, at times, challenging. It’s the driving force that encourages creative thinking, new applications, testing and a constant state of learning. And during this pandemic, the rate of change has accelerated even more; major behavioral and economic shifts are happening every day. However, if media and the growth of digital has taught us anything, it has been to be nimble, have a learning agenda and be a student of the consumer — and we’re putting those principles to work now more than ever.

While many of the media consumption and behavior-related headlines have been somewhat intuitive given the closures and stay-at-home orders – ecommerce, grocery delivery, internet usage, working remotely, limited travel, etc. — we’ve been interested in the trickle-down effects and what sort of impact this time will have on media’s future state. The answers aren’t clear just yet, and longer-term planning will likely prove challenging, so we’ve focused our attention on a couple of key channels our clients tend to invest in the most. And we’ve seen some of the biggest behavioral shifts with video.

Not surprisingly, we’re watching substantially more video content across all screens and devices, and streaming contributes the highest share of that growth. Streaming to TVs has nearly doubled, up 53% YoY. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video represent most of platform streaming, with 63% of all streaming happening On Demand. But beyond the rise in viewership, the programming and content itself has had to quickly evolve and buck trends. When thinking about how to reach an audience, understanding the type of content and how it’s consumed is equally important. And this is where something really interesting is unfolding during COVID-19.

  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon made moves early to reinvent the model of entertainment during quarantine and leaned into a ‘Home Edition,’ which has quickly amassed a dedicated following. By embracing minimal production, a shorter format, handmade graphics, a couple cute kids, an epic slide, and virtual celebrity interviews, the show is thriving. In fact, anecdotally on social media, many fans say they prefer it over the show’s standard format. The videos have received more views on YouTube over the course of a month (more than 45 million) than any other piece of content the show put on YouTube in all of 2019.
  • Similarly, actor John Krasinski launched his goodwill YouTube series, Some Good News, which gained quick popularity with more than 2.5 million YouTube channel subscribers and more than 11 million views of the final episode. Krasinski shares uplifting real-life stories and uses his star power to brighten viewers’ day, like reuniting with fellow Office cast members to recreate the dance scene from Jim and Pam’s wedding on the show, or surprising a girl with a Zoom performance from the original Hamilton Broadway cast.
  • SNL debuted its inaugural at-home edition on NBC with a monologue filmed remotely by COVID-19 survivor Tom Hanks and a compilation of content and skits created in cast members’ homes. (Chloe Fineman’s MasterClass Quarantine Edition is definitely worth a watch.) The episode generated 4.5 million views on its YouTube channel.

While they only represent a fraction of the new content released so far during COVID-19, these examples showcase an interesting intersection of celebrity and at-home production quality. Coupled with the shorter, sharable nature of the content and interactive elements like hashtags and virtual challenges, viewers are finding themselves drawn to a new form of entertainment. Something a little less polished, more raw, real-time, inventive, and certainly a lot more personal. (You can’t get much more personal than broadcasting content from inside your home.)

All this content also shares the platform that has really fueled the sharing and view counts — YouTube. It’s a logical launch pad for this style of content, since social sharing, virality, and user-generated content are its foundational elements. The massive uptick in YouTube usage and streaming in the last few months has already impacted Google’s roadmaps, accelerating timelines for new product releases and advertising offerings for the platform where we’re seeing a focus on Connected TV (CTV) products. YouTube Select has been announced as the replacement for Google Preferred and new inventory packages will roll out for advertisers which will now include CTV inventory. Google also fast-tracked the introduction of skippable ads for CTV devices and the inclusion of CTV inventory in its Brand Lift measurement product in response to the streaming surge in recent months.

With this fast-tracked need for content and innovative ways to deliver it, now is the time for brands to actively learn, but be decisive. Take advantage of attention and engagement at all-time highs and lean into CTV and streaming inventory for your video mix. Test multiple platforms and inventory sources to understand which ones deliver the most engaging content and resonate with your audience. Consumers are gravitating toward content that feels work-in-progress or real-time — consider short content teasers or releasing content as each part is ready across platforms like YouTube.

This year’s video trends are already shaping technology launches, advertising products, and the type of content keeping viewers entertained. In these unprecedented times, we’re getting a glimpse into the lives of celebrities and co-workers alike. Will content that feels less produced and more off-the-cuff become the norm in a post-COVID media world? Will subscriptions to streaming platforms stay at similar levels and speed up addressable advertising on the platforms? Will a desire for short, real-time video and the delayed releases of new TV shows and movies continue to fuel these platforms and pave the way for the TikToks and Quibis of the world? We have a lot more questions than answers right now, but the signs point toward a long-lasting impact beyond COVID. And if today’s at-home content teaches us anything, it’s that we can always find creative solutions for the unexpected.

Lindsey Warner, VP, Media Director at EPM

Lindsey helps lead EchoPoint Media, Y&L’s integrated media division, with a digital-focused perspective fueled by her time on the west coast working across brands and clients within the WPP network and at MGM Resorts International. Now with EchoPoint, she drives results and innovation for clients like Brizo, Trane, Indiana University Online, and Speedway.