The Rise of Streaming and FAST Channels

Content consumption has undergone a seismic shift in recent years, evolving rapidly from the dominance of theatrical releases and TV to the rise of major streaming platforms and free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels. These services offer subscribers relatively inexpensive, on-demand access to vast content libraries, which have amassed about 1.8 billion viewers globally. New streaming entrants from traditional media companies and tech giants alike have fostered aggressive competition for content to attract and maintain audiences.

More recently, FAST channels have begun making significant inroads. Ad revenues for FAST services are growing significantly. Analysts forecast that FAST channel ad revenue will nearly triple from about $4 billion in 2022 to over $10 billion by 2027. Although distribution in the U.S. will dominate the market, international markets are growing fastest.

Exploiting these opportunities requires navigating a complex entertainment rights ecosystem—from contractual limitations, territory considerations, varying currencies, payments, collections, and more. As consumption patterns and distribution options progress, rights holders must continually re-evaluate their content deployment strategies and workflows to optimize their potential for success in today's intricate multi-platform distribution landscape.

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Optimizing Libraries for Streaming & FAST Channel Distribution

Rights holders face the challenge of not only adapting to the changes in consumption patterns but also strategically leveraging their libraries to thrive in the new ecosystem. This optimization involves a thorough analysis and reconfiguration of existing content to suit the distinct requirements of various digital platforms. The goal is to enhance the profitability of each piece of content and to make calculated decisions on what to release, where, and how to maximize reach.

Localization for a Global Digital Audience

Exploiting the growth in international markets requires vigilance in staying on top of international film distribution and licensing trends. Localization factors depend on the audience you’re trying to reach and where content will be viewed. Optimizing content that resonates with diverse viewers is critical, and right holders must be aware of language and culture.

Strategic localization initiatives – from translating subtitles to incorporating cultural nuances – help content resonate across markets and can greatly impact acceptance in a given marketplace.

Accurately conveying dialects or translating context-dependent humor poses substantial complexities. Services like optical character recognition (OCR) subtitling and machine translation integrate seamlessly into content management systems and can enable rapid, automated translation into multiple languages but require fine-tuning for specific markets.

Metadata Management for Enhanced Discoverability

digital artworkStreaming and FAST channels rely heavily on metadata to connect viewers with content. As such, robust metadata management is crucial for driving discoverability and engagement.

Strategies like developing marketing style guides and taxonomies help unify branding and messaging across titles and make a big difference. Data standards around cast, crew, descriptions, tags, and imagery enable assets to be efficiently searched, recommended, and merchandised by algorithms.

As platforms grow increasingly crowded, leveraging metadata as a discovery tool is vital for cutting through the clutter. Contextualizing and enhancing each asset empowers titles to find audiences and enhance user engagement.

Media companies should also be aware of different platform opportunities. For instance, some platforms offer short and long descriptions, creating additional marketing possibilities depending on how titles are searched and shown.

Adapting Artwork for Digital Display

Digitization has revolutionized how viewers interact with film and TV – changing not just the delivery mechanism, but the entire experience. This paradigm shift calls for visual assets explicitly tailored for digital presentation.

The thumbnails and graphics for your titles play a significant role in consumption. Artwork must be designed for set-top boxes and mobile devices, adapting to shape, dimension, file size, and magnification factors. 

Implementing style guides maintains branding consistency across titles and platforms. However, due to the distinct user experiences offered by each FAST aggregator and streaming channel, you will need abundant metadata imagery. A single image in a fixed resolution and ratio is not universally compatible across these platforms. Today's titles typically contain several dozen images tied to contextual audience clues for discovery and ad targeting.

While you may have existing creative, it may not match the current brand style, messaging, or platform mindset. Even if it made a big splash when originally launched, it may not be appropriate in today’s marketplace or match modern quality, style, or treatments. Branding is crucial in streaming platforms and FAST channels, where people browse multiple titles rapidly. Title consistency within serial productions helps identify related content more quickly.

Navigating Ratings & Compliance in the Streaming Age

The intersection of localization and compliance poses significant complexity for rights holders. Varying cultural values and regional regulations may mandate geo-blocking certain types of content in specific markets – requiring advanced rights management technology to enforce restrictions and avoid penalties.

Content ratings are far from universal, so media companies must consider rating definitions when crossing borders. Understanding factors like censorship laws, advertising codes, and protected classifications across markets is imperative. By proactively addressing compliance early in the content supply chain, rights holders circumvent considerable distribution risks to global digital platforms. Automated policy enforcement also minimizes reliance on manual review processes.

Digital Rights Management in Streaming and FAST Channels

The emergence of streaming and FAST channels has introduced new complexities to licensing agreements unforeseen in traditional contract negotiations. Many legacy contracts failed to anticipate business models like electronic sell-through (EST) and digital rentals — resulting in licensing gaps. Rights holders must now parse increasingly intricate licensing across adaptive business models and diversified platforms. Windowing contracts must account for new forms of distribution still being defined, including offline downloading to mobile devices.

For some media and entertainment companies, libraries have also grown over time. There may have been acquisitions from an original production company or another third party. It can be challenging to track what you have and what rights are associated with it. There may also be historical obligations tied to particular asset participation rights. 

In some cases, incremental rights might have to be acquired and can be pretty complex. Film deals often have specific provisions about windows tied to payouts, and changes can lead to costly legal implications unless carefully managed.

Managing these modern intricacies requires replacing outdated software built for simpler times. To maximize opportunities, you need current entertainment rights management software to provide visibility into rights across titles and territories. Having the right functionality is especially important when juggling multiple windows, streaming services, and FAST channels in this evolving environment. For example, while exclusivity has been the norm, offering content to multiple platforms is increasing in popularity and showing substantive returns. In September 2023, half of the top 10 streaming titles were available on multiple platforms.

Scheduling & Release Strategies for Digital Platforms

As in most industries, timing is crucial. Coordinating releases with global events and trends can bring new exposure to legacy titles, capitalizing on focused interest. Here are several recent examples:

  • Amid the writer’s strike, distributors found new outlets for titles based on audiences seeking more diverse content options.
  • The marriage of a particular actress to a prominent public figure in 2018 ignited fresh enthusiasm for the legal drama television series the actress featured, resulting in the show becoming the most streamed acquired title ever despite being out of production for 12 years.
  • When the war in Ukraine thrust the country’s President, a former actor, into the mainstream, titles featuring his work suddenly had renewed interest.
  • When Oscar nominations come out, you can reintroduce films showcasing those nominated and other assets from actors or directors who received nominations.

Leveraging analytics helps strategically schedule digital releases and align roll-outs with relevant moments in the cultural zeitgeist for maximum impact. However, rights holders must be able to act quickly to capitalize on trends, and making those rapid decisions requires a robust infrastructure to manage rights across libraries.

Ensuring High-Quality Digital Delivery

computer workMaintaining quality control has grown increasingly imperative as viewing preferences shift to internet streaming. Compressed delivery pipelines leave little margin for error as dropped frames or synchronization issues severely impair the user experience.

Smooth streaming requires standardized processes for transcoding, validating quality, correcting errors, and distributing final assets across requested formats and resolutions. Automating cumbersome manual review procedures accelerates delivery while reducing risks. With bandwidth efficiency critical for online distribution, rights holders must implement reliable workflows to confirm quality from source files to end-users.

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Rights Holders' Strategies for the Streaming & FAST Age

As audience interests evolve, rights holders must be agile to react. By perpetually optimizing tactics in response to viewing data, rights holders sustain audience engagement across libraries to maximize asset longevity in this era of unprecedented choice.

Planning in Response to Evolving Consumption Patterns

Continuously iterating library programming based on consumption analytics allows for fluid planning amid shifting audience behavior. Rapidly realigning distribution strategies to capitalize on rising platform demand for specific genres minimizes the risks of waning viewer interest, eroding a title's residual commercial potential.

Granular analytics reveal tactical insights around shifting audience appetites. FAST channels offer a pivotal advantage by generating substantial and valuable data, which becomes particularly beneficial when determining the strategic distribution of specialized and focused content. Data about user and viewership metrics, content consumption patterns, engagement levels, and personalization strategies allows content to be adjusted or repackaged to enhance revenue and profitability.

However, this valuable information from streaming services is not always readily available to rights holders — a common concern voiced by content producers. A wealth of insights becomes available if you can negotiate access to this data. This knowledge proves invaluable for future distribution strategies.

Implementing Efficient Workflows for Content Deployment

As platforms demand faster content turnover amidst intensifying competition, optimizing media supply chain workflows is imperative for rights holders. Audience growth may accelerate by identifying and resolving friction points such as:

  • Title Lifecycle Review: Process mining techniques analyze the execution speed of key milestones from acquisition, rights management, and distribution — spotlighting procedural bottlenecks for workflow redesign.
  • Transition Manual Processes: Automating repetitive manual reviews via preconfigured business rules minimizes error rates while negotiating or enforcing rights clearances.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Centralized dashboards and real-time notifications provide transparency into asset status across internal teams and external partners, improving coordination. 

By taking an end-to-end view, rights holders can strategically reduce unnecessary delays across crucial supply chain stages from initial contracts through final delivery. Streamlining the complete content lifecycle accelerates time-to-market, getting programming to audiences faster and generating greater interest.

Avoiding Bottlenecks and Data Silos

Many media companies rely on disjointed workflows pieced together from dated systems and information silos. Asset tracking is managed manually through spreadsheets, emails, and phone calls — resulting in limited visibility and costly errors. Bottlenecks frequently occur as a lack of metrics prevents informed decisions on where to optimize. Fragmented processes create inconsistent application of rules, substantial missed opportunities, and prevent profitable exploitation of new commercial opportunities emerging around streaming. 

Integrated, optimized systems centralize content workflows onto a unified platform that is accessible across the organization and trusted partners. Automation handles rote tasks, allowing people to focus on high-value strategic activities. Enriched metadata standardizes content taxonomy as well as improves discovery and merchandising. Search, recommendations, and compliance checks are all executed rapidly at scale. 

Backend integrations with streaming platforms accelerate rights licensing while embedded financial intelligence and business intelligence inform commercial deal negotiations. Asset performance analytics provide real-time title insights to guide programming tactics in shifting markets.

Modern solutions transform media businesses into insights-driven, nimble organizations able to thrive amid industry disruption rather than play catch-up with competitors better positioned to capitalize on current and emerging consumption models.

Maintaining Cross-Platform Compatibility and Standards

As digital distribution grows increasingly fragmented across connected devices, seamlessly delivering quality experiences relies on proactive platform management, including:

  • Multi-Format Delivery: Comprehensive media engines automate the complex processing of assets into a multitude of specifications, including standards like IMF or specs tailored for mobile to 8K.
  • Quality Analysis: Advanced computer vision and algorithmic logic programmatically validate imagery and audio stability at scale versus manual sampling.
  • Platform Spec Syncing:  A centralized database can continuously update device and partner technical requirements as specifications rapidly progress, allowing engineering teams to prepare assets to the latest profile specs.
  • Certifications: Team members focused on nurturing partner relationships, monitoring policy changes, and guiding successful title submissions to help prevent rejections and delays. 

By centrally managing media transformations and conforming to standards, rights holders prevent quality or policy issues from hindering audience growth and hurting partner relations.

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How FilmTrack Can Help

The opportunities (and challenges) presented by the streaming and FAST channel revolution continue to evolve. Entertainment companies need holistic strategies around programming, rights management, operations, and analytics to create agile tactics to maximize revenue amid complex entertainment rights management.

Yet, many media companies still depend on fragmented tools, manual processes, and legacy systems that cannot optimize the complexities of multi-platform distribution. FilmTrack offers an integrated suite of software specifically designed to help rights holders optimize and monetize content libraries in the digital era to:

  • Maximize the performance and revenue potential of your library
  • Uncover hidden opportunities within your assets
  • Track rights and process complex financials with ease
  • Provide industry-leading business intelligence

Core capabilities that facilitate effectively distributing assets across streaming and FAST services include:

FilmTrack is the entertainment industry's most powerful and easy-to-use rights management solution. Whether you're a boutique to midsize organization managing a handful to thousands of titles or a midsize to major media company managing thousands to millions of titles, FilmTrack helps you navigate today's complex entertainment rights landscape.

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