I’ll admit it, I always use the Emmy’s as a way of validating my TV-watching habits. And while they’ll never give me an excuse to watch the Real Housewives of <insert city>, at least this year my taste for The Handmaid’s Talewas not only confirmed by TV’s highest honors, it made Emmy history by making Hulu the first digital platform to bring home a top series award.
This is no easy feat in this golden age of TV, where Game of Thrones producers spend an average of $10 Million dollars per episode. Today’s viewers expect dragons to look real, they expect authentic drama, nonstop action and big-time celebrities. When viewing is more on-demand than ever, and supply is the highest its been in TV history, viewer sophistication and expectations have clearly never been higher.
If I’d written this in 2014, I might have told the three big networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) to watch out for Starz and HBO in 2016. But in looking out for 2018, it’s Netflix and Amazon who need to step up their game, because digital programming will not stop with Hulu. #SocialisComing.
We’ve already seen YouTube, Facebook and Twitter not only rejigger their platforms to make video more prominent, they’ve also dipped their toes into original programming. From Facebook’s Strangers to Twitter’s upcoming launch of AM to DM, its live morning show with Buzzfeed News, social is ready to rock the on-demand video viewing world.
Facebook in particular is poised to revolutionize original programming and on-demand viewing with episodes in the 15-minute range (right in line with user preferences on mobile devices); a brand new Watch tab on its mobile experience; and ways to share, co-watch and comment on programming that are simply unavailable with traditional TV networks. Twitter and YouTube’s options aren’t too shabby either. They’re both focusing not just on great original programming, but on original programming that’s endemic to their platforms. Where do you go for real-time updates? Twitter. Where do you go for the funniest clips? YouTube. These are smart strategies that have the potential to leave other digital platforms in the dust.
Even more promising for social programming are the lower barriers to entry for creators themselves. Facebook’s Watch inquiry page suggests it will consider a wide range of content creators from individuals (read: influencers), to pubishers, to sports bloggers, artists and beyond. And they stand to make money off of each new show they add, with ad breaks and branded content.
Obviously influencers having their own shows is nothing new for the likes of YouTube, but this opens up the floodgates for Facebook to create its own niche that perfectly balances the expectation of highly-produced TV shows with the immediacy of raw and unfiltered influencer videos. Something that won’t take long to take off.
With more ways to resonate with audiences in formats that are untouchable for linear TV, social original programming will be the star of 2018. Stay tuned.