The streaming wars are finally upon us, which has led to a full flowering of tech and other programmatic innovations to stand out or power others seeking to compete in this new landscape. As the majors largely are what they are, surprises have emerged from the burgeoning universes of cord-cutting streaming bundles; free, ad-supported streaming; ads that are custom-built for this new era of viewing habits; and helping those watchers make sense of it all.
For helping businesses become better storytellers
Vimeo has shifted its focus from breaking down the perception that video distribution was an either/or scenario between its platform and YouTube to now devising tools to enable creators across the spectrum to make more content. In 2019, Vimeo unveiled its highly requested tool Showcase, which allows users to create fully branded video channels, complete with personal domains and distribution across TV apps including Amazon Fire and Roku. Vimeo also unveiled Vimeo Enterprise, a business-centric suite of features including performance analytics, live-streaming, and in-video marketing functions, and in February, the company unveiled Vimeo Create, which offers small businesses a templated approach to putting together video for social distribution without having to have editing expertise.
2. PLUTO TV
For making free streaming worth watching with Viacom’s premium content
Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV in 2019 has positioned the platform as one of the premier ad-supported streaming services, growing its active monthly user base 75% to 22.4 million. With more paid streaming services flooding the market, ad-supported options are becoming a complementary addition to the cord cutter’s nexus. And, through its pipeline of intellectual property from Viacom (now merged with CBS to be ViacomCBS), Pluto TV is upping the quality of ad-supported offerings with more than 250 live-streaming channels. Keeping in step with paid streaming services, Pluto TV recently announced a series of upgrades to its interface that include a preview mode, favorite lists, and a “watch now” button that makes it easier to save and view content on-demand.
For imbuing streaming advertising with pause ads and personalized rewards for binge-watching
With 70% of its viewers using its ad-supported model, Hulu has elevated its ad strategy to provide more inventive options for both marketers and viewers. In 2019, Hulu unveiled pause ads (ads that appear on a paused screen) and binge ads (allowing brands to reward viewers for binge-watching, such as a discount on a product or watching the next episode of a show ad-free). Hulu also launched Friends with Benefits, a program for marketers to hide deals throughout Hulu. For example, clicking a show called Denim Blues could actually be an offer for a free shopping spree. In an effort to keep advertising as fresh as possible, Hulu announced that it was upping its frequency cap for ads, meaning no commercial will appear more than four times a day for a viewer.
4. GUNPOWDER & SKY
For giving underrepresented artists a platform for experimentation
Since launching in 2016, content studio Gunpowder & Sky has become a recognized platform for premium on-demand content through their sci-fi and horror networks Dust and Alter, respectively. While producing its own independent shorts, Gunpowder & Sky has also recently forged content deals with HBO Max and Quibi. To help facilitate more deals for its filmmakers, Gunpowder & Sky formed a partnership with the talent agency Creative Artists Agency to help set up Dust IP with top directors, producers, and studios.
For choosing adventure with its first original series Swipe Night
In 2018, Tinder formed the Z Team, a division within the company that caters specifically to the dating app’s core user: Gen Z. The Z Team has created features such as Tinder U, a university-centric version of Tinder, and festival mode, a way to navigate connections at music festivals. But it was 2019’s Swipe Night that has been the Z Team’s buzziest feature to date. Directed by Karena Evans, the 24-year-old filmmaker behind Drake’s videos for “In My Feelings” and “God’s Plan,” Swipe Night is a choose-your-own-adventure series from a first-person POV. As you make your way through a party, you’re confronted with choices to make that will dictate how the night will go—and who you’ll match with after the episode. Swipe Night ran every Sunday in October, and the first season brought 26% more matches and 12% more messages compared to standard Sunday evenings. Tinder has announced plans to take Swipe Night international in 2020.
For organizing the fragmented streaming landscape
If you search for a TV show or film, Google will likely tell you which streaming service it’s on. Reelgood takes that aggregation approach to the increasingly fragmented streaming landscape further by creating a dashboard that organizes and tracks what you’re watching. Essentially, Reelgood is a hub to help make sense of your scattered viewing habits, which is a significant undertaking. Every streaming service has its own ID for a piece of content. Even if it’s the same TV show, for example, Netflix and Hulu will have different IDs for it. Reelgood’s algorithm accounts for that metadata across more than 330 streaming services, and it even licenses out its data to other companies, including Verizon, Viacom, Dell, Roku, Metacritic, Tivo, and more.
For cutting the cost of cord cutting
In order to get the cable experience they want, cord cutters often have to mix and match services, which can, of course, run up a pricey bill. With 59 channels for $20/month, Philo stands out as one of the more affordable companion options with a notable lineup of channels including Nickelodeon, AMC, and Food Network. In 2019, Philo also made strategic bundle deals with midlevel telecom companies Frontier Communications and WOW! in a bid to capitalize on smaller markets.
For powering the increase in video streaming across major sports leagues
Powering more than a billion minutes of video per year, Deltatre is the behind-the-scenes technology company running the video infrastructure used by your favorite sports leagues, including the NFL and WWE. Deltatre and its suite of tools including Axis and Diva have helped its clients see a 53% increase in minutes streamed, 24% increase in paying subscribers, and a 32% increase in unique devices used to access content.
For producing hard-to-ignore interactive video ads
USeek gamifies the digital ad experience for marketers, creating highly engaging campaigns. For example, for 20th Century Fox’s release of Alita: Battle Angel, USeek built a find-the-object game overlaid on the film’s trailer. USeek has created similar experiences for such clients as Virgin America, Expedia, GoPro, and Adobe. A recent campaign with Samsung generated 1.6 million completed views on a 90-second ad, with a completion rate of 88% and an engagement rate of 93%.
For simplifying video content creation
Wochit is a video-creation platform designed for media companies. In 2019, Wochit released a suite of new features called Collage, which includes the ability to split the screen, do cutaways, and add commentary for picture-in-picture.