As the digital age continues to change the way viewers consume visual entertainment, experiences that were once familiar to everyone start to disappear. For instance, the generation born with smartphones firmly attached to their palms will never experience the disappointment of missing their favourite show due to some alternative commitment. These days, the catch-up services provided by on-demand streaming services means that any occurrence of FOMO can quickly be rectified by streaming a show online. And in the event that the preferred broadcaster doesn’t provide an on-demand option, then this generation will have no qualms about getting their fix elsewhere. There are, after all, so many options available in this space these days.
In recent months, on-demand streaming and subscription video on-demand services have enjoyed column inches in pretty much every publication even mildly interested in the changing media landscape. The emergence of Lightbox, the decision of Slingshot to launch Global Mode to give customers access to Netflix, Sky’s plans to launch an SVOD service in the near future and the on-demand streaming deals signed by MediaWorks and TVNZ have been just some of the areas of intrigue that this space has delivered—and a Kiwi public that previously had very limited viewing options suddenly finds itself spoilt for choice.
So what exactly are Kiwis choosing and which shows are attracting the biggest audiences?
For starters, Quickflix, which previously enjoyed relative independence in the SVDO market, now finds itself with some heavy-hitting competitors. But despite the arrival of the newcomers, the service’s managing director Paddy Buckley says that new players haven’t hindered his company’s growth.
“We're growing quarter on quarter with no discernible change in that pattern since other services have entered the market,” he says. “Video on demand is a high growth and fast-moving sector, so it's an exciting space to be in and we expect further growth going forwards.”
Given that the audience isn’t necessarily sitting in front of a box in the living room, Quickflix has also made moves to expand its service to as many devices as possible.
“We’ve also broadened our platform recently by introducing a universal Android app (to go with the iOS app) and we are now optimised for Chromecast, so we are seeing take-up in those areas as well,” says Buckley.
And it isn’t only the device choices of the modern audience that varies. What Kiwis are watching also includes a spread across a broad range of shows and movies. Buckley was asked to provide a top ten list of the shows that have been the most popular among his subscribers over the course of the last year, but did not want to compare the different categories against each other.
Instead, he provided three lists segmented into the categories ‘new release movies,’ ‘latest TV’ and ‘subscription movies and TV’.
Here’s a breakdown of the most popular shows in each category:
New release movies
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
12 Years a Slave
Dr Who season 8
Walking Dead season 4
Miranda season 3
Subscription movies and TV
The West Wing
Jurassic Park (Richard Attenborough effect)
Awakenings (Robin Williams effect)
Shaun of the Dead
Buckley was asked for the total streams tallied by each of these titles over the last year, but he did not provide these figures to StopPress. He did however say that Kiwi content—especially the shows secured earlier this year—have proved particularly popular.
“One thing that is very noticeable is the popularity of Kiwi shows—bro’Town and Outrageous Fortune, for example, have huge enduring appeal and have been near the top of our charts since they went live. We’ll be launching another wave of Kiwi content soon and expect that to perform equally well.”
Since Quickflix is predominantly based on a subscriber model (although it also offers pay-per-view movies), Buckley says that he is able to tap into customer data to better understand what the Kiwi audience prefers to watch and which devices they are using to watch those shows.
“You learn more about viewing preferences from subscribers than from casual users, but our data goes deeper than that because of all the devices Quickflix is available on. So for example, we know that kids content is most watched on iPads, and we know that people often watch our new release movies on their smart TVs. Similarly, it’s no surprise that people watching Quickflix through Playstation and Xbox tend towards action movies with not so many kids shows being watched.”
Since the media’s attention first turned to the on-demand streaming space, it was always clear that this battle would be won through content. And Buckley will hope that the insights he draws from his viewership will help to point him in the right direction when it comes to securing content rights. However, as was recently seen, getting the content he wants might involve a bit of grappling with the other players in the field.
Earlier this year, Lightbox lost out to Quickflix in securing the rights to stream Kiwi favourites Outrageous Fortune and Go Girls, but this didn’t stop the Spark Digital Ventures subsidiary from landing some big shows—and this has given the service a strong start in the market.
“Since launch in late August, we’ve already streamed 27.5 years (or more than 10,000 days) of content to kiwis,” says a spokesperson from Lightbox. “Our free 30-day trial is also working well for us and has attracted a great number of customers, clearly showing we are delivering on a pent up demand for fantastic TV, online, anytime.”
Like Quickflix, Lightbox was also cagey about per-show streaming numbers, but the company did provide the following top ten list of its most popular shows:
3. Breaking Bad
5. Orange is the new black
6. Modern Family
7. House of Cards
8. Lost Girl
10. Downton Abbey
“Exclusive-to-Lightbox TV shows such as Outlander, Vikings and Suits have consistently been in the top five viewed shows. Perennial favourites Breaking Bad, Modern Family, 24 and Downtown Abbey are also proving popular,” says the spokesperson.
Unsurprisingly, Lightbox also tracks customer viewing preferences in order to identify which shows it should be looking to secure. However, the data collected the SVOD service could also offer some utility to Spark, in the sense that the telco could use this to gather information about consumers who aren’t necessarily in its subscriber base.
Lightbox was asked whether it shared its customer information with Spark, but the spokesperson was cagey in response, saying: “Lightbox operates as an independent business. We have been very open about content our subscribers are viewing and will continue working with Spark to provide a great deal for their entertainment-loving broadband customers.”
The importance of viewer data to modern media players has also been reflected in TVNZ’s decision to introduce a cost-free, subscriber-based update to its OnDemand offering in the near future.
Jason Foden, TVNZ’s general manager of on-demand, says that this will be done to give viewers a more personal experience and also to provide advertisers with more granular insights on which shows are popular among which demographic groups. While such data can already be collected to some degree, the incorporation of the subscriber model will greatly increase the accuracy of the information delivered.
One thing that is clear as things stand at the moment is that Kiwis have a massive appetite for the content being delivered through TVNZ’s on-demand interface. At the end of September, TVNZ enjoyed a record month, with 5.8 million streams being tallied. This result was buoyed significantly by the success of Orange is the New Black, which contributed over a million streams to the overall number for the month.
Foden says that TVNZ’s OnDemand offering has grown 56 percent when measured against the numbers recorded at the same time last year, and between January and the end of September the service has seen 46.5 million streams of its content.
Here’s a list of TVNZ’s top ten most-streamed shows since the beginning of the year:
Home and Away
My Kitchen Rules (Aus)
Orange is the New Black
The Big Bang Theory
When these Ondemand stats are compared to the TVNZ’s most popular on-air shows, it indicates that the on-demand platform provides a complementary viewership to shows screening on TV. For this reason, Foden says that 70 percent of all shows and 90 percent of those that air during primetime are also carried across onto the on-demand platform.
Although TVNZ’s viewership numbers are clearly impressive, it’s still questionable how profitable the OnDemand service is proving in terms of advertising. Foden wouldn’t comment on the revenue figures that have accompanied this growth in on-demand streaming, but he did say that advertisers are being drawn to the service.
One of the main reasons why advertisers see advertising in the OnDemand space as an attractive option is because the number of ads per show is limited.
“Advertisers see it as a premium space,” says Foden. “We have a great opportunity to keep it as a premium space, in the sense that the low number of ads gives brands greater cut through.”
Foden also says there are no plans to increase the number ads that appear in shows as the OnDemand streaming numbers continue to grow.
Looking at the TVNZ’s OnDemand streaming stats provides a strong indication of how substantial the Kiwi appetite is for soaps. And the four million streams tallied by Home & Away will be particularly irksome to the team at MediaWorks, given that TVNZ last year swooped in and snatched the show that originally aired on TV3.
To fill this soap-shaped gap in its on-air and on-demand programming, MediaWorks recently sent out a brief to local production companies to develop “a long-running daily serial drama, to launch on TV3 in 2015.”
MediaWorks spokesperson Rachel Lorimer was asked for statistics regarding the most-streamed shows on 3Now, but she has not sent this information through.
She did however say that MediaWorks’ 3Now platform was growing, and that the comedy shows such as Jono & Ben at Ten and 7 Days were performing very well.
Lorimer says that in addition to full episodes of various shows across TV3 and Four, shorter extra clips are also proving popular. In this sense, the 3Now platform offers show producers a means by which to engage with audiences after their shows end.
Sky TV, the other major broadcaster, usually guards its viewership numbers quite closely, so the company’s head of corporate comms Kirsty Way did not divulge show-specific streaming stats for any of the programmes available via Sky Go.
She did however say there had already been around 200,000 downloads of the Sky Go app, and that the company was starting to identify which shows are popular via the format.
“Some of the most popular catch up shows currently include Keeping up with the Kardasians on E!, Geordie Shore on MTV, Prime shows like Extant, Incursion, Under the Dome and Doctor Who. Catch up movies are also up there in the most popular on demand content,” says Way.
In addition to these shows, she says that sports channels are also proving popular, which makes sense given that this is also the case on TV.
Interestingly, Way says that Sky Go is a “value add” service rather than a means by which to drive revenue substantially.
“This is a value add service for our SKY customers, we aim to provide another convenient option for them when the TV is not available,” she says.
“As the number of downloads of the App has steadily been increasing we can see that we are providing a valuable service to our customers. We believe viewing is preferred on the big screen at home but Sky Go is popular when that is not possible, for example for big sporting moments during the working week.”
While this might be the case for now, the streaming landscape is changing quickly, and viewers are becoming more accustomed to watching content on whatever screen they have available when they want it. And unless broadcasters make themselves available in the places where their audiences are, then viewers will simply find what they’re looking for elsewhere.