11 Steps to Building a Successful Global Content Business Utilizing Streaming

Broadband technology gives content producers an easy and potentially universal way to reach a large audience. Compared to television, broadband video distribution is cheap, standardized, and does not require a lot of equipment, infrastructure, or expertise. With that said, many who have developed or operated a broadband network will share that getting a broadband network up is the easy part; developing a profitable business with an established vision and path for exponential growth tends to be rather challenging.

This holds true even for the largest entertainment brands. A look at the financials of these companies will show you that although broadband video is starting to become profitable, the yearly revenues are still extremely small compared to the revenues from traditional television businesses.

Television created business models that will be hard to replicate on newer platforms. Large content brands are moving towards offering multi-platform content across every device and to every region of the world. Content owners will centralize operations, localize product development, and offer customized content-viewing experiences on several devices, all using the same underlying platforms.

Existing content brands, new streaming businesses, and older content owners who want significant incremental revenue can benefit from the lessons learned over the past few years in the broadband space. There are some guiding principles that can help prepare for potential growth and scaling of a network. Three words to keep in mind are metadata, platform, and franchise. Keep these in mind when starting and you should be able to build a successful platform to grow your business. These three keywords pop up in all aspects of your business, especially when you talk about growth and future vision.

This article offers an outline and description of the steps necessary to build a successful global streaming business in today’s marketplace. These steps are very general and should be customized based on content, market, and users.

Step 1: Discover
In the first step of building a streaming business, figure out what you want to build and how you want to sell it. Start by discovering your overall strategic needs. Is your demographic shrinking? Is your audience running out of time to watch TV? Are they spending more time with your competition on other platforms?

Once you have determined your business needs and have defined the problem you need to solve, determine if broadband and streaming technologies provide you with a viable solution. You will also need to determine if this is a long-term strategic play or a short-term project to keep your competition at bay. Figure this out early so you know how much ongoing investment and commitment you will need from your management team.

As part of the discovery phase, provide a few business models you can choose from and project the financial opportunity of each in your given market. Play around with hybrid business models and non-traditional models as well.

An understanding of the opportunities in your marketplace as well as the current market dynamics can give you a strong strategic advantage. One example is the success of the content programmers during the cable-satellite wars of 25 years ago. A current dynamic that could be advantageous to your business is the fragmentation of content platforms. One way to analyze the market is to look at where your competition and partners are investing money. Can you help your partners grow their new business ventures using your product?

Step 2: Conceptualize
At the conceptualization stage, you determine what your product should be. Depending on the type of company and what content assets you own, you might start out with rights. As any content owner or licensee will tell you, without rights, you are very limited. If your company owns all of its content free and clear, then you can jump straight into conceptualization, but if not, talk to your lawyers fast.

Once you have the lawyers on board, it is best practice to get your marketing team involved early. Most of the time, marketing gets involved after the product is built and sold; with broadband and streaming, however, it is important that you understand your users before committing design resources to your project.

As you will see, designing the right architecture for your product is essential to the future growth of your business. Many people will tell you that it is impossible to build a generic and flexible platform without having built a specific and non-flexible one first. For the most part this is correct. However, you can use your first platform as a testing ground and foundation for your generic and flexible platform. This phase though, is not the time to worry about it too much. This phase is not about implementation. It is about becoming aware of what you are about to get into.

When you conceptualize the product, understand that this is what you are going to use to sell your product internally. You need it to look great and you need to be prepared to implement it if you get the green light. In other words, don’t conceptualize something that you can’t actually build or invent. If you need to invent, make sure you are confident that the people implementing the concept can come up with a solution or a comparable plan B.

You may also want to go overboard on your concept when it comes to killer features. Remember, this is a tool for internal buy-in so go nuts on your demo. You can always scale back later.

Step 3: Sell Internally
Unless you started your own company, you will need to get internal buy-in for this project. If you work at a big media company, then achieving buy-in will be a project in itself. To start, think of the people that will be in the final green-light meeting for this. Will it be the heads of programming, technology, finance, strategy, and marketing? Will it be your CEO? Will it be a board of directors?

Whatever the case, identify the key players that will attend the final green-light meeting and make sure they are each sold on the project well before the actual pitch date. This way you will have everyone in the room doing the selling for you. How do you get them sold? Start by understanding the strategic needs of each key person and their business interests. Figure out how your project offers them value and solutions. Then turn them into stakeholders. Have them create a piece of your overall strategy so that in essence they are selling their own solution with you.

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