Battle for our Screens: How traditional TV can fight back

As the reign of Netflix continues unabated and fellow streaming brands such as Amazon and Hulu continue to attract new customers, the rise of the streamers has the traditional channels worried. So, what can they do to fight back? Only by understanding the audience of their rivals can they begin to develop a strategy to attract viewers.

BBC One and Netflix represent two very different slices of the same pie. The first is the very epitome of traditional television, the flagship channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation, launched in 1936 as one of the world’s first regular television channels.

The latter, on the other hand, is the representation of modern innovation in entertainment: a subscription-based streaming service, offering an online library of films and TV programmes, with 137 million subscribers worldwide.

‘Netflix are using data to evolve the ways in which we consume entertainment.’

Old vs New

The battle between the two is symptomatic of many industries: old competing with new, and just like in many other industries, it looks like Netflix, as well as the other new ‘streamers’, might just be winning the battle for viewers. One of the primary reasons? How they are using data to evolve the ways in which we consume entertainment.

Only by understanding what motivates someone to consume certain entertainment in a certain way (eg. On a TV or on a tablet) and only by knowing what they are passionate about, can entertainment brands offer a service that personalises the experience for the customer. Netflix might have their own data, based off of their own viewership. But there is something much more powerful available: social data.

Social clustering

Social data – or, to be more precise, Starcount’s unique method of ‘social clustering’ allows us to analyse the passions and likes of social media users and cluster them together into different segments based on similar passions, using our pioneering platform, The Observatory. This method is different to, and much more effective than, ‘social listening’ (if you would like to understand more about the differences and why social clustering works better, read our guide here).

BBC One vs Netflix

Comparing the audience of BBC One with that of Netflix throws up much that is to be expected: the BBC One audience is older; they are more interested in media, while Netflix fans are more into influencers; BBC One fans are more passionate about Reality TV, Celebrity Gossip, Talent Shows, Music Shows, while Netflix fans are keen on movies, Science Fiction & Fantasy and Music Documentaries.

‘The social data showcases elements of a strategy that BBC One could adopt to try to win viewers’

While BBC One fans show interest in supermarket and department store brands (Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and Harrods), the Netflix audience are into fast food and technical brands (Nando’s, Domino’s, EE, Playstation). BBC One viewers look to talk show and reality TV influencers (Graham Norton, Ant & Dec, Emma Willis), while Netflix viewers are fans of science fiction, action and fantasy actors (Aaron Paul, Ryan Reynolds, Maisie Williams).

This insight is useful in both highlighting the huge differences in these audiences, but also in showcasing elements of a strategy that BBC One could adopt to try to win viewers: For example, employing some of the top Netflix audience actors in a sci-fi production.

That, however, is a strategy that risks alienating the current audience of BBC One. Yet, if we look deeper into the entertainment study, another solution emerges.

BBC Three vs Netflix

The audiences for BBC Three and Netflix are far more similar. The age gap is much closer, and the interest in influencers over brands is bigger for BBC Three viewers than it was for those of BBC One.

‘The fastest growing passions for the BBC three audience are identical to those of Netflix’

While the passions of BBC Three viewers still reflect an interest in Reality TV and Celebrity Culture, they are also keen on some passions that the Netflix audience enjoy: Documentaries, Watching Movies and Science Fiction and Fantasy.

On top of this, the fastest growing passions for the BBC three audience are identical to those of Netflix: Theme Parks, LGBTQ issues and Action entertainment.

The fastest growing passions for BBC Three fans.
The fastest growing passions for BBC Three fans.

The top brands of both also share commonalities: Similar fast food and technology brands (as mentioned earlier – Nando’s, EE) can be seen for BBC Three fans.

This shouldn’t be a surprise: BBC Three has always been about providing content for a younger viewers, a key reason why the BBC proposed to make the channel available online only. This insight not only confirms the Netflix similarity, but also illustrates elements for a strategy to take the streaming service on.

Taking on Amazon Prime Video

A similar theme emerges when we compare other traditional audiences with streaming audiences. ITV viewers, for example, are very different to those of Amazon Prime Video (Amazon’s streaming service), in age (ITV viewers are older), what they consume (ITV fans are into media, while Amazon viewers are more interested in brands), and their passions and brand interests differ greatly too.

Knowing the audience provides weapons for developing content and messaging that can attract the audience of a rival.

Channel 4, however, has a much more similar audience to Amazon, perhaps a symptom of the fact that, due to the variety of channels which Channel 4 hosts (e.g. Film4, E4), their audience is much more varied.

Both brands share similar top passions such as Shopping, Watching Movies and Documentaries, and while their brand interests and favourite influencers differ, there is a wealth of valuable insight here which Channel 4 can attain in order to take on Prime. For example, of course Amazon Prime Video viewers are also going to be users of Amazon’s other shopping services, but Channel 4 fans are also interested in some Amazon owned brands, as well as other online shopping brands in general.

Beyond the surface

The traditional channels and the ‘streamers’ might look different from the outside and, for some of them, the audiences are still wildly diverse in ways. However, these are differences that can be taken advantage of, and, when combined with the vast array of similarities, they provide weapons for developing content and messaging that can attract the audience of a rival.

By valuing insight such as this and putting it into action, the traditional channels can remain very much in the game and the centre of our attention, as well as our screens, for decades to come.



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