14 MAR 2024

Adapting strategies in the wake of linear series decline

A study by Parrot Analytics revealed the evolving landscape of streaming media amidst declining linear television, highlighting the enduring value of long-running contents.

14 MAR 2024

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Shows with long libraries of seasons and episodes are among the most valuable series when it comes to streaming contribution, according to a recent analysis by Parrot Analytics. These long-running series not only command significant audience demand and viewership hours but also play a pivotal role in subscriber retention and acquisition efforts.

However, as industry dynamics evolve, the future prospects for newer linear series attaining such longevity are increasingly uncertain. Industry experts have sounded alarms regarding the challenges facing traditional broadcast series. Rising production costs and declining linear ratings pose obstacles to the sustainability of six-to-seven season runs, as reported by Deadline. The repercussions of this trend extend across the industry, with cable networks like Comedy Central transitioning towards reliance on older programming, such as "Seinfeld" and "South Park", as highlighted by Variety.

The forecast for linear television is echoed by industry leaders like North Road Company CEO Peter Chernin and Candle Media co-CEO Kevin Mayer, who anticipated a continued decline in scripted programming and a shift towards streaming. However, linear TV remains a crucial contributor to streaming platforms' performance, as evidenced by the substantial demand generated by shows originally aired on linear networks. Parrot Analytics' research revealed that six out of the eight major premium SVOD services derive over half of their catalog demand from linear TV shows. Legacy media companies' robust production studios, including ABC Signature and Warner Bros. Television, provide a rich reservoir of content that serves as a cornerstone for both streaming services and linear lineups.

Despite the proliferation of new streaming originals in recent years, older shows continue to outperform newer titles in terms of demand. Across major U.S. SVODs, 52% of shows available on these platforms premiered in 2019 or later, when the streaming wars began in earnest with the launch of new competitors Apple TV+, Disney+, Peacock and what was then known as HBO Max. However, while more than half of titles on these SVODs were released since 2019, these newer shows only account for 33% of demand for all shows available on these platforms. 

To counteract the potential decline of longer-running linear series, streaming platforms are implementing strategic adjustments. Serialized procedurals, reminiscent of traditional network fare, have emerged as a successful genre for streaming platforms, offering broad appeal and extended viewer engagement. Platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Paramount+ have capitalized on this trend by producing high-drama series tailored to specific professions.

Additionally, streamers are exploring the revival of traditional sitcom formats, albeit with longer seasons akin to broadcast standards. Here, broadcast sitcoms experience an average 29.7% decay rate in their demand while streaming comedies suffer a slightly larger drop at 32.1%. These extended seasons foster deeper audience connections and enhance viewer retention, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of classic sitcoms. 

Furthermore, strategic bundling of complementary content is becoming paramount for streaming platforms. By combining shows with similar attributes, platforms can maintain viewer engagement and retention levels, mitigating the impact of declining linear series. This approach emphasizes the value of curated content libraries and effective recommendation algorithms in driving user satisfaction and reducing churn.

As the streaming landscape continues to evolve, adapting to the changing dynamics of linear TV will be imperative for the long-term success of streaming platforms. By leveraging the strengths of both legacy and original content, platforms can navigate the shifting media landscape and ensure continued growth and relevance in an increasingly competitive market.