I can’t be the one whose viewing habits have changed in the age of coronavirus (that’s a joke we make, not a show we want, Freeform). And yet, the more I think about it, the more our habits had changed even before a pandemic forced us all to stay home. In fact, our habits have been changing for the past decade, thanks to the move from cable to streaming.
The question is – what are they going to be in the foreseeable future, and what the new age of streaming looks like.
We had a chance to talk about this very thing with Ryan Chanatry, General Manager of Topic. For those of you not familiar with the service, Topic is the streaming service from First Look Media. Launched last year, the service features programming like: the weekly comedic variety series Second City Presents: The Last Show Left on Earth; Down from London from executive producer Sharon Horgan; horror anthology series Soul City from filmmakers Coodie and Chike; BAFTA TV Award nominee The Virtues from filmmaker Shane Meadows starring Stephen Graham; Maria Bamford’s discussion show on mental health, What’s Your Ailment?!; and critically acclaimed documentary and narrative films such as Behemoth and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
The streamer is available to US and Canadian audiences on Topic.com, Apple iOS, and AppleTV, Android, Amazon Fire TV and Roku, in addition to Amazon Prime Video Channels.
Ryan didn’t talk to us just about the service he heads, though, he was able to offer much needed insight on the new age of streaming and what the market is moving towards, thanks to a new survey on viewer streaming habits commissioned by Topic.
Here are the highlights you need to know from our conversation, in handy bullet points, because we all understand better that way, don’t we?
People are broadening their options, not necessarily cutting cable
Yes, Ryan and the date confirm, streaming has changed – and the effects of it will continue to be felt in years to come – the linear way of watching cable. Less and less people are watching TV live, and what they are watching live has changed. Sports, reality TV shows, news …those things are still being watching live. As for our entertainment …well, not as much.
That, however, doesn’t mean that complete cord-cutting is something we can expect to happen in the immediate future. In fact, according to Topic’s survey, of the people that get access via cable or streaming, 40% have both, 33% are cable only and 28% are streaming only.
I don’t know about you, but those are much lower numbers than I originally expected. Which begs the question: how much of this idea that no one’s watching cable anymore is real and how much is media hype?
Everyone will customize their own streaming bundles
One thing that happened increasingly with cable is that you didn’t get much of a choice. The bundle was made for you, and you sort of accepted it because it was easier, and because what else were you gonna do? The future of streaming, however, is in our hands, aka the consumers.
We don’t all need – and likely won’t – have the same services, because our tastes are varied. Some of us will share some services with family/friends, and keep the ones that have the content we really, really want, as our main ones. But it’s going to become increasingly hard to find people with the same “streaming bundles.”
And this might even push streamers to team up to offer those bundles, something that, ironically, might end up looking a lot like …you guessed it, cable. Except with a tiny bit more control for you, the final beneficiary.
There are plenty of opportunities for niche services
Niche content isn’t really losing the battle. According to the data obtained by Topic, the average number of services people use monthly sits at 5 ,with the top 10% of subscribers pulling content from 10+ places. This is a marked increase from prior studies, and it shows that people are willing to pay for the big streamers, yes, but they will also pay for the smaller ones that cater to their specific likes.
Take Shudder, for example. I don’t do horror, thriller or supernatural, so I am not a Shudder client, and I likely never will be. But fans of those genres are sure to consider Shudder one of their top choices. Then there’s BritBox, which offers, you guessed it, British shows (all the best content from ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5), which I will admit sounds interesting, and Crunchyroll, *the* platform for anime fans, which is on my list of streamers I subscribe to.
What does this mean for Topic, and what exactly is the interest behind this kind of market research for them? Well, if you ask me, it all leads to the same conclusion: the market is there …and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s just a matter of how to reach it.
Here’s what they got planned in the near future:
The Accidental Wolf tells the story of two strangers in distress who are linked by a late night phone call. Katie Bonner lives an unexceptional life. Married to a successful attorney, she cares for their newborn, and quietly exists in her Manhattan penthouse. One night, Katie receives a call from an unknown number. On the other line, a distressed man fights for survival as gunshots and explosions echo in the background. In his final moments, the caller pleads for the life of his pregnant and wounded wife, Tala. Deeply affected, Katie embarks on a journey to find her. Before too long, the mystery of the unknown caller and search for Tala threaten to cost Katie everything.
The Accidental Wolf premieres on November 26th.
Release reveals a series of interconnected portraits from the first several months of a fictional pandemic as it strikes the quiet outskirts of an American city. This prescient and gripping series, created and produced prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, explores the honest human reactions, fears and hope of ordinary citizens struggling to cope during the outbreak and ensuing quarantine.
Release premieres on September 3rd.
At the virtual TCA press conference, Chanatry had this to say about the newest Topic offerings: “The Accidental Wolf and Release are prime examples of Topic’s commitment to creator-driven entertainment that is smart, compelling and socially relevant.”
Now that’s the kind of niche content we’ll support.