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Go niche with your streaming to win audiences

A profitable antidote to a saturation of mainstream entertainment

Netflix, Prime, Disney and other “big beasts” of streaming have cornered the bulk of mainstream general entertainment, along with the streaming alter egos of TV channels like BBC, ITV, and Channel 4. If you’re a content owner with streaming aspirations, or you are already streaming content, the reality is that you can’t beat these guys at their own game.

But despite their dominance, you can not only find, reach, and delight your own extensive audiences, but piggy-back on theirs – and the key to this is to go “niche”.  

So, what does that actually mean – and how do you achieve it in practice?

Interests, passions, hobbies: tapping into the viewers’ psyche

What’s key here is the fundamental difference between entertainment content and interest-based content.

As many media psychologists agree, entertainment fulfils the function of “coping with reality.” It’s not necessary to be particularly interested in the show to nonetheless appreciate escapist value constructed on top of it – comic, thrilling, erotic, whatever.

With interest-based content, the attraction value is embedded in the subject itself, not in how it is presented or storified. So, if you’re a golfer, you’re probably going to be attracted to golf-related content; if you’re a keen amateur cook, it’ll be cookery-related content, and so on.

What’s really interesting here for those who stream or want to stream content is that if you take the first category – pure entertainment – it is looking very much like the audiences for that kind of content are now reaching the point where they are hungering for something else.

Whilst it’s unlikely that they are going to stop viewing Netflix et al, recent research has shown that subscribers are now more likely to choose an extra thematic – in other words, niche – service on top of their existing streaming services, instead of adding another new general entertainment service.

In short, if you’re a content owner or content streamer, you don’t need to go head-to-head with the big guys to capture parts of their audience, because the audience is nominally quite likely - if you offer it the right interest-based content in a place it can easily get to and navigate through – to come to you.

And though, unsurprisingly, Netflix and the other major streaming services offer interest-based content as well – in fact, about80% of streaming content now falls into this category – it doesn’t effectively provide a ‘home’ for these interests, rather just an outlet for the content owner/producer.

As more natural homes – aggregated niche genre &thematic streaming services – appear, offering alternative outlets, that potentially stand to attract a bigger community audience, things will change.

A consumer whose viewing habits are driven by interest-based content will likely be more attracted to a thematic hub that has ‘all’ the content or certainly more than the token offerings hidden away on mainstream services. Furthermore the ‘focus’ offers a wealth of social interactivity and communal inclusivity (part of a family) that these mainstream services would struggle to deliver - unless they too start segregating their services or somehow offering thematic libraries – making it potentially even more appealing to those audiences. 

Niche streaming: who does it work for, and how?

An important point to note here is that niche content streaming is not only the preserve of smaller content owners (although it certainly serves the latter well).

Larger and higher-profile content owners can also make lucrative use of it, for example to monetise content that their broadcasting partners decide, for whatever reason, not to screen (cricket is a good example here, although it applies equally to many live events, and not just sporting ones).

However, niche streaming is not without its challenges, particularly if you don’t have any existing streaming infrastructure in place.

A complete, end-to-end streaming solution, provides all the necessary editorial, management and administrative tools for such an undertaking, but there are also options for a service to be managed on your behalf.

But even if you’ve nailed the streaming part, there’s an arguably greater barrier to success: getting the interest-based content in front of the audiences most likely to want to consume it.

That, in turn, depends on making it easy to find and engage with – and scores of niche content channels, with similar themed content won’t help.

This is where thematic hubs come in – online streaming collections that group similar niche content together and make it all easily and readily accessible, searchable, and interactively friendly; all in one place.

A great example is our recent StagePlayer+ collaboration with Player+, (you can read more about this relationship in this post), which brings live theatre performances from multiple venues together in one niche offering.

From theatre to taxidermy: for every interest a streaming niche

But it doesn’t stop there. Where one interest goes, you can be sure that golf, cookery, steam trains, vintage cars, orchestral music, taxidermy, and just about every other niche theme will follow.

Ultimately, building and keeping an interest-based audience is about loyalty to that interest, and the more straightforward it is to connect audiences to a wide variety of material that “pushes their buttons”,the greater the loyalty that interest will inspire in its followers.

To summarise, niche offers a focus, thematic offers more immersion, and interests are more enduring. Put those three together and you can deliver a different kind of value to your audiences, an exciting more pervasive and interest engaging one that the likes of Netflix can’t.

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