Guest Contributor Anjali Puri
| September 11, 2019
Global Director, Qualitative Offer and Expertise
'How will the end of Game of Thrones impact HBO’s subscriber base?' was a question frequently heard over the last few months as the show wrapped up its final season. It isn’t an unusual question. Channels often face a wave of cancellations when a big show ends – or even after a season finale.
For TV channels and media services in general, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of building short-term, programming content-led relationships with their audiences. After all, it is the programming that drives viewership, and quite often subscriptions to a channel or service provider are based on the drawing power of its primetime shows. The relationship with the channel can be fickle and transactional, waxing and waning with season premieres and finales.
The irony is that people’s relationship with the programme itself is often deeply emotional. Successful shows embed themselves into people’s lives and become a part of their social worlds. They create enduring attachments and leave a void when they end. That the relationship with TV channels is often so transactional stands in stark contrast and feels like a missed opportunity for transferring the positive equity built by the show onto the media brand.
The value of this is brought alive in Sky TV’s Girls Break-up Ice-cream campaign a couple of years ago, which is a wonderful example of building an emotional bridge to the audience and transferring the positive equity accrued by Girls on to Neon TV. This is the brand coming out front-stage and saying to its audience, ‘It isn’t just the show that gets you. I get you. I get how you’re feeling, and I have just the thing for you’. Using a mix of empathy and humour – and delicious ice-cream! – the brand managed to stake claim to the feelings of affection its audience had for the departing show and transfer them onto other shows in the portfolio. It showed that it understood its audience deeply and could offer them a meaningful experience that spoke directly to their needs. The result was a subscriber drop-off rate of only 8 percent, dramatically lower than the norm for big show finales.
There is no doubt that great programming content is the foundation on which a media channel is built. But this content only drives immediate sales – it is the equivalent of a successful activation. Building a brand with sustained momentum takes more. We know from our analysis of brands that have shown sustained growth over years that delivering positive brand experience to existing customers, as well as reaching out to potential new customers is essential to secure repeat sales and future buyers. For media channels, this means bring the brand out of the shadows of its content – the brand needs to speak to its audience in its own voice, which includes but goes beyond its content.
Do you have examples of media brands that do this well? Please share your thoughts.