Tag Archives: Streaming

Netflix’s Streaming Pivot Included a Surprisingly Harsh Decision

The list of companies that failed to pivot when their industries underwent major changes is long.

Blackberry couldn’t pivot to touchscreen smartphones.

Kodak couldn’t pivot to digital photography (ironic, since Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975).

Blockbuster couldn’t pivot to streaming.

The story of how Blockbuster had a chance to purchase Netflix in 2000 for $50 million is perhaps the biggest business whoops of all-time (though if you think the Netflix we know today would exist under Blockbuster’s stewardship, you’re missing the entire point).

While I’ve always been fascinated by Netflix’s ability to move away from its core DVD-by-mail business to become a streaming and content-producing powerhouse, I never knew until now just how brutally they did so.


Photo credit: Shutterstock/sitthiphong

In a recent New York Times interview, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos discusses the company’s evolution and the realization that their DVD business (which was doing very well) would not last forever.

“In periods of radical change in any industry, the legacy players generally have a challenge, which is they’re trying to protect their legacy businesses. We entered into a business in transition when we started mailing DVDs 25 years ago. We knew that physical media was not going to be the future. When I met Reed Hastings in 1999, he described the world we live in right now, which is almost all entertainment is going to come into the home on the internet. And he told me that at a time when literally no entertainment was coming into the home on the internet. And it really helped us navigate this transition from physical to digital, because we just didn’t spend any time trying to protect our DVD business. As it started to wane, we started to invest more and more in streaming. And we did that because we knew that that’s where the puck was going. At one point, our DVD business was driving all the profit of the business and a lot of the revenue, and we made a conscious decision to stop inviting the DVD employees to the company meeting. We were that rigid about where this thing was heading.”

“We made a conscious decision to stop inviting the DVD employees to the company meeting.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/yuriyt

As a manager, I’m not sure I could ever be that cutthroat. But I can’t entirely pick it apart. When your entire universe, knowledge base, and salary comes from one thing, it certainly can color and bias your view of a new thing that’s going to destroy the thing that’s your current lifeblood.

Sarandos acknowledges how harsh it sounds, but explains, “It got the whole company in the mindset that we shouldn’t keep investing in the old business. It’s going to prevent us from investing in the new business, and the new business is going to get us to the next place.”

There are obvious parallels to other industries. And though I’m not suggesting you start disinviting members to company meetings, the Netflix lesson makes it abundantly clear that brand and industry evolution on this scale requires dramatic internal philosophical and cultural change.

Give It Time to Grow! (A Plea for Patience When Evaluating Content)

Boy oh boy, do we live in a “satisfy me now” society.

If those online ad metrics don’t look good at the end of the week, pull it!

If those streaming numbers don’t look good the morning after the episode, get rid of it!

If the ratings don’t look good for the new format, see you later!

The abundance of real-time analytics is great.


Consider the streaming TV industry, which is producing so much content it’s quite literally impossible to keep up. So much of the content is legitimately great but more than any one person could possibly watch.

Every time I hear about a TV show I think I might be interested in, I keep a log of it in the notes section of my phone. This could be anything from an article or recommendation on social media to a friend sharing details of the show with me over lunch. The list is long, usually hovering in the 10-15 show range because my wife and I prefer to watch one show at a time. Once something gets recommended and we commit to it, it may be multiple seasons we need to catch up on, which can take us months.

This backlog means I rarely get to a show in the beginning of its run, meaning my viewing doesn’t matter when the networks want it to matter.

A perfect example is the show Reboot, a comedy about the dysfunctional cast of a fictional 2000s sitcom that gets back together to reboot the show. Reboot premiered on Hulu on September 20, 2022. I remember seeing a friend post about it on Facebook that Fall, so I added it to the list. But my wife and I didn’t get to it until earlier this Fall, a year after it first debuted.

The eight episodes of Reboot are some of the best television I’ve ever watched, certainly one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, with more laugh-out-loud moments than I can count. When I’m snorting while laughing, you know I think something is funny, and Reboot is a “10” on the snort meter.

After finishing the eighth episode, I gleefully perused the internet, seeking the premiere date for the second season. I figured this would be soon since I knew the show was about a year old. What I never, ever expected to see was this:

‘Reboot’ Officially Dead Following Search For New Home

I found this stunning. How could Hulu have cancelled such a quality show?

The obvious answer is it must not have been as successful as Hulu needed it to be, but it sure wasn’t given much time. It aired in September and October 2022 and was cancelled, shopped around, and declared dead by February 2023.

Have you ever heard of Reboot? I’ll bet you haven’t. And how can you be expected to?? I have Hulu and wouldn’t have heard of it unless someone mentioned it on the social media feed that Facebook decided I should see. If someone with the channel doesn’t know it’s there, how is someone who doesn’t currently have Hulu supposed to find it?

The same exact thing happened to me with Rabbit Hole starring Keifer Sutherland on Paramount+, an action series I enjoyed (I’m a big 24 fan from the day). Rabbit Hole aired from March to May 2023, I discovered and started watching in October, and the show was cancelled that month.

The new and final season of The Crown, one of the most successful streaming series success stories ever, is apparently a massive failure on Netflix, at least according to Nexttv. It debuted to a “dismal” 36.9 million viewing hours. When are we going to learn we can’t judge a show’s success after the first week when we live in a non-linear world?

We’re living in the golden age of craft beer and TV shows, with more choices than we could have ever imagined.

Too much choice.

Shows were rarely given enough time to develop before streaming, they certainly aren’t now, and it’s not a good thing.

Seinfeld, which ran for nine seasons and is generally considered the greatest sitcom of all time, was nearly cancelled before it got off the ground. An NBC research memo rated the show’s pilot “weak” with “no segment of the audience eager to watch the show again.” Any loyal Seinfeld viewer will tell you it took time for the show to click and the characters to develop, and thank goodness for TV history’s sake, Seinfeld was saved.

When we conduct personality research, we always recommend waiting at least a year before measuring the appeal of an individual talent or show, and it’s for two reasons. One, not enough people have been exposed to the show; Two, the audience that has been exposed needs time to develop meaningful opinions.

Today’s fractured entertainment landscape and easy access to quick analytics simply inflates the problem. When we make rash decisions on potentially great content before the audience has a chance to get to connect with it, or doesn’t have the chance to even find it, how in the world can we be expected to grow lasting shows and talent?

The Radio Streaming Quarter-Hour Test

When I programmed radio stations, I would occasionally run a “quarter-hour test” of my stations and the competition. This practice allowed me to step outside my usual listening patterns, which were highly unusual compared to that of a typical listener. The quarter-hour test was a way to force myself to create random snapshots of listening, in the same ways a listener may pop in and out. When I ran a quarter-hour test, I wasn’t thinking about the hourglass PPM stopset strategy, where contests were running, or where a commercial-free sweep took place. A quarter-hour test is outside-in listening…starting a quarter-hour when I thought about it, rather than scheduling when my listening would take place.

Several years ago, I ran quarter-hour airchecks for the streams of local radio stations, and it was hard to get past the clunkiness that existed, with spots, jocks, or music getting cut off. Now in 2023, as the industry watches the incremental growth of radio listening via streaming rather than with an AM/FM radio, I ran an updated quarter-hour test of four radio stations across the United States to get a glimpse of how local radio is adapting to the changing habits of its listeners.

The good news? Listening is far less clunky and more seamless than the last time I ran the test. The four stations I monitored, with only one exception, had high-quality streams with smooth transitions.

My listening experience, however, unearthed bigger obstacles for local radio. Some won’t necessarily surprise you, but I’ll challenge you to view them from a different lens and perspective.

My streaming quarter-hour test included four radio stations each in a different format and broadcasting from a different region of the country. One is a Country station in the Midwest; another is a Hip Hop station in the West; the third is a News Talk station in the Northeast; and the last one is a Classic Hits station in the South. I made sure to listen to stations on different streaming platforms. I picked random times to listen, spanning mornings, middays, and afternoons.

I started a timer for 15 minutes from the time I started the stream to the time I logged off, and then started taking notes.


At 10:07a local time, the stream went right into a song, just as if I were listening on a radio. This was followed by a live and recorded contest solicit into a second song. At 10:14a, the jock did a backsell and some content, and teased upcoming artists.

The stopset lasted seven minutes and featured 12 spots. With no imaging or station identification out of the commercial break, the stream went into a third song, during which the quarter hour of listening concluded.


10:07-10:22          3 songs, 2 station mentions, 12 commercials.


At 9:43a local time, my streaming experience again started with a song. This went right into a live jock bit with no station identifier. Another song played into a contest promo and station positioner at 9:52a. And then…18 commercials in a row. I listened past the 15-minute mark just to see when the stopset would end, which it finally did with yet another contest promo at 10:02a (at the 19-minute listening mark).


9:43-10:02            2 songs, 1 station mention, 18 commercials

Teenage boy in disbelief that the 16th commercial isn’t the last one


This afternoon drive experience began at 3:05p and was the only one of the four tests to begin with a pre-roll video and two spots. One minute later, it rolled directly into the host in the middle of election talk. At 3:11p, the announcer threw it to a traffic report that ended with an awkward cutoff transition to spots, reminiscent of the clunky experiences from years ago. In this case, the station played two spots, a weather update with a station identifier, one more spot, a station identifier and positioner, and back to the talent with more election talk. I thought it was clever to break up the short commercial break with service elements, which kept my attention.


3:05-3:20              11 minutes of content (including traffic/weather), 3 station mentions, 3 commercials


There was some friction at the beginning of this listening experience at 12:29p, as I clicked on a big “play” button that didn’t immediately play the station as I would have expected. It took me some time to find yet another play button on the screen to actually get the stream to trigger and start playing.

And in this instance, the station was in the middle of a spot break, with seven commercials in a row before playing a specialty programming sweeper and quick live break at 12:33p. The next 11 minutes were music intensive, with three songs boasting a quick sweeper or live break in front.


12:29-12:44          3 songs, 3 station mentions, 7 commercials

As a listener, I was very pleased overall that each of the four listening experiences was generally seamless.

As a researcher, I’m going to bring up challenges that I perceive these listening experiences brought to light.

Here are three takeaways from this radio streaming quarter-hour test.

  1. Should every stream have “welcome branding”?

Sure, if I tune into a station on an AM/FM radio, I’ll get what I get at that time. But streaming enables the opportunity to make a brand statement immediately, which is particularly valuable as brand-building opportunities are at a premium.

  1. Should we ever run 18 spots in a row?

No, it wasn’t 18 minutes of commercials. Yes, I’m aware the station was likely playing the backloading game, throwing an absurd number of spots at the end of the 9am hour so the morning show could have less spots earlier in the show. But as I mentioned earlier, the quarter-hour test is designed to be outside-in listening. The listener doesn’t know or care about the backloading strategy, and as a listener 18 commercials in a row is awful. There is literally no way I would stay until the end if I was doing any sort of active listening.

  1. Are we effectively building our brands in each quarter hour?

This is the most important question. If a local radio station is to compete in the streaming space, it must do three things well. First, it must offer a streaming experience that isn’t inferior to other DSP experiences. Second, it must accurately reflect the listening experience one would expect on an AM/FM radio. Third, it must effectively find ways to grow its brand without friction caused by the streaming experience.

This last point is especially important because radio’s challenges are too often framed in simplistic “too many commercials”-type arguments.

Rather, let’s change that perspective to consider how self-imposed obstacles can impede brand awareness, the building of strong images, and the creation of bonds with our talent.

Regularly monitor the over-the-air feed and stream, utilizing the quarter-hour test to answer those as questions:

  • Did I build brand awareness (do listeners know who we are)?
  • Did I build strong images (do listeners clearly know what we’re known for)?
  • Did I build bonds with our talent (did they make an impression)?

Remember to focus on creating an outside-in listening experience and when possible, follow up with strategic research to track the effectiveness of your efforts.

Content Is King…Except When It’s Not

Tuesdays With ColemanYou likely heard last week’s story about Quibi’s decision to shut down later this year. Quibi is a streaming service focused on short-form video content to be consumed on mobile devices. It launched in April after 18 months of build-up, as founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman successfully raised $1.75 billion from investors and recruited an impressive array of partners to create original content for the platform.

Quibi fails

No matter how you look at it, Quibi has been a flop. Downloads of the app never came close to expectations, and while the company sold out its first year of advertising inventory generating $150 million, it was unable to convert a meaningful number of consumers who signed up for a free trial into paying subscribers. As of a few weeks ago, Quibi reportedly had about 500,000 subscribers paying $4.99 per month, pacing well below their target of seven million subscribers by the end of the service’s first year.

This blog post, however, is not about bashing Quibi. (To the contrary, Katzenberg and Whitman deserve a lot of credit for being forthcoming about their failure, most notably when they made a joint appearance on CNBC last Thursday.) It is also not a full post-mortem on what went wrong with Quibi; instead, I want to focus on what lessons we can apply from Quibi’s failure to the audio entertainment world.

Let’s start with what Quibi did right—it invested in creating world-class content. The company reportedly spent over a billion dollars on content creation; in fact, some of the content was strong enough that it garnered two Emmy awards and ten Emmy nominations overall. Furthermore, its user interface generally received positive reviews.

However, as we often see with podcasts, streaming services, and radio stations, having great content often is not enough for success. When appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America last week, IndieWire television editor Kristen Lopez summed it up perfectly, stating, “It’s not enough to have stars. It’s not enough to have original content. You need to be very aware of what the market will hold, what your audience is, and what they’re willing to pay. What are they watching? What are they talking about?”

You also need to build a brand. Despite all the hype and firepower around Quibi, awareness of the service paled in comparison to other streaming video platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, Snap, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Even among those aware of Quibi, we suspect that few understood what Quibi was or at least didn’t see it as something meaningful to them.

This means that you can create a podcast with outstanding content, but if few people know about it or think of it as something that meets a need for them, your chances for success are limited. This also means that you can launch a streaming channel that has the most perfectly curated playlist of songs for fans of a particular genre, but if another brand already occupies that position, you likely won’t attract many listeners.

We see this phenomenon play out with radio stations as well. Too often radio programmers will listen to a station and decide they can offer the same format in a superior manner, with better music and stronger personalities. This may be completely true, but if the station with the theoretically inferior content owns a position in the minds of consumers, it is going to be very difficult to win such a battle.

Beyond the need for brand building, there is an additional lesson applicable to audio entertainment from Quibi’s demise—the importance of distribution. A lot has been written about Quibi’s timing; launching a mobile streaming service during a pandemic when people aren’t mobile certainly sounds like a recipe for disaster. But what is perhaps more important is the decision to make Quibi available only via mobile devices. In an age where consumers want the content they desire on an on-demand basis, this sounds like a short-sighted decision. You couldn’t watch Quibi content on your laptop or the big screen in your living room (although, paradoxically, Quibi announced its availability on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google TV on the same day it announced its closure), which presumably made the service far less attractive to consumers than it could be otherwise.

Whether you work in radio, podcasting, or streaming, keep the lessons of Quibi in mind. It is commendable to create the very best content you can, but if you don’t put as much effort into building a brand around that content and make sure its distribution allows your audience to consume it how, when, and where they want to, you are only doing half of the job.






Disney+, Decision Paralysis and Your Brand

Tuesdays With Coleman

Just when you thought you didn’t need another entertainment option, Disney+ has proven you wrong.

At least 10 million people agreed when they added the new streaming service…in the first 24 hours it was available.

I was one of the 10 million and as we watched The Mandalorian (OMG, Baby Yoda!) and browsed the treasure trove of content including choices from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and even National Geographic, my 16-year-old son looked in my eyes and said, “This is going to be a real problem for me.”

It’s a real problem for everyone. Back in the summer of 2018, my colleague Sam Milkman wrote about the continuing fragmentation of entertainment options. His contention was that because of the amount of choice, we simply don’t have as many shared experiences anymore. We’re talking about different shows on different platforms, which means we’re not hitting critical mass, which makes it harder and harder to grow organically and break through. Sam’s keys to content becoming something everyone is talking about is a) it sounds and feels new and unique; b) it generates high levels of passion and c) it changes the paradigm.

We know this challenge isn’t going to get easier for entertainment brands, but new research validates what my son is feeling. According to Nielsen, 18- to 34-year-olds spend as much as nine minutes just trying to figure out what to watch, a phenomenon referred to as “decision paralysis.” And that’s just video streaming. What about the audio options, like radio, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio? And the 750,000 podcasts available to listen to right now?

The decision paralysis facing video streaming users has inspired the launch of services like JustWatch and Decider, which make finding that show or movie you’re looking for searchable in one place.

What can audio brands do amidst this endless sea of options?

Sam’s advice still applies. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to find ways to differentiate, build a cult following and break new ground.


  1. Branding and strategic research has never been more important.

If you’re primarily focused on tactical measures, you’re going to miss the opportunity to properly define your brand and ensure the content fits the brand. Listeners will not choose your brand because of a promotion or because you’ve tried to game the ratings. They will choose it because the brand relates to them.

  1. Simple messaging is more critical than ever.

Focused messaging has always been important. But there’s never been this much noise. Warren Kurtzman recently shared new research that validates the need for focus in his blog post, “Too Many Messages!”

  1. It’s crucial to make your brand easy to consume.

There’s some irony in that radio and TV are often meant to provide escapism from the chaos of the real world, but now we’ve added chaos to the process of escaping. If your radio station or podcast is perceived as easy to find, easy to use, simple to understand and comfortable to listen to, it may have an advantage by truly providing shelter from the storm.

Your listeners need relief from decision paralysis. Will you help them?

As OG Yoda would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.”