How do you best serve the swipe right generation? Carter Pilcher, CEO of linear and OTT channel ShortsTV, offers insights on the business of short-form video.
Why is a Spotify-like app for watching short films key to keeping your audience engaged?
One of the biggest barriers to entry for those who wish to watch short-form content, whether short films, reality shows, serialized series, clips or niche videos is the time it takes to select your next piece of content. How do you know if it’s going to be any good or that it’s what you want to watch?
When we set out to design the ShortsTV app, we knew we wanted to give our audiences an enormous catalogue of short films to choose from, and to date, it’s the biggest catalogue of short movies ever assembled on the planet. We also wanted the watch experience to be fun and frankly, addictive. The ease of using our app allows viewers to continuously watch their favorite films and never have to guess what to watch next, unless they want to browse on their own.
On typical streaming platforms viewers can take almost twenty minutes to decide what they’re going to watch. For consumers of short-form content, that’s not ideal because they’re looking for something that’s quick and grabs your attention right away, in fact, our viewers content consumption habits are similar to those of music listeners.
The ShortsTV app recognizes how the short form generation likes to watch content: video that never stops, swipe the ones you like or don’t like, favorite the ones that blow your mind, and watch later when you run out of time. Plus, viewers can build their own “channels” that bring them endless streams of short film within their specified parameters – based on genres, subgenres, mood or language.
Where did the sudden rise and appetite for short form content come from?
The “sudden appetite” for short form content isn’t sudden at all. For the last 10 years, an entire generation in the US and Europe has grown up watching hours and hours of short content per day on YouTube. What is “sudden” is that they’re finally growing up, spreading their wings and starting to demand high quality video that is short, lets them interact to choose by swiping or liking, and is completely mobile.
Internationally, especially in Latin America and Asia, the sudden rise of short-form video has a slightly different origin, because it’s clearly linked to the growth of the smartphone in these markets, availability of affordable data packages and the near-ubiquity of data streaming. More than half the world’s population owns very few TVs, but we are approaching 3 billion smartphones. Smartphone access for everyone in these regions is the primary method of consuming video entertainment. And while millennials and Gen-Zer’s have kicked off change in the US and Europe, the pent-up demand internationally for short form video content is on fire – just look at the rage that is Tik Tok and its $75 billion valuation achieved almost overnight and primarily overseas.
How is the short-form industry evolving?
Most media companies have started dabbling in short-form, and a few new entrants have raised enormous sums of money to compete. It seems there is a growing agreement that mobile-first short entertainment is one of the few hot new areas in the industry Some are developing short series, one is looking at creating long-form movies in 10 minutes segments. Some are releasing online, SundanceTV created a short form series with 10-minute episodes called “State of the Union” starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd that they released on-air. It was a hit and they took three Emmys this year.
ShortsTV has cornered the market on high quality short movies, with a catalogue of over 13,000 titles representing more than 5,000 hours of film. We’re now beginning a series of co-production partnerships with media industry partners to begin developing short entertainment series, as we see the audience for high quality short form series growing quickly. Along with that, we’ve been exclusively presenting the Oscar Nominated Short Films theatrical release in cinemas across the US and Canada, South America, Europe, India, Australia and South Africa and have seen an emerging creative maturity that is changing the film industry.
What are possible business models for short-form?
Just as there is much experimentation with many different types of short-form content, there are a growing number of economic models. Some are looking at creating SVOD services around short-form content, other more traditional media players are integrating short-form content into their long-form offerings, others are relying on short-form off-shoots to populate their online presence and, finally, some are experimenting with ad-based models. The economic models run the gamut from ad-based payments for free content on a website like YouTube to licensing or production costs borne by the hosting website or media partner.
At ShortsTV, we license directly from filmmakers as our primary method of acquiring films but are now increasing our investment in “originals” productions that will create short movies and series that harness the best international talent in each of our markets.