Wolk’s Week in Review: Smart TV OEMs up their content games, Emmy nominations reflect two-tier system

TV[R]EV Week In Review
Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, examines content moves from TV OEMs and streaming's dominance in Emmy nominations. (TV[R]EV)

Well-known industry analyst Alan Wolk is publishing his popular Week In Review columns first on FierceVideo every Friday. This means that FierceVideo readers are the first to get all Wolk's insights as they navigate the fast-moving television business.

Wolk's Week In Review

1. Smart TV OEMs Up Their Content Games

Content probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you think about smart TV manufacturers. Picture quality, price, even 4K probably come first. 

That’s changing though, as smart TV OEMs are assuming the role played by MVPDs in the Old World Order, and then some.

Specifically, they are making content, advertising and data their jam. For the Big Three—LG, Samsung and Vizio—that means that in addition to all that ACR data, they have their own FASTs with over one hundred channels, consisting mostly of network reruns and old movies, e.g, the same exact programming you can find on cable. And they’re selling advertising on it.

But that seems to just be a starting point. 

To wit: Samsung’s FAST, Samsung TV Plus, is now available to anyone via a browser-based interface of the sort that can easily be watched on non-Samsung TVs via Chromecast or AirPlay. This is in addition to previous functionality that made it possible to watch via any Samsung mobile device.

Why It Matters

Having Samsung’s programming available on non-Samsung devices puts them in competition with other FASTs like Pluto, Tubi and Xumo, only with the added advantage of having Samsung TV Plus built into every Samsung TV and smartphone along with all the data that comes with that. 

It means Samsung now has a whole new group of users it can reach with ads that run on its platform too. And, since some of the channels require users to create a free Samsung account, Samsung gets a whole new group of people it can market its own products to as well.

While in reality we don’t expect that tens of millions of people will soon be casting Samsung TV Plus from their laptops to their TV sets, it’s one more option out there, one more reason for anyone licensing programming to strike a deal with Samsung.

We would also not be surprised to see Samsung and other smart TV OEMs begin launching original programming on their FASTs sometime soon too. Probably not big budget dramas or sitcoms, but things like cooking shows, game shows, home improvement shows and other relatively low-production budget fare that is still popular with consumers. Equally likely is that many of these shows will fall into the “branded content” bucket--a travel show sponsored by JetBlue, a cooking show sponsored by Weber grills. (Given that both Samsung and LG make kitchen appliances like refrigerators, microwaves and stoves, a sponsored food series seems like a no-brainer for them.)

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser and you haven’t been looking into spending some of your CTV budget with the smart TV OEMs, you might want to start looking now. The combination of content and data makes for a pretty compelling proposition, along with the ability to look at ad exposure across streaming and linear as a way to impose frequency caps.

If you’re LG and Vizio, you should probably follow suit at some point--your FASTs are also very well done and can attract additional viewers off platform.

If you’re one of the FASTs not associated with an OEM, while this is more competition, this is likely an instance where competition is good—we’re seeing a world where people find their favorite streaming channels across a range of FASTs and stick with them. The great thing about FAST channels is that they can be so specific and so we suspect that people will soon develop favorites the way they do with, say, Spotify playlists and Sirius XM channels.

2. Emmy Nominations Reflect Two-Tier System

The Emmy nominations came out this week and to no one’s surprise almost all of the shows and actors nominated came from the streamingverse.

What’s most telling is that much of the chatter centered around which of the streaming services had the most nominations (HBO/HBO Max bested Netflix) rather than the fact that once again almost all the nominations went to streaming contenders.

Take HBO (as if anyone other than Warner execs can tell the difference between HBO and HBO Max) and “Saturday Night Live” out of the equation and there’s almost no love left for non-streaming players.

Why It Matters

We are in a period now where TPTB are clearly signaling that there is a definite split between network prime time and streaming and that all the “good shows,” e.g., all the shows they care about, are now on streaming.

Which is all well and good and plays into the reality that most of the people that the network programming executives know are likely just watching streaming too, but it ignores the fact that most TV viewing still happens on linear and large segments of the American population watch most of their TV during network prime time.

Now these segments may be less affluent, less educated and less coastal, but they still exist. 

In some ways the split mirrors the greater societal split, where it often seems like there are two parallel universes of what’s newsworthy and what’s true. So why should TV series be any different?

Shifting away from that analogy, there’s also the fact that as more viewers discover streaming, the sorts of highbrow (middlebrow?) shows that now dominate streaming will need to be expanded to include the sort of programming that appeals to a more mass audience. 

That’s a tough mark to hit: Netflix’s “Bridgerton” and HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant” seem to have hit the mark this year and were still rewarded by the Emmys. Ditto Netflix series “Cobra Kai” and “Emily In Paris.” (If you’re sensing a theme here, that’s because Netflix, always ahead of the game, seems to have figured out that it does need to have shows that appeal to a more mainstream audience.)

Final thing to keep an eye on here is advertising. If the gap between the people watching prime time and the people watching streaming continues to widen, then advertisers will need to find more inventive ways to reach the audiences they are missing on each. Which means you’ll be hearing even more about “incremental reach” (is that possible?) and the ability to target people whose main exposure to linear is news and sports (versus sitcoms and dramas) will become even more important.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re one of the networks, take a look at what NBCU is doing as it attempts to create a “we’re all one brand” balance between Peacock and its linear channels. You’ll have to do this sometime soon too, as, if nothing else, all the buzz about Emmy-winning streaming shows will create the sort of FOMO that has your linear viewers checking out your streaming services and you want them to feel at home once they get there.

That, and the ability to cross-market your subscription service to all the people watching your linear channels is going to be a plus.

If you’re someone who works on the creative end of things, this is both a blessing and a curse. Really good shows are getting made and getting acknowledged by the Academy, but what’s lost is the stability and ability to advance that the old school network 24 episode seasons enabled. 

If you’re an advertiser, it’s going to get even more complicated before it gets easier. We’re here to help.