Why discoverability is essential to buyers in the new media landscape (Column)

Roz Parker

Discoverability doesn’t apply solely to consumers scouring SVOD platforms – it is also vital to how buyers operate and the content they acquire, argues Roz Parker of ProgramBuyer.com, which is looking to strike a level playing field for distributors. 

Getting the right content in front of the right buyers can be tough. If you’re a large distributor with hundreds of new hours each year, the challenge will be how to choose and prioritise programming for your contacts from this sizeable pipeline – while still giving every programme a fair shot.

If you are a smaller distributor, you may not have the sheer clout of some of the bigger businesses or, indeed, the bandwidth to be constantly in touch with buyers – and you probably won’t have the range of content that can see smaller, niche titles get bundled and sold in output deals with the latest must-have series.

Discoverability has become somewhat of a buzzword in the direct-to-consumer SVOD world. How are consumers finding the right content for themselves, especially when there is just so much to choose from? But, taking a step further back in the process, buyers are also being flooded with content, so discoverability is just as vital to them.

Perhaps it’s even more important – after all, if a buyer doesn’t see a programme, it’s never going to make its way to a channel or streaming service for consumers to view.

Distributors and producers of all sizes work incredibly hard to get their content in front of buyers. There will be thousands of meetings taking place this week alone at Content London, the Asia TV Forum in Singapore and the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers in Tokyo. And underpinning these gatherings will be a raft of screenings, advertising, sponsored drinks parties and talent meet-and-greets – with the bigger-budget shows from the larger companies undoubtedly getting the type of support that really helps a title to stand out.

Meanwhile, outside of these events and the growing list of must-attend markets each year, there’s a whole range of activities, from sales trips to digital newsletters and social media campaigns, all designed to keep new content flowing in front of the right buyers.

Discoverability has become somewhat of a buzzword in the direct-to-consumer SVOD world. How are consumers finding the right content when there is so much to choose from? But buyers are also being flooded with content, so discoverability is just as vital to them.

As a young business ourselves, we know the value of all this activity: we deploy different marketing techniques at different times and fully recognise the impact that personal relationships can bring. We’re at ATF this December and have recently been to MIPCancun and the World Content Market in Moscow in order to build on our relationships in these regions. But, how do you go about enhancing discoverability if your marketing and travel budgets are limited?

As a sector, we need to place more intrinsic trust with content buyers and let them do their job: they are so much more than arch negotiators. A massive ad campaign on the Croisette in Cannes may raise awareness of a show but it won’t guarantee a sale. Buying well is a skill; it’s about finding the right content – not just the most frequently advertised content. Buyers have a responsibility to keep across the latest launches, but they also need to demonstrate their abilities by finding some hidden gems for themselves.

When we established ProgramBuyer.com, our clear aim was to connect content buyers and sellers through an easy-to-use screening portal. At present we have 70,000 hours of multi-genre content from more than 110 distributors, plus 650 registered buyers, who join up for free. What we’ve quickly seen is that buyers are using our detailed metadata and sophisticated search technology to explore a wide variety of themes, discovering programming that specifically interests them, in their own time.

These themes can be as all-encompassing as period drama, Africa or World War Two, or as niche as kids’ science shows, stand-up comedy or koala bears. And we’re even exploring creative ways to alert buyers to specific new content that we know to be relevant to them as it arrives on the ProgramBuyer.com portal.

As a result of all this, many buyers are establishing new relationships with small, niche or international distributors that they might never have otherwise come across. For buyers, it’s the antithesis of speed-dating at a market and being directly pitched the big new shows at the same time as everyone else.

For distributors, ProgramBuyer provides a rare level playing field in marketing terms, in which every title, whatever its level of support elsewhere, stands or falls by its relevance to those buyers whom we’ve helped put in the discoverability driving seat.

Roz Parker is director of ProgramBuyer.com, a business she launched in 2019 with co-founder Edwina Thring. She is an experienced TV executive and previously spent many years in a senior sales role at National Geographic Television International.

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