Home Ecommerce This Streaming Channel Monetizes With Shoppable Liquor Ads

This Streaming Channel Monetizes With Shoppable Liquor Ads


Soap operas were started as a way to sell soap. Shoppable streaming channel Spirits Network launched as a platform to help sell booze.

The channel, which was rolled out by NBTV in 2019 – good timing in retrospect, considering the pandemic would cause bars around the country to close their doors – is part of a growing trend of content studios producing long-form sponsored video for advertisers.

Roku, for example, launched an advertising brand studio ahead of the TV upfronts last year to develop sponsored native content and new ad formats specifically for streaming, including shoppable ads.

Branded video is a precursor for shoppability.

Spirits Network works directly with brands on sponsored video content, which it produces within NBTV, to promote liquor and spirits. The content features shoppable ads highlighting specific products that appear on-screen during streams and link directly to an ecommerce page and checkout option.

Direct advertiser integrations within custom content help create a more cohesive ad experience for users on connected TV, said Nick Buzzell, CEO of NBTV and Spirits Network.

Shopping spirit

Spirits Network hosts its content for free on-demand through its website and through apps for iOS, Android and Apple TV and also distributes on Amazon Fire TV.

The challenge is attracting an engaged audience with purchase intent. Long-form video is not innately suited to trigger purchases because viewers usually expect a lean-back experience, especially on a larger TV screen.

But according to Buzzell, thematic programming is the best way to capture a highly engaged audience.

Because NBTV found that 60% of its audience base is interested in golf, the studio is working to release a second thematic channel called Golf Nation, which soft-launched earlier this week.


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Spirits Network has a library of roughly 30 original titles and additional licensed content dedicated to spirits. The channel also partners with celebrities and influencers, including Cardi B and well-known bartenders and mixologists.

A celeb like Cardi B has hundreds of millions of fans, Buzzell said.

Despite the challenge of getting viewers to give shoppable streams a shot, Spirits Network seems to be gaining some traction.

One-third of viewers have made purchases from Spirits Network, Buzzell said, with an average cart size of roughly $300. The channel’s audience base currently hovers around one million unique users.

Potential headaches

Still, shoppable video – and especially shoppable TV – is in early stages.

Viewers don’t generally expect it, and even major broadcasters like NBCUniversal are still hard at work getting shoppable TV off the ground with new ad formats.

Not to mention that marketing alcohol comes along with its own set of obstacles. Spirits Network has to include an additional measure of age verification for all website visits, app downloads and transactions on checkout pages.

Also, alcohol manufacturers can typically only sell products through retailers, not directly to customers themselves. This means many liquor purveyors lack granular first-party audience data that could be used for campaign planning.

But branded video is a chance to build “first-party audience connectivity” with ad formats that ideally could be more likely to lead to conversions, Buzzell said.

And, based on conversion data that the channel generates, Spirits Network builds audience profiles to deliver more customized product recommendations based on indicators of user preference, including purchase history.

A brand’s new world?

Branded content can be a more engaging ad experience because it’s not as interruptive as other ad experiences, Buzzell said.

Spirits Network favors sponsored content deals and product integrations as opposed to traditional 15- or 30-second ad spots.

Interruptive advertising makes for a pretty lousy user experience, which is a wasted opportunity to engage a prospective customer, Buzzell said.

Roku Brand Studio is also leaning into sponsored, long-form video production as an alternative to in-stream advertising.

Roku recently co-produced a TV show called “The Lesbian Bar Project” for The Roku Channel with German liqueur manufacturer Jägermeister. Although the series itself isn’t shoppable, it includes custom Jägermeister product integrations and scripted brand references to generate awareness.

Customers become comfortable with products more quickly when brands are blended within a lean-back viewing experience, Buzzell said.

The more native an ad is, he said, the more likely it is to result in a sale.

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