Home On TV & Video Straight-to-Streaming Films Are Having A Moment. That’s A Win For Advertisers

Straight-to-Streaming Films Are Having A Moment. That’s A Win For Advertisers


On TV & Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video. 

Today’s column is by Samba TV CEO and Co-Founder Ashwin Navin. 

When the pandemic shuttered movie theaters across the country, Warner Brothers irritated filmmakers by pushing its blockbuster slate to HBO Max. The move paid off. Many of its films generated eye-popping viewership numbers on the streaming service.

Fast forward to this summer, and there’s no shortage of star power on streaming platforms. In fact, nearly every major studio is releasing a star-driven, made-for-streaming film. While there will always be a place for the grandeur of films like “Top Gun: Maverick” in theaters, billions have been spent on movies that will be largely seen on the smaller screens. One of Netflix’s latest releases, “The Gray Man,” had a Hollywood-level $200 million budget. Even though critics panned the film, audiences loved it.

Box office star power and spending is pouring into household devices, all while audiences are experiencing subscription fatigue and turning to cheaper ad-supported models. Even Netflix appears to finally be cracking and embracing this option to grow revenue. Advertisers are on the cusp of a golden opportunity to buy into streaming blockbusters, upending the advertising and entertainment industries simultaneously.

Can streaming replace the traditional box office?

Over a single summer weekend, five films were released with bankable, well-known stars: “Spiderhead” (Netflix); “Jerry and Marge Go Large” (Paramount+); “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” (Hulu); “Cha Cha Real Smooth” (Apple TV+) and “Father of the Bride” (HBO Max).  

But the TV and film industries are still trying to understand what constitutes a huge streaming hit. As a result, there’s a need for more transparent and robust third-party measurement insights that allow advertisers to truly understand the audiences being reached. This will surely come as streaming platforms rely more and more on advertising revenue. 

Until the bright lights of greater transparency are fully embraced, however, we still have a pretty good sense of success. By the end of the summer, Netflix will have released 25 feature-length movies. It’s obvious that this model draws a considerable audience. There’s a clear indication that high-quality content is a viable source for delivering targeted ads and even driving subscriptions.

Will ad investment spur content?

The combination of household reach and granular viewership insights should get advertisers excited about buying spots in films from streaming platforms. This is primarily because the shift represents a departure from the traditional movie-making business model that has governed Hollywood for generations.  


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Last year, Roku developed a holiday film in record time based on cult favorite TV show “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” After NBC canceled the show, Roku stepped in via its ad-supported Roku Channel, optioned the movie rights and delivered a full-length film in less than six months. It went on to become the #1 movie on the platform and earned a Critics’ Choice Award nomination. This pace of content creation is possible because of ad-supported models.

A golden opportunity for advertisers

This deluge of high-caliber streaming movies comes amid the biggest box office blockbuster summer we’ve seen in years. Audiences are finally comfortable returning to theaters, but they are still watching movies at home, too. This is the best case scenario for advertisers. 

We also live in an era of cyclers who hop from one subscription service to another to gain access to the latest season of their favorite series. Netflix’s slowed growth, changes in development spending, and accelerated plans to launch an ad-supported model are proof that things are changing. 

Streamers need to adapt, and that’s good for advertisers. What this summer has taught us is that the rumors of the demise of theater-going movie fans has been greatly exaggerated. There will likely always be an appetite for the big screen. At the same time, an entirely new movie market is emerging to create enormous opportunities for compelling storytelling and advertiser engagement. 

Provided advertisers spend selectively on audience-focused plans, they can capitalize on this new streaming phenomenon in a massive way.

Follow Samba TV (@samba_tv) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

For more articles featuring Ashwin Navin, click here.

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