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Walt’s Golden Child+

Posted by Ann Mondi

Fri, Dec 04, 2020

Disney+ Golden Child Blog Opener Dec 2020

Growing up as the second oldest of five children, I can confidently say that you parents of multiple children are lying when you say you don’t have a favorite. Sure, the favorite may vary depending on time or circumstance, but still…we know. Most parents, despite this, do a great job of making sure their time, love, and attention is spread equally for the most part. But when Disney reorganized its media properties under the heading of Disney Creative (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, Disney-ABC TV), it made no secret of it that Disney+, with its 73M subscribers, is the current golden child.

With the pandemic still taking a toll on Disney’s parks, resorts, and cruises and the streaming wars impacting the success of cable networks across the board (yes, even Disney-ABC TV), the company has turned its attention and resources to streaming, specifically Disney+. It announced a strategic reorganization of its media and entertainment business, including the addition of a distribution team, with the goal of amplifying its success in the space. The distribution team will take the lead on monetizing content and oversee operations of the company’s other streaming services, including Hulu and ESPN+. These reallocation of resources and public affirmations make clear that Disney sees this direct to consumer model, specifically in the form of Disney+, as the path to the future financially and strategically.

Why specifically Disney+ when there are so many offerings under its media and entertainment umbrella? There’s a number of factors that set up the streaming service to win from the start, from the timing of COVID-19 and the subsequent increase in streaming to the library of solid classics and originals not just drawing in but retaining subscribers. Disney+’s strong value proposition and brand awareness gave it an edge that other platforms had to build up over time – and some, like Hulu, are still struggling to do so.

Interested in reading more? Read this article about the Emotional, Identity, & Other Benefits of Disney+ >

You may remember that back in 2019, Disney took control of Hulu, the then-future of Disney’s streaming ambitions. As any child knows, there are few things more disheartening than having your parent take something from you only to give it to your sibling. Soon after Disney took over Hulu, the streaming services proposed a plan for its competitive growth via international expansion. While initially backed by the parent company, Disney has since pivoted and now chosen to pursue a new general entertainment service outside the United States under Star, the company’s Indian media subsidiary. The reason for this change? Disney claims it’s due to Star’s preexisting international name recognition, though there is room to speculate that it does not want to inflate the value of Hulu when it still owes Comcast one-third ownership share at a price TBD in 2024 for the takeover deal. For now, Hulu will take a backseat to the golden child Disney+. Perhaps we should anticipate some more angsty content from Hulu (or maybe it’s “just a phase”).

As the streaming category continues to grow and evolve, consumers will likely need to decide at some point which services to keep and which to cancel. These decisions will be based on several factors, including the habits they’ve established and budgetary reasons (who doesn’t want to get the most bang for their buck?). Bundling options may become more important. With Disney+, its parent company also owns linear networks (ABC, ESPN, etc.), Amazon Prime Video is included in your Prime subscription, and the streamlined connection to Apple’s hardware ecosystem may make Apple TV an easier choice.

Another huge deciding factor is obviously the content libraries. Why subscribe if your favorite shows and movies aren’t available? Netflix, perhaps the only “pure” streaming service, may struggle in this area compared to Disney, who has a myriad of content at its disposal. Disney’s media re-organization may suggest that it plans to go around traditional cable operators and package its networks’ content via a streaming bundle. The seismic shake-ups continue with yesterday's announcement that Warner Brothers will simultaneously air ALL of its 2021 movies on HBO Max. With so much uncertainty, the one thing we can count on is more disruption. Personally, I can’t wait to grab my popcorn and watch it unfold.


Ann is a serial streamer who loves keeping up with industry trends in media and technology. She frequents virtual webinars and conferences to continuously grow her understanding of the market and consumer (want to know which one she’s signing onto next? Just ask!).

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Topics: television, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, technology, COVID-19

Live Sports: Fans' Last Connection to Cable is Fraying

Posted by McKenzie Mann

Wed, Jul 18, 2018

friends watching tv

Earlier this year, I was trying to watch my beloved Patriots play in the AFC East Divisional Championship game while standing in the airport security line. After numerous failed attempts at downloading streaming apps that promised an uninterrupted game, I resorted to real-time game updates in the form of a line with how many yards the ball went each down and a description of the play.

I was frustrated, to say the least—a missed opportunity as we know fostering the right positive emotions is key to building and maintaining loyal and engaged customers.

When I finally made it through security, I went straight to a restaurant where Tom Brady was on every screen. This time, cable television saved the day.

Live sports is one of the last threads tethering people to traditional cable packages. For most other content, consumers have a plethora of services to choose from—traditional streaming like Netflix, premium network streaming like HBO Now, and even broadcast network streaming like CBS All Access. And with Netflix recently becoming the number one choice for television viewing, it’s no surprise an estimated 22.2 million people cut the cord in 2017—a whopping 33% increase from 2016. 

As more consumers leave the traditional model for “à la carte” style, nontraditional services like Yahoo, Facebook, and ESPN are challenging cable providers’ last bastion of sports. While there have been hiccups in some of these services, like poor streaming quality and cutting out of games altogether, the technology is improving and eventually will offer sports fans a legitimate alternative to watch games on.  

To combat this rising competition, CBS and the NFL recently extended their agreement to stream all games on CBS All Access through the 2022 season—safeguarding their rights to the coveted (and profitable) football games, at least for now. 

New technology is disrupting the industry and cable providers will need to adapt and embrace innovation to stay competitive. This is already happening for some. Charter Communications’ Spectrum now offers à la carte channels instead of the traditional comprehensive packages, Comcast has expanded their on-demand library (including full seasons), and DirecTV now offers DirecTV Now, a streaming service separate from their satellite plan. Some major providers are even exploring new verticals to add to their portfolios, as is the case with Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile.

There’s tremendous opportunity for traditional providers as the competition in the digital streaming market heats up. But companies must carefully consider these opportunities—with so many options (and more to come) available to consumers, solutions must impress off the bat, or lose fans to a competitor for good.

We’ve seen this play out in other emerging tech categories, like virtual assistants. As big players like Apple, Google, and Amazon pour millions into making their virtual assistant tech smarter, they need to embrace a new kind of customer-centricity—one that’s built on an understanding of the functional, emotional, and social identity benefits that drive adoption, engagement, and loyalty. To learn more, watch our quick 20-minute webinar and learn how brands can win the virtual assistant war—lessons for any brand experiencing disruption in their category:

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McKenzie Mann is a Project Manager II at CMB. She spends most of her spare time trying to convince her friends that it’s funny to replace the word “man” with “mann.” It's a work in progress, but mann will it be great when it catches on.

Topics: technology research, television, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation, emotion

And the award goes to… Predictive Analytics!

Posted by Frances Whiting

Wed, Feb 22, 2017

Oscars-1.jpg

It doesn’t take a data scientist to predict some of what will happen at Sunday’s Oscars—beautiful people will wear expensive clothes, there will be a handful of bad jokes, a few awkward speeches, and most likely some tearful and touching ones as well. But in terms of the actual award outcomes, well, that takes a bit more analysis, and as quick search suggests, there’s no shortage of that online.   

These predictions come at an interesting time in the context of recent world events. In 2016 a few world events shook the predictive analytics world (and beyond) with outcomes so unexpected that even the most respected pollsters failed to predict them. And while many of the unanticipated polling outcomes occurred within politics (think Brexit and the U.S. presidential election), the implications for predictive analytics are also relevant to the market research industry.

As CMB’s president and co-founder, Anne Bailey Berman, recently said in Research Business Report’s Predictions issue, “ the market research industry will face many of the same questions regarding surveys and predictive analytics that are facing pollsters and data scientists in the aftermath of the election.”

Let’s bring it back to Sunday's Academy Awards. Since people love to predict the winners of awards like “Best Picture” and “Best Actress,” the awards show offers pollsters a chance to reflect on what went wrong in 2016 and to test refined predictive models in a much lower stakes context than a presidential election.

For example, popular polling site FiveThirtyEight has an ongoing tracker for Oscar winners. Typically, FiveThirtyEight bases its Oscar prediction model on the outcome of guild and press prizes that precede the Academy Awards. FiveThirtyEight watches who wins these other awards, like the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and then tries to figure out how much (how predictive) those awards matter.

First they look at historical data and pull all guild/press winners from the last 25 years, assuming these winners are representative of the Academy’s thinking. Based on the percentage of those awards that actually went to the corresponding Oscar, they assign a certain score for each award (e.g., if 17 of the last 25 winners for the Academy Award for best supporting actor also won the Globe, there’s a 68% correlation between the two).

Then they turn each award percentage into a score by squaring the original fraction and multiplying by 100. In doing this, weak scores get weaker and strong scores stay strong. FiveThirtyEight pollsters then consider other factors, like if the award is voted on by people who are also part of the Academy Award electorate or if the nominee loses. Both factors impact each prize’s “score”.

After reviewing FiveThirtyEight’s predictive modeling I've learned that even low-stakes polling for events like award shows depends on historical voting patterns and past outcomes. But is there danger in relying too much on historical data? If there’s one thing the 2016 US presidential election taught us it’s that predictive models can be susceptible to failure when they place too much weight on historic outcomes and trends. [twitter-129.pngTweet this]

The main problem with the predictive polls in 2016 was that they weren’t fully representative of the actual voting population. Unlike previous elections, there were A LOT of voters who turned out to cast their ballot on Election Day who predictive polls had missed throughout the campaign. Ultimately the polls failed to accurately predict the actions of these “anonymous voters,” perhaps in large part because they failed to account for the changing cultural, demographic, and economic social contexts impacting peoples’ decisions today. But that’s an exploration from another time. The point is, the 2016 predictive polls–based largely on historical trends–misrepresented the actual voting population.

Similar to the actual 2016 voting population, Academy members who vote on the Oscars are generally anonymous and can't be polled in advance of the event. This anonymity  forces pollsters to get creative and base their predictive models on a combination of historical guild and press prize outcomes. As market researchers and political pollsters know, even if voters are polled before the vote, there’s no guarantee they will actually act accordingly.  

This leaves us researchers with a serious conundrum: how can we get into anonymous respondents’ heads and predict their actual decisions/voting behaviors without relying too much on historical data?

One solution might be to emphasize behavioral datainformation gathered from consumers’ actual commercial behaviors–over their stated preferences and beliefs. For Oscar predictions, behavioral data might include:

  • Compiling social media mentions and search volume (via Google or Bing) for particular movies, actors, actresses, directors, etc.
  • Considering the number of social media followers nominees have and levels of online engagement
  • Tracking box office sales, movie downloads, and movie reviews

Based on the surprising outcome of the 2016 presidential election and Brexit, we learned that there was a huge cohort of unaccounted voters–voters who indeed turned out on voting day–that skewed traditional predictive models.

If pollsters hadn’t relied solely on historical data, and instead used an integrated approach that included current behavioral data, perhaps the predictions would have been more successful. There were plenty of voters on all sides who voiced their opinions on traditional and untraditional platforms, and capturing and accounting for those myriad of voices was a missed opportunity for pollsters.

Though the Oscars are a much lower stakes scenario, hopefully researchers continue to learn from 2016 and expand their modeling practices to include a combination of measures. Instead of a singular approach, researchers should consider combining historical trends and current behavioral data.

Interested in learning more about predictive analytics? Check out Dr. Jay’s recent blog post on trusting predictive models after the 2016 election.

 Frances Whiting is an Associate Researcher at CMB who is looking forward to watching the 89th Academy Awards and the opportunity to try her hand at predictive analytics!

Topics: television, predictive analytics, Election

What’s in a Name? ABC Family Grows Up

Posted by Julia Walker

Thu, Nov 12, 2015

This January, the ABC Family channel will become “Freeform.” The name change, triggered by a misalignment between ABC Family’s current brand strategy and associations the current name conjures, aims to appeal to the brand’s target audience—a more mature, young adult demographic. President Tom Ascheim calls this group "Becomers," males and females ages 14-34 who are going through an exciting life stage of firsts, ranging from "first kiss to first kid."

So, what can viewers expect from Freeform? According to the company, at least some things will stay the same. Freeform will keep a number of popular shows (e.g., Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters) and continue beloved traditions like Harry Potter Weekends and 25 Days of Christmas. But viewers can also expect new programming that takes the brand further from its family-friendly image. 

While the name change seems warranted, a rebrand can certainly flop if not carried out thoughtfully (think: when Radio Shack became “The Shack”). Here are four steps worth following to ensure long-term success in launching a rebrand:

1. Conduct thorough research about the competitive landscape and your target market. Rebranding involves a tremendous amount of preparation, time, and effort, and it risks confusing customers and losing brand equity. It’s wise to consider the repercussions before making changes that might not solve the underlying problems. Renaming infamous private security firm Blackwater to the shorter XE, for instance, hasn’t done the trick. For ABC Family’s part, research revealed many respondents unaware of the brand see it as “wholesome,” which is an indication that the channel’s name was a real sticking point to broadening its audience.

2. Communicate early and often. Being proactive about communication is essential during a rebranding campaign to avoid confusion and to dissuade potential rumors. All marketing and promotional materials should be honest and clarify any questions customers may have, such as the reasoning behind the change or what to expect from the new brand. On ABC Family's social media pages, for instance, some viewers expressed concerns about whether or not the new network would continue its popular 25 Days of Christmas campaign. The channel is leveraging these platforms as a way to answer questions and ease viewers’ fears.

3. Engage customers. Getting the consumer involved is a productive way to create buzz around the rebrand. One way ABC Family has done this is through a user-generated campaign (UGC) in which fans can create content to be posted on the channel’s website. This effectively generates hype around the launch just in time for the January television premieres. Social media can also be used to cultivate engagement with fans. ABC Family already has an impressive social media presence around hit show Pretty Little Liars, which is cable's second most tweeted-about series, but the channel will need to continue encouraging active participation throughout the rebrand.

4. Don’t let the name change stand alone. The name change itself should only be part of a rebrand, and it should be accompanied by an internal strategic shift. The branding must deliver on its promises, or the rebrand will fail to bring about any brand lift. A rebrand can’t be a "superficial facelift," but a sustainable strategic change that allows for the brand to flourish. 

Only time will tell if Freeform can create new content that attracts Becomers and evokes viewers’ "spirit and adventure," while also leveraging existing brand equity to maintain its current core audience.  

Julia Walker is an Associate Researcher who is very excited to continue watching Harry Potter marathons on the new Freeform network. 

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Topics: television, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research

Brands Get in a Frenzy Over Shark Week

Posted by Athena Rodriguez

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Summer brings many joys—BBQ’s, the beach, and one of my favorite holidays. . .I’m referring, of course, to Shark Week. For over 25 years, the Discovery Channel has loaded as much shark-related content as possible into a 7-day period, including TV programming, online content, and social media frenzies by both the network and other “official” (and non-official) partners.While some of these partnerships are no-brainers (e.g., Oceana, National Aquarium, and Sea Save Foundation), other less obvious partners such as Dunkin Donuts, Cold Stone Creamery, and Southwest Airlines, must get creative with their marketing to connect their brands to “the most wonderful week of the year.” Southwest, for example, offered flyers the chance to watch new content via a special Shark Week channel and to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to swim with sharks. Both Cold Stone Creamery and Dunkin Donuts debuted special treats (“Shark Week Frenzy”—blue ice cream with gummy sharks—and a lifesaver donut, respectively).

brand engagement, shark week, television

But it didn’t stop there—brands on social media found ways to tie in products to Shark Week in every way possible. Just take a look at these posts from Claire’s, Salesforce, and Red Bull.

shark week, brand engagement, television

So, what’s in it for these brands? Why go out of their way to connect themselves to something like Shark Week, which is seemingly unrelated to their services and products? It’s as simple as the concept of brand associations. Since brand associations work to form deeper bonds with customers, brands are often on the lookout for opportunities that will boost their standing with customers. Shark Week attracts millions of viewers each night, and since it’s one of the few true television events that remains, it presents the perfect opportunity for brands to engage with customers in a way they don’t often get to do. Furthermore, it demonstrates that these brands are in tune with what their customers like and what’s happening in the pop culture world. And, judging by the amount of interactions brands received from consumers, I’d say it worked.

If you missed the fun of Shark Week last month (the horror!) or just want more, don’t worry—Shweekend is just around the corner (August 29th), and I’ll be anticipating what brands can come up with this time. . .

Athena Rodriguez is a Project Consultant at CMB, and she is a certified fin fanatic. 

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Topics: advertising, marketing strategy, social media, television, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research