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Virtual NYC TV Week: Legacy Brands Can Drive Streaming Success

Legacy linear brands bring a sense of credibility and gravitas that will help drive viewers and subscribers to new streaming offerings, a panel of TV executives said at the Future-produced Virtual Next TV Summit event Monday.

“Fundamentally, the value of a legacy brand or a well-known brand is simply trust,” PBS chief operating officer Jonathan Barzilay said during a panel session moderated by B&C contributing editor Paige Albiniak. He added that when the broadcaster started making short-form content for the web, it collectively did so via the PBS Digital Studio name. “By putting the PBS name on all of these independently produced short form series, that conveys something to the audience. ...The trust that people have in the PBS brand and the awareness that people have in the PBS brand, maybe gave us a little head start.”

At The Weather Group, parent of The Weather Channel network, president Tom O’Brien said its streaming offering Local Now benefits from the more established Weather Channel brand.

“The ability, the opportunity, is what you do with that brand. If you use it as an anchor, you use it as a basis of innovation,” O’Brien said.

Local Now is The Weather Group’s local news, weather, sports and traffic streaming service. O’Brien added that the service has added new programming -- a series offering advice and mental health insights during the COVID-19 pandemic called with Canadian author and therapist Dr. Wendy Walsh called Dr. Wendy Walsh Is Here for You, has expanded its American Science Lab science show during the COVID-19 lockdown and is live streaming the May 9 Feeding America Comedy Festival, a fundraiser for charity Feeding America. 

At BritBox, a joint venture between British television icons the BBC and ITV, the focus has been trying to balance those two brands to establish a new digital identity in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

“It’s an interesting balance because we want to build our own brand equity, but do so leveraging that of our parents,” said BritBox SVP and Commercial Head Emily Powers. “The way we do that is, it’s a lot about focusing on a content proposition that is both taking advantage of the vast library of our parents, as well as starting to launch some of our own originals. We convey to our audience, through our marketing materials, a certain tonality and sensibility that is respectful of the parent brands but also reaching a new audience.”

Ampersand SVP Agency Strategy Marion Hargett said legacy brands matter when launching OTT services because it gives potential viewers and customers a base on which to set their expectations.

“Many of the legacy players have a rooted history of delivering news and delivering content with standards to that delivery,” Hargett said. “... I think having a heritage is not a bad thing and I think being able to bring that knowledge to bear in the television ecosystem is really valuable.”

Picking the right distribution strategy also is important when a legacy brand launches a streaming option. At PBS, which is made up of hundreds of individual stations across the country all with a local presence, it made sense for and the app to have a geo-location function so when a viewer logged in they were asked to verify their local station, and received information on the offerings on that channel. When PBS launched on YouTubeTV, it used the national feed.

“We do hope to eventually get to a place where that gets geo-targeted or tailored individually, but for right now it’s more important for us to be on the platform with some sort of presence rather than to precisely mirror the local station,” Barzilay said. “We do that wherever we can and whenever we can.”

At BritBox, Powers said that the distribution focus was initially to be on a few key platforms.

At launch, BritBox was available on Apple TV, Roku and also through syndicated channels like Amazon Channels and Apple TV Channels.

“For us it’s important to balance the business between direct-to-consumer and these channels because the channel gets you into every household, but does so in a way that has a much lower barrier to entry.”

Phase 2, she added, includes getting access to smart TV. BritBox has agreements with LG and Samsung, and expects more such deals in the future. 

The Virtual Next TV Summit is part of Future's Virtual NYC TV Week Spring.