Outside TV Explores Digital Horizons

Outside television cut its teeth in the world of traditional TV, launching an around-the-clock channel in 2012 that now reaches about 55 million homes through MSOs such as Comcast, Cox Communications, RCN, Dish Network, and newer virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) including Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.

The programmer, which has direct ties to Outside magazine and focuses on adventure sports, is now pushing hard into digital with a subscription-based service on Amazon Channels and the more recent launch of Outside TV Features, a direct-to-consumer app offering a free, ad-supported library of short-form content and a $4.99 per month subscription service that provides access to a vault of full-length feature films on platforms such as iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

Next TV editor Jeff Baumgartner recently spoke with Outside TV Features general manager Rob Faris about how the programmer’s new digital services are evolving and what else might be in store further down the road. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation.

NTV:What’s the focus and primary objective of Outside Television? How do you position the service?
Rob Faris: For us, the focus and objective is to be the leader in adventure-sports content and to develop and distribute our product in as many places as possible.

The most recent [focus] is the subscription service, which is premium content through SVOD. We launched that in December 2016. That includes premium films, and is very differentiated from the linear offering. On TV, we have episodic TV and some documentaries and event programming. In addition to having the TV and premium, the third bucket is short-form content through our digital platforms, which is free. At OutsideTV.com and from the free app, [we have] the opportunity to upsell the premium-film subscription service.

NTV:What are your early takeaways on the subscription and the app-focused product? Have they met or exceeded expectations so far?
RF: We have year-one goals that we put together from a subscriber perspective. I think we’ve met those in the first four months. As far as research going into the subscription business, you’ve got to watch churn, make sure you don’t plateau … all of those things. We didn’t really know where that would go, but we feel really good about having subscriber increases in the first four months, so we’re right on goal to where we thought we’d be.

NTV:What have been the biggest lessons early on for the digital portion of your business?
RF: The first was trying to define who the customer is. I think to this day we don’t have a great idea of that yet, because we are so new [to digital]. It’s also about knowing how long a subscriber will hang on for. Unlike TV, where you pay your cable bill and you subscribe to a level of service, very rarely do you change that unless you’re cancelling.

With a subscriber-based product, is it three months, is it six months, or is it a year or is it two years? We don’t know how long that subscriber will hang on and pay that monthly subscription. Obviously we need to continue providing fresh, premier content to keep those people engaged and excited about the service we are offering.

NTV:Have you tried testing different subscriptions and pricing?
RF: Right now, it’s month-to-month. Our initial launch partner was Amazon Channels … and they don’t allow that packaging. But now that we’ve also launched on our own app, we are looking into that and having a discounted rate for a longer-term would be ideal. We’re still doing the homework there and understanding that.

NTV:A great number of genre-focused SVOD services have emerged. What are you doing to differentiate yourself?
RF: I think marketing is going to play a major role. For us, as a brand, we have a magazine that’s 40 years old and has been a gold standard in the genre for a long time. We have the TV network, which gives us a decent reach to with consumers who might want something that is a little differentiated.

Instead of downloading to rent at $4.99 or trying to own a single film as high as $20, we can give you hundreds of films for $4.99 a month and catalog them. That audience in this genre is a collector. You have your favorite movies if you’re a surfing fan or a climbing fan or a ski fan; you have these opportunities to go back when the seasons come around or you just want to dive into it and watch them ad nauseam.

We know there’s an audience there for this. There’s a proven track record, through the electronic sell-through business that started with DVDs. The natural next step is subscription. For us, it’s about converting that fan base and showing up on the ground, marketing at events and using the influencers and the producers of the films and some of the brands that support the films.

NTV:Where does 4K fit into your road map?
RF: We shoot in 4K for most of our projects. Right now, we’re not finishing shows in 4K because there are bandwidth concerns. Storage is also a big issue in a cloud-based scenario.

We’re prepared for 4K. We are producing a lot of it native and we can always go back and finish it in 4K when that tipping-point day comes, when that avenue for 4K on platforms becomes more prominent. Our content screams to be 4K.