Tech’s Rival Players Eating Up Larger Portions Of US Digital Ad Spend

While Google and Facebook dominate US digital ad spend, Amazon and Snapchat are slowly moving up the ladder.

Over the past two years, Google and Facebook’s share of new digital ad spend in the US has steeply declined. In 2016, the duopoly garnered nearly 73 percent of US digital ad spend, but will only account for 48 percent of it in 2018, according to eMarketer.

Meanwhile, Amazon is on track to become the number three digital ad seller by 2020. The retail giant’s ad revenues are growing at 64 percent, and are expected to exceed $2 billion this year.

Snapchat’s US ad revenue will surpass $1 billion for the first time in 2018, growing at a rate of 82 percent. The company is expected to scrape together a one-percent share of US digital ad spend this year, compared to 0.6 percent in 2017. While that doesn’t seem like much, it’s a sign that Snapchat means business.

Google and Facebook’s lack of competition for ad sales has raised numerous concerns across industries, from TV to journalism.

The duopoly and other tech giants pose a threat to TV networks’ ability to compete in the ad marketplace. Gaining leverage against these ad companies is a major reason for a proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner, according to Daniel Petrocelli, the group’s lead attorney in an antitrust case.

With little faith in the media and a drop in advertising revenue, competition for news outlets to be seen on Google and Facebook has become a growing problem.

On Tuesday, Google introduced The Google News Initiative—a multifaceted strategy to help news outlets survive in the digital marketplace. The initiative includes Subscribe with Google, which allows users to subscribe to various outlets in one place, similar to a program Facebook launched for local news outlets last month.

Earlier this month, a bill was introduced that would allow media outlets to negotiate terms with Facebook, Google and other tech companies as a united front. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, is a response to concerns that access to news should not be limited to the highest bidder.

“Our papers need to be able to band together to negotiate with giants like Facebook or Google,” Susan Rowell, president of the National Newspaper Association and publisher of The Lancaster News said in a press release. “This legislation will help to ensure that we are treated fairly.”

Startup Digital Platforms Strategize To Offer Alternatives To PC Majors

The 27 billion-dollar-per-year PC gaming market has long been dominated by a handful of companies, with Steam and GOG sitting at the top of the digital download space. While that’s not likely to change anytime soon, there are new platforms giving developers and publishers an alternative.

These digital distribution platform startups are being built with gamification in mind, and have potential to create new opportunities for discovery, monetization and community engagement. Users may come to try out new tech like blockchain and cryptocurrency or stay to connect with others on a rewarded social network.

Selling games by being a game isn’t necessarily a new concept, as Steam introduced Trading Cards and achievements years ago, and their success proves how well a gamified approach can work. But even though Steam’s updates have been in step with major trends in the gaming landscape, with particular emphasis on improving its recommendations system, the overall user experience has remained relatively unchanged, leaving an opening for other platforms to present their own approaches.

Robot Cache, a decentralized digital game platform founded by inXile Entertainment CEO Brian Fargo, will use both blockchain technology and a type of cryptocurrency called Iron Tokens (based on ERC20 tokens) for its transactions, but conventional money will also be supported. Unlike open-market cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Iron will have a fixed value for transactions.

According to Fargo, who spoke with AListDaily, cryptocurrency opens a number of gamification opportunities as users mine it or receive Iron as rewards. The platform will launch by airdropping millions of dollars worth of Iron Tokens into the ecosystem, seeding the market and encouraging users to come to the platform to cash them in. Iron may also be distributed through friend referrals and as a reward for users helping to maintain the network.

Another upcoming platform is Kartridge, which was announced by game publisher Kongregate in March. The community-based platform is expected to launch this summer with a mix of Kongregate-funded games and titles from third-party developers.

Kongregate CEO Emily Greer told AListDaily that the company intends to engage with its existing users through its online portal, email and its PC games, as the most important factor to attracting people will always be content.

“We have a lot of advantages, given our long-term trusted relationships with thousands of developers,” said Greer. “We’re reaching out and working with them to bring content.”

Kartridge will handle the marketing for these games on the platform, thereby incentivizing exclusivity deals with developers. Greer also said that the platform may offer a higher revenue share during the exclusivity period.

“We have a lot of experience doing marketing and outreach, mostly on the free-to-play side, but also on the PC browser side over the years,” explained Greer. “We’re taking advantage of our built-up knowledge to do shows, [create] ads and [work with] marketing influencers.”

Blockchain-Backed Trust

Robot Cache applies blockchain cryptology to the sale and development of digital games and their related items and services, meaning that the ownership of games and digital goods can be accurately tracked and ensuring that they cannot be copied. This makes it possible for both players and publishers to profit from their resale—something that has benefited physical retailers such as GameStop for years but until now has been almost impossible for digital stores.

SuperData senior analyst Elena Fedina said that having digital trade-ins may sound lucrative at first, given how developers and publishers are left out of the loop with trade-ins while GameStop profits greatly from them. But her concern is that the feature may be less attractive to large developers, who may not want to partner with a platform that can potentially make more money from resales than they will. A platform lacking the wider reach and higher-quality content of major developers may have trouble establishing a foothold.

Fargo responded to these concerns by stating that users will receive 25 percent of resale revenues, and developers will have full control over adjusting that amount. Publishers may even choose to increase the percentage users receive to encourage more resales.

“It is my belief that they will discover that giving much more than 25 percent will not affect their sales,” said Fargo, pointing to Humble Bundle, where users name their own prices for games. “If that model destroyed your back-catalog business, it would end tomorrow. But each publisher goes back to it knowing that it doesn’t. As those numbers start going up, it’s going to become an even bigger game changer.”

Robot Cache proposes that publishers and developers take in 95 percent of proceeds from new game sales, instead of the standard 70 percent most other platforms use. It also intends to complement its blockchain and cryptocurrency systems by being open source—meaning that developers can create custom APIs for a variety of different functions that all creators would be able to take advantage of. Not only could this create Robot Cache–exclusive applications, but would also have the potential for new monetization opportunities.

“With open source, I believe that developers will come up with functions that have not been done before,” said Fargo. “On top of it, there will be functions that are very blockchain specific. For example, users can trade items and always know that they’ll be one of a kind on the blockchain.”

Fargo referred to CryptoKitties, a blockchain-based game that lets users purchase, collect, breed and sell virtual cats. The technology ensures that each cat is completely unique and cannot be copied, and other games can adopt similar types of scarcity principles to monetize their own digital items.

Foundational features such as game discovery and community engagement are still in development, so it’s unclear how well publishers will take to it at launch. However, there are other uses for blockchain technology in the gaming space. Potential applications include crowdfunding, where smart contracts will enable backers to receive a portion of the game’s proceeds without the risk of fraudulent developers failing to make good on their promises.

Gamified Community Engagement

Kartridge will launch with a focus on premium games, but it will also support free-to-play, pay-what-you-want and ad-supported games, as well as rewarded video monetization. Developers can decide on their own pricing and which revenue systems work best for them.

Greer describes the shopping experience as a cross between being part of a social network and playing a game. Users will be able to connect with each other and developers via chat and other social features—collecting achievements, earning rewards and “leveling up” their accounts by doing so.

“We’re building a platform that’s focused on indie developers and moderated social connection between players and developers,” said Greer, “something that makes a rich and meaningful experience.”

Although Kartridge intends to leverage the community and features built on, the company decided to create a new brand to avoid upsetting its users by introducing too many changes. Kartridge will deal primarily with premium games while Kongregate remains focused on browser-based games, which grew by 50 percent in revenue last year, according to Greer.

Through Kartridge, communities can be built around specific game brands, genres or titles, giving developers and marketers an opportunity to engage with audiences more directly. Rewards such as personalization items offer incentives for users to discuss games and engage with their creators.

The gamified platform will also help with discovery, with a personalized recommendation system that will surface titles to relevant audiences. Additionally, store pages will feature continuous video loops of gameplay, coupled with animated icons that can be moused over to reveal more information.

“We’re taking pages from what we’ve learned on in terms making sure every game gets exposed to a reasonable number of players so that we can help identify what’s rising,” said Greer. “We use a lot of features to not only put things on charts and editorial banners, but using systems like achievements and other types of player featuring.”

One example is “Kongredate,” which is currently on Players take a quiz to be matched up with less exposed games. Greer said that it is one of the most popular features on the site and that it is the kind of personalized content matching users can expect from Kartridge.

Fedina claims that Kartridge has a significant advantage due to Kongregate’s dedicated community. She added that the upcoming platform could be financially profitable, but it’s difficult to predict how successful it will become since there is no clear selling point at the moment. However, both she and Fargo stated that Kartridge has a very good chance of competing with, the current third-place platform in the digital PC gaming marketplace.

With major publishers such as EA, Ubisoft and Zenimax creating their own digital storefronts, Fedina said that there’s plenty of room in the PC gaming space for new platforms to rise.

“It comes down to having the dedication of their player base,” she explained.

Concerned About Fraud, Web Giants Ban Cryptocurrency Ads

The Bitcoin craze is petering out: to protect users from the unregulated, dangerous cryptocurrency markets currently exploding, Twitter has reportedly joined Facebook and Google in banning all cryptocurrency ads on its platform, according to a report by Sky News.

Facebook has disallowed all ads related to cryptocurrency since late January. “Misleading or deceptive ads have no place on Facebook,” Rob Leathern, the company’s product management director, claimed in the announcement.

Announcing a policy update just last week, Google took a softer approach for several other financial products in addition to cryptocurrency ads. Beginning in June, advertisers must be licensed and certified by AdWords to purchase any advertisements related to cryptocurrencies.

Google’s announcement did not declare its reasoning for harsher restrictions, but given the other types of financial products it clamps down on, it is treating cryptocurrencies in the same manner as other commonly fraudulent illicit betting institutions.

According to SkyNews, Twitter will implement its own prohibition in the next two weeks, unilaterally banning any and all ads related to initial coin offerings, sales or cryptocurrency wallets—essentially, any and all services related to Bitcoin and others like it.

It’s no surprise that digital platforms are starting to take action on unsafe alt-coins. Morgan Stanley has described the current cryptocurrency market as like the dot-com bubble, but “15 times faster,” and The Outline reported on “pump and dump” groups that exist exclusively to scam of cryptocurrency neophytes. In the UK, cryptocurrency scammers have driven a 400,000 percent increase in “binary option” fraud in just six years.

Chinese web companies like Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have prohibited cryptocurrency ads for much longer, as have smaller American companies like Amazon and Oath. Interested advertisers will be limited to Microsoft and Snapchat, though according to Recode the latter is “currently evaluating [its] position on cryptocurrency advertising.”

Air France Pokes Fun At Low-Cost Carriers With Faux Products

Air France has launched a new campaign poking fun at economy airlines that cost less but charge extra for amenities.

“Take a Chance or Fly Air France” kicked off Monday with a video that offers fake products: champagne gummies, scratch-n-sniff meals and a 50-foot scroll of Sudoku puzzles. The goal of this campaign, Air France said, is to highlight complimentary amenities offered on its flights that cost extra on other airlines.

“No matter which cabin you fly in, all passengers have a right to a great meal, entertainment, and—for those of age—champagne,” Stephane Ormand, US vice president & general manager USA of Air France, said in a statement.

Although passengers can’t actually order the faux products mid-flight, consumers do have a chance to win them. On March 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., a special vending machine will be available at The Grove in Los Angeles that contains the gummies, sticker meals and Sudoku rolls. The vending machine is free to operate but requires an Instagram account and users must be 18 and older. In addition to the aforementioned products, the vending machine will also give out a limited number of golden tickets good for two round-trip tickets on Air France.

For those who can’t attend in person, a sweepstake is running that offers anyone a chance to win a set of the three satirical products.

Low-cost carriers are eating away at the market share of major transportation companies, causing luxury services like Air France to emphasize value over cost.

“One of the greatest weapons in the traditional carrier’s arsenal is creating the perfect blend of product and service quality and price that attracts the largest customer base possible—at the highest price point,” Deloitte said in its 2018 Travel and Hospitality Outlook report.

Last year, Air France launched Joon—a brand offshoot that caters to tech-savvy young travelers. Joon offers access to in-flight entertainment that streams directly onto travelers’ smartphones, tablets and laptops. In addition, all seats will be equipped with USB ports for the charging of electronic devices.

SXSW Attendees React To Experiential Marketing Activations

SXSW is known for its experiential marketing activations and this year was no different. For over a week, Austin became a hub for brands to connect with guests with immersion and FOMO.

Austin’s bustling downtown city streets may have been the epicenter of brand interaction, but one of the most-talked-about activations was about 20 miles outside of town. To promote the second season of Westworld, HBO built a town from the ground up and filled it with actors to entertain its guests.

“I don’t think I’ve been a part of any conversation over 20 minutes that didn’t eventually talk about Westworld,” one SXSW attendee told AListDaily.

Attendees were seen walking around SXSW wearing either a white or black hat and carrying souvenirs from the Westworld experience, which helped fuel conversation and social media sharing ahead of the show’s April 22 premiere.

Dell returned to the festival with “The Experience,” a display of technology, discussions and how artists use technology in creative ways, such as building a portal out of circuit boards.

Pinterest House took over Austin’s Container Bar to teach guests how the social network helps its users discover new ideas.

“It was just a great way to expose us to how data and images could be used potentially from Pinterest in the future,” one attendee said.

Steven Spielberg held a screening for Ready Player One at SXSW, and Warner Bros. made sure everyone knew it. A parade of troopers dubbed the IOI Sixers stormed up and down downtown Austin calling for the capture of Wade Watts—the main character of Ready Player One—and offered people passing by a $1 million reward.

In Brazos Hall, HTC Vive set up eight pieces of VR content across separate demo bays. The idea was to emulate technology and a sense of wonder from both the film and the book it was based on.

One SXSW who visited the activation told AListDaily that Ready Player One pretty much “nailed it.”

‘Ready Player One’ Will Help, But Not Change The VR Industry

Ready Player One will help drive awareness for VR when it hits theaters May 29, but don’t expect it to solve the industry’s problems overnight, one analyst said.

“We’ve been hearing everybody put the future of the VR industry on the shoulders of this movie,” Debby Ruth, senior vice president of global media and entertainment at Magid told AListDaily. “One movie isn’t going to change the fortunes of an entire industry.”

Ruth cites two major frictions that VR must solve before humanity finally embraces its VR destiny—lack of content and complicated setups.

“Even if people are excited by what they see in the movie and the concept of VR in general, those two things still exist as issues for the industry,” said Ruth. “Hopefully headsets coming this year will help reduce that friction and making it easier for people to use it.”

One VR headset manufacturer that may already be benefiting from Ready Player One—at least in terms of brand awarenessis HTC Vive, which has been instrumental in promoting the film. Ruth says that “tying itself to the movie promotion juggernaut” could be a benefit for the VR headset manufacturer.

Together with Warner Bros., HTC Vive promoted Ready Player One at SXSW with eight pieces of VR content in an experiential event that culminated in a screening with Steven Spielberg.

Brand awareness is a plus, but Ruth predicts a more immediate benefit for movie theaters themselves.

“I think it will have an impact especially for location-based experiences that are in theaters,” Ruth stated. “I think it’s a really great opportunity for theater owners to see a little bump in their business.”

Last year, movie theater attendance in the US and Canada hit its lowest point since 1992. In response, many theaters are changing their business models to include gourmet food, alcohol and audio technology not found at home. That includes VR experiences, like the ones IMAX debuted in AMC theaters last year.

Analyst firm Jefferies, meanwhile, is more confident in Ready Player One‘s ability to boost the VR industry, especially for companies that manufacture headset components.

“We believe that the movie will drive sales of VR headsets that require high-performance GPUs [graphics processing units],” Jefferies analyst Mark Lipacis said Monday in a statement.

Brands Try Their Luck With St. Patrick’s Day Marketing

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are already underway, and Americans plan to spend a record $5.9 billion to celebrate this year, according to the National Retail Foundation. Most popular among 18-24-year-olds, US adults are expected spend an average of $39.65 per person on Irish-themed festivities.

Here are a few ways brands are tapping into the luck o’ the Irish this year:

Green Goodies

Few St. Patrick’s day marketing campaigns are as widely recognized as the Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. The mint-flavored treats are offered for only a month each year, creating a FOMO sense of urgency among customers, as well as nostalgia going back to 1970.

For 2018, quick service restaurant launched a shake finder app that helps consumers find the nearest McDonald’s serving Shamrock Shakes—although Texans found themselves left out.

In Chicago, the brand created a pop-up activation that projected a giant green rainbow in Daley Plaza alongside a stand giving away free cups of the minty confection. The activation was a partnership with artist Andrew Shoben.

Breakfast got a lot greener with several other promotions across the US. Bruegger’s continued its annual tradition of offering green bagels. Krispy Kreme did the same with green donuts at participating stores.

Dunkin’ Donuts took St. Patrick’s Day beyond green icing and offered customers a chance to win a year’s worth of free donuts for sharing their holiday plans. One winner will also visit the company’s headquarters in Massachusetts.

Spirits of Ireland

Jameson whiskey is offering fans a trip for three to Ireland, where they will visit the Jameson distillery and have their name carved into the bar. To enter, 21+ fans can head to the brand’s official website and finish the sentence, “You’ve a Jameson at the bar, mates at the ready, all you’re missing is…”

Guinness is celebrating its 200th anniversary in the US with a continuation its annual tradition of cause marketing. “Give A ‘Stache’ invites adults to share photos of themselves sporting a mustache—either drawn on, grown or provided by Guinness foam—by tagging Guiness on social media and the hashtag #StacheForCharity. For every photo shared, Guinness will donate $1 (up to $100,000) to the Guinness Gives Back Fund, which supports community-focused non-profits around the country.

If you can’t make it to Ireland, booking discount finder Travelzoo is hosting a Facebook Live stream of Dublin’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. The Facebook stream will also be shared via Tourism Ireland’s social media pages and the Facebook pages of Travelzoo in the UK and Canada. Travelzoo said last year’s St. Patrick’s Day livestream reached three million viewers.

How about St. Patrick’s Day finance? TD Bank is running an ad on Twitter that shows users how to make a healthy green shake while promoting its mortgage lending services.

Activision Blizzard is running a St. Patrick’s Day event in Call of Duty: WWII called “Operation: Shamrock and Awe,” which includes new uniforms, shamrock skins for weapons, decorations around the game’s main headquarters and a new multiplayer map.


3 Important Tips For Marketers Already Planning SXSW 2019

Hating on SXSW has become a major tech industry pastime, with floods of Twitter and LinkedIn users claiming the Interactive festival is irrelevant.

But SXSW Interactive hasn’t jumped the shark—it’s evolved into something larger. And stranger.

The festival is no longer the tech industry’s senior prom, where giants like Twitter and Facebook launch their newest and greatest products. But marketers can still fully embrace the SXSW of 2019 and beyond as a giant, sprawling beast focused around massive, high-budget experiential campaigns—like this year’s Westworld and Ready Player One activations. And these days, formal talks and panels are arranged almost a year in advance by large public relations agencies leveraging SXSW’s PanelPicker to maximum advantage.

Here are three major tips to keep in mind as you approach SXSW planning for next year:

Embrace The Size

SXSW has steadily grown in size and scale, and SXSW Interactive most of all. There were approximately 71,000 formal attendees for last year’s Interactive, Film, and Music conferences. That same year, there were more than 5000 speakers and 2000 conference sessions. By comparison, there were approximately 32,000 registrants at SXSW Interactive and Film in 2011.

While SXSW does not release detailed metrics on the number of Interactive visitors, anecdotal evidence suggests that SXSW Interactive has become the main economic driver for the conference. Marketers hoping to reach everyone and everybody who doesn’t have a hot pop culture property like Westworld will be out of luck; instead, reach out to specific audiences (such as food, gaming, and healthcare—all of which had separate speaking tracks) and tailor audiences to them.

Strategize For PanelPicker

PanelPicker is SXSW’s official user-generated panel selection event. According to SXSW, they will begin accepting proposals for 2019 sessions in late June of 2018, with the process expiring in mid-July. Nearly 4,400 proposals were received in 2017 for approximately 2000 slots in 2018.

Votes take place in a weighted process where the public has a 30 percent vote, SXSW’s advisory board has 40 percent, and SXSW’s employee has 30 percent.

In the last few years, panels assembled either by high-profile public figures or by large public relations agencies have had a disproportionate share of the final panels selected. Because large PR firms and celebrities can leverage high numbers of voting employees or social media followers, this gives them a possibly unfair advantage in maximizing their PanelPicker odds.

To maximize your odds of success with PanelPicker, make sure your panel has a unique topic, a unique argument for voters, and enough differentiating points to make sure your panel will receive votes from audience members interested in a potential topic.

Fewer Activations, More Small Dinners

The days of SXSW as a public debut for marquee startups like Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat are long over. While Rainey Street businesses were eagerly rented out for activations by Twitter, Pinterest and others, and downtown Austin bars made plenty of cash by rebranding themselves as SXSW tech or entertainment clients, SXSW’s no longer the place for brands to make a big public splash.

Instead, strategize around having investors, media, analysts and other influencers all in one place. Putting together a group dinner for 15-30 handpicked attendees may well have a better return on income than a splashy public event that gets lost in a sea of endless dance parties.

In the future, Austin will still remain a sea of branded wristbands every March. But the demographics are shifting: As SXSW becomes less startup-centered and more a San Diego ComicCon-style celebration of the intersection between technology, marketing and pop culture, attendees are more likely to be affiliated with larger companies or to come from less entrepreneurial or engineering backgrounds.

Dunkin’ Donuts Adds Google Assistant For Mobile Ordering

Dunkin’ Donuts has integrated Google Assistant into mobile ordering, introducing zero UI to its DD Perks customer experience.

DD Perks Rewards members can now link the Dunkin’ Donuts mobile app to their Google account. Users can say, “Hey, Google, talk to Dunkin’ Donuts,” and the Google Assistant will get help linking their DD Perks Rewards account, select a restaurant location and place orders.

Once an order has been placed with the help of Google Assistant, the distance and estimated time to reach the selected Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant will be identified by Google Maps.

Dunkin’ Donuts is embracing the age of mobile payments by placing a strong emphasis on its mobile ordering service over the last year. The company reported that On-the-Go Mobile Ordering (OTG) had a retrial rate of 80 percent in 2017.

In January, Dunkin’ Donuts opened a concept store in Massachusetts that features a dedicated drive-thru lane for mobile orders. The company expects that more than 75 percent of its new locations going forward will have a drive-thru lane of some sort to boost overall sales volume.

In February, the chain announced it plans to make mobile ordering a key part of its three-year growth plan, including the addition of up to 50 “NextGen restaurants” by the end of 2019. These new locations will cater to on-the-go customers and faster service.

The integration of Google into Dunkin’ Donuts’ mobile strategy is one of several attempts to remain on the cutting edge of technology impacting its young consumers. In December, for example, the company partnered with GM to offer Dunkin’ Donuts ordering right from the touchscreen of a user’s car.

Worldwide mobile payment revenue is expected to reach $930 billion this year and surpass 1 trillion US dollars in 2019.

To include underbanked customers and offer additional convenience, Dunkin’ Donuts announced plans to test “tender agnostic” participation in its DD Perks Loyalty program later this year. The program will allow members to earn points using all forms of tender, including their DD Card, credit, debit or cash.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Unites Binge-Watching And Linear TV Trends

According to data collected by Parrot Analytics, which tracks global “demand expressions”—the number of people discussing shows across multiple channels and platforms—Star Trek: Discovery crosses trend lines and makes a strong case for how weekly shows can be used to grow fledgling services such as CBS All Access.

According to Parrot’s The Global Television Demand Report, Discovery drove the platform’s biggest month for signups when it premiered in September. The report also indicates that the show generated over 44.8 million demand expressions in the US and over 3.8 million in Canada, making it the third most popular SVOD show in both countries behind Netflix’s Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why, respectively. Discovery ranked in the top 10 for the UK, Germany and Japan, but Stranger Things tops almost all the charts in the countries covered by the report.

Netflix set the standard for binge watching when it first decided to release entire seasons of its original shows all at once instead of at a weekly pace, proving that simultaneous releases have a tremendous payoff, with social activity hitting huge spikes during these launches before quickly dropping down to baseline levels within a month or so. Linear shows see lower, but more sustained activity throughout the season and often end up surpassing the baseline of binge-watch shows.

Star Trek: Discovery may constitute a third category, as it has shown that programs can have the best of both worlds: high social activity for the premiere that is sustained or grown over time.

Simultaneous launches mainly benefit subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, whose only goal is to acquire and keep subscribers, with the trade-off being that the platform needs to produce much more content to keep audiences entertained and space out the spikes of activity.

Conversely, weekly shows are ideal for broadcast channels because they rely on advertising and want viewers to return, but premium cable networks such as HBO also rely on linear content to maintain subscribers. Some digital subscription platforms do feature weekly programs, with one of the most notable being Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but they haven’t seen the same level of global success due to a host of factors including limited distribution due to the fact Hulu is only available in the US and Japan.

In addition to being well-received by critics, Discovery has a great deal going for it, starting with how it’s part of the globally recognizable Star Trek franchise, which has a 50-year legacy that was bolstered by three blockbuster movies in recent years. Additionally, CBS aired the two-part premiere on its regular broadcast network with the third episode immediately available on All Access, where all subsequent episodes were shown exclusively.

Parrot also confirmed that the show hit a major stride in January, when CBS All Access became available as a subscription channel on Amazon Prime Video, noting that boosting demand expressions through increased accessibility isn’t something that’s unique to Discovery.

However, it might be a sign that accessibility could be a significant factor when launching a linear SVOD show, as demonstrated by another All Access exclusive, The Good Fight. The legal and political drama spun off from The Good Wife is CBS’s first scripted show for All Access, and it premiered in February 2017 in much the same way Discovery did. Data provided to AListDaily from social media analytics firm NetBase shows there were almost 50,000 mentions of the show when the first episode aired on both broadcast channels and All Access. That activity saw a major drop when season 2 premiered in March exclusively on digital platforms, generating 7,610 mentions. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean Discovery will see a similar drop when its second season airs since it is based on a considerably larger franchise.

Comparison between Star Trek: Discovery and The Good Fight. Credit: NetBase


Even without the precedent set by Discovery, there is a growing case to be made for offering linear television programs on SVOD platforms. The binge-watching model still appears to be the strongest at generating high global demand, as demonstrated by Netflix’s February launch of Altered Carbon and other high-profile streaming shows, but it should be noted that the extraordinarily high demand expressions for Stranger Things is specific to that program.

Although season 2 saw a significant drop off in the weeks following its premiere, it still managed to generate high demand months after, which may be related to fans continuing to demonstrate enthusiasm and support on social media. According to Parrot’s findings, other recent Netflix releases, including Altered Carbon, Dark, Sense8 and The Crown, didn’t come close to matching the global peak demand expressions the second season of Stranger Things saw.

But don’t discount linear programming because they might see delayed spikes in demand as The Handmaid’s Tale did. Hulu launched the first three episodes of the dystopian drama on the same day, with subsequent ones releasing weekly, but peak demand for the show occurred months after the season finale aired when it won multiple Emmy Awards. Parrot explained this kind of delayed demand might speak more to a show’s global popularity than immediate spikes do, as some shows need time to be discovered and develop long-running appeal—a comment that also happens to describe the Star Trek franchise’s rise to popularity.

SVOD platforms are also experimenting with different release models to maximize their potential. For example, Amazon Prime Video split the first season of The Tick into two parts, with six episodes releasing simultaneously in August and the final six coming out in February, in an effort to bring back a sense of episodic anticipation. The strategy seems to have worked, as confirmed by Parrot Analytics. The company told AListDaily that the split release resulted in a near-identical peak demand between the initial launch and the mid-season premiere, averaging around 7 million daily demand expressions. However, audience anticipation leading up the mid-season premiere is shallower than the initial launch, and it is spread out over more weeks before hitting peak demand, meaning there was strong buildup on social media leading up to the second half of the season.

Peak demand expressions for The Tick, Marvel’s Inhumans, Marvel’s Runaways and Jessica Jones. Credit: Parrot Analytics


In January, Amazon revealed The Tick was one of its top five most popular shows, with The Grand Tour remaining at #1, and the series was renewed for a second season. Even so, it faces stiff competition from Marvel superhero-themed shows across multiple platforms. Parrot added that Marvel’s Inhumans, which began airing on ABC in September, generated three times the peak demand expressions of The Tick. That was beaten slightly by Hulu’s original weekly show Marvel’s Runaways when it debuted in November. But Netflix’s Jessica Jones is poised to surpass them all, having matched the peak demand expressions for both shows during the lead up to its second season premiere on March 8. Its demand is likely to shoot up much further over the subsequent week.

Still, it’s a close race between the benefits of binge-watch shows and linear ones. In 2017, one of the most talked-about shows on social media was Game of Thrones, according to Brandwatch. The fantasy-themed show was in its seventh season, and weekly episodes aired simultaneously across HBO’s broadcast cable channel, website and apps. A later report published by data science and media technology company 4C Insights showed that activity for season 2 of Stranger Things quickly rose to become a close second before tapering off almost as fast. Game of Thrones won’t be returning until 2019, giving shows such as Stranger Things ample time to pull ahead and perhaps claim the social media throne.