Time Inc. launches its new OTT service Tues, dubbed the People/Entertainment Weekly Network, a free, ad-supported streaming video service featuring celebrity, pop culture, lifestyle and human interest programming. It’s available through an iOS and Android app as well as streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku and on People.com. PEN features original long-form content and will air a mixture of live events as well. We caught up with gm Susanne Mei to chat about launching an OTT network and the company’s advertising strategy.
Why go the AVOD model?
For a couple of reasons. One is that we sell advertising, that’s what we do. So the fact that we’ve already got these sales teams who have great relationships with these big brands, like Miller-Coors, who is one of our launch partners—who have already raised their hand and spent lots of money to reach audiences of People and Entertainment Weekly —here we are giving them a new way to reach those audiences. That really made the most sense for us—ad-supported instead of the subscription, which seems like most brands are doing now, certainly TV brands. The other thing is about the content. I had a lot of calls with distributors and OTT platform partners talking about this, and their first reaction was always “Oh so you’re going to take clips from the website.” That’s not what we’re doing. There’s a significant commitment here of both resources that we have, in terms of the four studios that we have in our new offices, but also financial resources in terms of making new, long-form content that is specifically created for the TV platform. It’s entirely different original content created for the lean-back experience.
What’s the ad load like?
It’s really light relative to what consumers have come to expect. We are not doing pre-rolls at launch. We’re doing mid-rolls around, give or take 8 minutes; there will be an ad pod and it will have 2 ads, and the max of that pod will be 60 seconds. You can launch a 30-minute program and see 2 minutes of ads, far below what the cable networks… are airing. Although, there is a trend do decrease the ad load, because I think people have reached that point where it’s just too much and I don’t know how much bang the advertiser gets for their buck at this point. But this is going to be a very uncluttered environment. We intend to do some research about ad recall, and I think it’s going to show that it’s a great environment for advertisers to engage with our consumers.
The OTT space is really crowded right now, so what is your strategy to set your service apart?
That’s something we thought a lot about before we started to launch, and I think one of the things that sets us apart is the reach and the breadth of the Time Inc. brand. From Time Magazine to Sports Illustrated to Southern Living to Essence magazine, and then to of course People and Entertainment Weekly. The reach of those, both in print and digital—People is a Snapchat Discover partner—so all of those together are a pretty robust marketing platform in themselves. We’ll also be doing paid promotions, really digging into the data, digitally, of who we think will watch and become a fan of this network. We’re going to be doing paid advertising as well, search, all that stuff… the real benefit is being able to harness the power of the Time Inc. brand, digitally, print, events, all of that.