Post Cable Networks
The Rise of Post Cable Networks
The CEO of Cheddar, Jon Steinberg, coined the term PCN earlier this year to describe content hubs that originated as niche media outlets and have quickly scaled into large digital media companies, with some distributing more than 130 pieces of multi-platform content a day. Their goal is not to drive audiences to owned and operated properties but, instead, be the dominant media source for their audiences on all social platforms.
These nimble new media companies have evolved in tandem with social media platforms and their ability to publish highly engaging content, especially video, has grown substantially. The rise of Instagram Stories, Facebook Video, Facebook Live, and others have allowed them to adapt and apply their creative editorial talent towards creating easily consumable video content. As this continues, digital media companies that are top video performers will reach a point where they will migrate to cable systems and be embraced as PCNs.
Post Cable Networks are on the path to creating enough content to supply a 24/7 news cycle mirroring what we’re accustomed to today from traditional networks like Fox, NBC, and ABC. Unlike traditional channels, however, they’re able to tap into niche verticals and distribute a very large amount of video content on multiple platforms every day. Their content ranges across live, original, and unscripted video and is designed to spark the most amount of social engagement for a PCN’s target verticals.
This newly developed space is offering fresh options for capturing and interacting with consumers, and has attracted a wide variety of players. The current market leaders are proving the potential (and the potential pitfalls) of what PCNs can offer.
Founded in early 2016, Cheddar looks to modernize how information, specifically financial news, is distributed and consumed. The network regularly interviews technology executives and officials at startups, discussing how their companies’ technologies or services will disrupt current industries. Most impressively, they consistently reach the younger demographic coveted in the financial services sector (70% of their audience is under the age of 40) with eight hours of live video content recorded and distributed per day. The small team at Cheddar has created a very nimble and efficient process to record content and to adjust to real-time current events, a very important component for effective PCNs.
Founded in 1994, Vice has scaled massively over the past decade. Originally a magazine aimed at those disenfranchised with more established news organizations, the company has become a proper cable network and now creates long form, short form, and live video content across all social platforms. Vice’s large editorial teams have the infrastructure to produce high-quality content for multiple brands and react quickly on all platforms when events occur. They’ve built their massive social presence by optimizing for each platform, while maintaining a consistent tone and critical lens in all content. Their digital content distribution across social and Viceland represents how to effectively leverage new social storytelling tools to reach audiences on all platforms.
Focused on the food and lifestyle vertical, Tastemade has established a content network with over 200 million monthly viewers and a monthly watch time of 2,000 years. Their content receives two billion monthly views with 300 million monthly user engagements. With studios in Los Angeles, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, London, and Tokyo, Tastemade’s operations allow them to quickly create content optimized for specific global audiences.
Tastemade is proving that PCNs are structured more effectively to create social content that promotes engagement. According to USA Today, “Food Network’s most popular video on YouTube, a clip from Chopped Junior TV Show, received 300K views; Tastemade’s most viewed video on YouTube, about a killer chocolate milkshake, has some 2.5 billion total views.” PCNs have the audience and brand awareness to rival traditional networks and their growth will eventually allow them to compete for skinny TV bundles within cable systems.
Food Network’s most popular video on YouTube, a clip from Chopped Junior TV Show, received 300K views; Tastemade’s most viewed video on YouTube, about a killer chocolate milkshake, has some 2.5 billion total views.
Founded as a free black-and-white paper in 2003, Barstool Sports has developed a strong following in the Northeast U.S., particularly with 16-to-34 year olds. A large investment from the Chernin Group early in 2016 enabled Barstool to develop, produce, edit, and distribute video content more efficiently. They now publish over 150 pieces of content per day and their ability to quickly monetize popular catchphrases (like #saturdaysarefortheboys) has sent their merchandise sales soaring (up 400% YOY).
In 2017, ESPN and Barstool Sports partnered to distribute a television program called Barstool Van Talk. However, the show was cancelled after just one episode. Barstool is known for publishing polarizing content and ESPN had not anticipated both the internal and the external criticism it received for the partnership. This is an example of how establishment media and new media have collided and the potential complications these new media companies encounter as they rapidly grow. Barstool has since embraced its role as a competitive rival and has now positioned itself as the anti-ESPN.
Established in 2010, UNILAD provides social news and entertainment to global audiences. Originally, the brand targeted an underserved audience that wanted fun, easily consumable content to get them through the day. The website was shut down in 2012 but relaunched in 2014 as a media network that now has over 1.5 billion U.S. video views and over three billion global video views per month. Most importantly: they reach up to one billion people on Facebook every week. UNILAD illustrates how PCNs are rapidly growing massive audiences by creating and sharing quality content at an unprecedented rate.
We learned early on how to create and edit video that is first relatable to most people across the globe, and inherently sharable. We create and post (video content) up to 40 times a day, across all nine of our publisher brands.
Chris Puckett, UNILAD President
Just as newspapers moved to websites, websites will now move to cable networks because the technological infrastructure is in place for them to evolve. Of course, as with newspapers’ jump to the web, there will be failed ventures along with success stories.
The scalability and ability to respond to real-time events with platform-optimized content puts PCNs in a favorable position to take market-share from established media outlets. A big differential is that followers of PCNs opt-in because they are actively looking for a trustworthy brand to provide easily-shareable, niche content. There is a considerable need for “window of the world” live content, a void PCNs can effectively fill.
Brands can capitalize on this opportunity by seeking out test and learn collaborations with Post Cable Networks. The key is to integrate authentically into the PCN’s current content cycle, creating a sustained emotional connection with audiences.
Audiences will continue to see the emergence of PCNs as traditional cable systems are transformed. These companies will continue to grow, and their programming will move from smartphones and laptops to living room TVs.
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