Why brand entertainment will take centre stage in 2024

Oct 27, 2023

With MIPCOM in the rear view mirror and the industry now looking ahead to 2024, one thing is clear: spending on content from streamers and broadcasters is tightening. All the more reason, then, to explore how brands can be brought into the funding mix.

As the content industry gears down after another gathering at MIPCOM, one key takeaway from 2023’s trip to Cannes was the number of execs who were talking about brand entertainment on the Croisette.

Spending from ‘traditional’ commissioners is dwindling, leaving producers increasingly looking for alternative sources to fill budgets. At the same time, brands are looking for new ways to engage audiences.

The intersection of these industries offers huge potential but the landscape is shifting quickly. Here, TBI’s resident branded content expert Luci Sanan offers her predictions for the months ahead for editorially-led, audience-focused video content that is directly financed or partly funded by a brand.More big global brands will set up content studios and behave more like traditional studios in commissioning and producing premium entertainment.

We have seen examples recently including P&G Studios, AB InBev (with Sugar 23) and Crayola. Some brands are tackling the role of both studio and publisher, with Expedia’s content platform aiming to be something of a Netflix for travel content.

We will see more from big brands doing the same, in turn by passing traditional commissioning and linear routes. This will mean more opportunity for creatives to work directly with brands with good budgets and big ambitions.

As broadcasters and streamers feel the bottom of their pockets, the penny is finally dropping that one of the clearest ways to keep up with the creation of great content without diminishing editorial integrity is to engage directly with brands to finance content.

It’s quite a complicated task, but over the next few months we will see commercial broadcasters and streamers staffing up with people who have experience in working with brands and producing advertiser-funded programmes. This is already starting to happen.

We will also see commercial broadcasters and ad-supported streamers joining the dots more between content and commerce. For example, if you watch the recent Tripadvisor-partnered series The Wanderer, available on Amazon Prime Video, you will be served ads because you’ve watched that show. Addressable advertising and direct links to commerce will grow.

We will see more content studios producing for social. Ogilvy’s Jai Kotecha recently commented: “For perhaps the first time, there are clear and reported direct correlations between content and ROI”.

Social content and creators have exploded (again) and have refreshed this space with fresh original content. Originals on YouTube from brands like Footasylum and MAN have shown how digital and social formatted content can reach a massive audience with relatively small investment.

MrBeast’s 7 Days Stranded At Sea had over 46 million views within 48 hours of uploading it in August. This isn’t going to go away and ad money isn’t suddenly going to start pouring back into linear.

As the world continues to battle one existential crisis after another, brands are compelled to spend bucks on causes that matter and align with their values.

We will see more CSR budget and topical-themed feature docs and festival releases. It won’t be long until some major mainstream industry awards are won by brand studios.

Key releases can be expected at Tribeca and at Sundance, and SXSW amongst others.

Check out US feature doc Canary from Oscilloscope Laboratories, Boardwalk Pictures & REI’s Co-op Studios.

Crucially, the next few months in brand entertainment will largely be about measurement. How can media owners look to leverage the commercial opportunity of brand funding without transparent data?

Streamers, in particularly, need to share more data. We need to see more robust metrics that demonstrate ROI and align with marketing effectiveness.

Brands need to know who their content will reach, and how they feel thereafter, and how their behaviour changes because of viewing the content. AI tools will quickly advance how brand awareness and engagement is measured.

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