“On television and videoIs a column exploring the opportunities and challenges of advanced television and video.
Outside Inc. CEO Robin Thurston is keenly aware of subscription fatigue.
In an age when streaming platforms strive to increase their subscriber base with ad-free and ad-supported channel packages, Outside TV is being used in part as a vehicle to entice viewers to subscribe to Outside Plus for a $ 99 per year subscription to access Outdoor’s active lifestyle video, digital media and print brands.
These offerings include Outside Magazine, Backpacker, Yoga Journal, SKI, Women’s Running, Triathlete, Climbing, Clean Eating, VeloNews, video production via Warren Miller Entertainment and technology with its app and event software, like the app of MapMyFitness and Gaia GPS workout tracking.
Outside TV adds more original programming and live content. Its streaming service Outside TV Features launched in 2016 and includes feature films and original series for $ 4.99 per month.
Outside TV significantly increased its reach last month when it was made available on YouTube TV as part of the platform’s optional sports add-on alongside NFL RedZone, FOX College Sports and FOX Soccer Plus. Outside TV is also distributed through Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and smart TVs like Samsung and LG, as well as iOS and Android.
Pursuing international distribution for Outside TV, as well as international content, is now a priority, Thurston said.
Outside TV is also taking a page out of the major Hollywood studios playbook by releasing content for a limited time in theaters before it hits its streaming service. On October 20, Warren Miller Entertainment will kick off a theatrical tour of his 72nd feature, âWinter Starts Now,â before the ski and snowboard documentary hits Outside TV in November.
AdExchanger spoke to Thurston.
Can you discuss Warren Miller Entertainment’s place in Outside TV?
On television there is a lot of what is called windowing. When we first receive a movie, we can release it for free on the shelf as part of 24/7 programming or in a specific distribution channel like Roku. But then after that window we could make something available only to Outside Plus members.
Ultimately, if you’re a huge Warren Miller fan, you’ll need to become an Outside Plus member to get it.
Warren Miller has a rich history, [being] distributed through the theatrical tour to more than 300 cities in the United States.
We will be touring again this year – and we have a part of it [experience] bundled into Outside Plus – but I think we’re heading into the future is that there are certain movies or documentaries that we’re potentially going to acquire from a licensing perspective.
Like many others – be it Discovery Plus, Disney, or Netflix – we need to determine: is the value [of the content] in video on demand? Or is it exclusivity? That the only place you can watch this content is in your premium channel, Outside Plus member.
Where does Outside TV fit into this strategy?
Outside Plus has a single sign-on framework for all of our properties. Outside TV will soon be integrated into this framework and you will be able to use your Outside Plus account whether you are on Outside Magazine or Yoga Journal.
Currently, approximately 70% of all of our sites are single sign-on. But we are in the process of migrating our tool [apps] like Trailforks and Gaia. Soon, Outside TV will be one of them.
Whether it’s digital, magazine and web content, or premium video, about 40% of everything we have at this point will only be for Outside Plus.
How is Outside TV used by subscribers?
The old model of Outside TV exclusively licensed content – they didn’t do a lot of original programming and they did very little live sports.
We’re doing all three now. We invest in original content. We are really looking at all of the categories that we are in. Maybe there should be a daily cooking show on Outside TV that really focuses on how to eat before a marathon?
We are also investing in more licenses. We will seek licenses for living things.
It’s not our intention to run everything through CTV or a FAST channel or linear. The idea is to use all of these channels to get people to come back to us and potentially become an Outside Plus subscriber directly.
How do you sell ads on Outside TV? Is it a mix of direct and programmatic?
Most of what we sell is direct. We will fill the inventory that we do not use programmatically.
How is Is YouTube TV helping Outside TV extend its reach?
It’s a little different demographic, and we’re seeing a younger audience coming in through channels like YouTube.
Again, they won’t get, like any of our CTV partners, 100% of the content. We will use this opportunity [to be part of a distributor bundle] to connect with those customers to bring people into everything in the Outside portfolio.
Why is the package strategy important to Outside TV, especially when it comes to tackling subscription fatigue?
In ecommerce, people just can’t get rid of Amazon Prime – it has become so fundamental to their existence. What we’re hoping for – at least in the active lifestyle category – is that we can become that fundamental membership where people have to have Outside Plus.
We are fortunate not to be a simple video distribution platform. Through magazines, the reach we have on the web and social media, as well as commerce and utilities like Gaia and Trailforks, we can bring these experiences to people. Maybe they get a bit bored on Outside TV, but they still read one of the digital sites or use one of the apps.
With the cookies gone, I think being as deep a vertical as we are – with knowledge of the customer base and as much first party data as we have on the customer – we’re going to be a net winner.
Technology always wins. That’s why we need to reinvent the subscription model.
This interview has been condensed and edited.