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When social platforms reach a certain size, there’s something akin to a gravitational pull compelling individuals in charge to want to produce original programming.
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It makes sense on paper: You’re an online video sharing site or a social media network that’s basically 100% composed of user-generated and professional content that’s coming from individuals and entities outside of your organization. Those users and professionals could go to many other places to upload their content. They often do! And entire businesses have been built to facilitate them doing so.
But you get jealous easily and you don’t want viewers doing things on other platforms. You want the viewers to watch all the things on your platform. So, what’re some offerings that get those viewers to stick around and watch your stuff? Off the top of my head:
- Create an ecosystem where–through financial incentives, ease of use, scale, specific technical capabilities, and/or fun–creators of all kinds put their content on your platform. Ideally first or exclusively, but either will do. The viewers will then go to whatever destination has the best or earliest content.
- Original programming.
Original programming is yours. You own it. No one else can have it. There’s no place else to watch it. When done well, it’s also multifunctional. It’s content and internal and external marketing at the same time, showing off how cool/innovative/edgy/sophisticated/whatever your platform is.
There are plenty of places where it works, too. Every major network or subscription streaming platform had a breakout hit that brought in audiences or subscribers. Again, off the top of my head:
- HBO: The Sopranos
- Netflix: House of Cards
- AMC: Mad Men and Breaking Bad
- Showtime: Dexter
- Hulu: The Handmaid’s Tale
- Amazon Prime Video: Transparent
So I guess it’s easy to look at the above and then all those Ws and think that it’s worth a shot to rack up some Ws on your own. To think that your platform is only one win away from becoming a thing. But the thing is, it’s never really worked.
While it’s basically a necessity for media companies and SVODs to have their own original hits, it’s not something tech platforms need in order to survive. At best, successful original programming is a nice thing to have that will elicit short-term subscriber increases and PR highs. At worst, it’s a costly distraction that competes with the other content on your site.
You could find a bunch of specific reasons why the original programming divisions of all the major platforms no longer exist, but what’s telling is that they all no longer exist.
- YouTube: Announced in January 2022 it would shut down its Originals department. Biggest hit was Cobra Kai, which was later scooped up by Netflix after YouTube Originals changed content strategies to focus more on homegrown creators.
- Snap: Announced in August 2022 the end of its Originals. Had some seemingly big hits, like Will Smith’s Will From Home and Nikita Dragun’s Nikita Unfiltered.
- Facebook: Announced in April 2023 its sunset of its Originals. Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk was its biggest hit by far, and will probably find a home somewhere else.
This all begs the question…should these social platforms even try to make originals? I discuss it in the latest installment of Creator Upload. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or whenever you listen. You’re gonna dig it.