Movies have and always will be a staple of the holiday season. As families come together and reunite with their loved ones, both new flicks and classic favorites alike are central to drumming up the holiday spirit and spending quality time together for many in the U.S. and beyond.
With more than 136 original Christmas movies, it’s no wonder the Hallmark Channel, owned by Crown Media, has become synonymous with the holiday season. In fact, the Hallmark Channel is regularly ranked as one of the top three most-watched cable channels during the Christmas season.
SEEKING CHEER BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS
Despite Hallmark’s success capitalizing on the holiday movie market, Crown Media recognized that delivering content through a variety of platforms is critical for television networks today to meet evolving consumer preferences. In order to remain competitive year-round, the company recently expanded program content both beyond the holiday season and traditional cable television.
With the streaming market growing and consumers shifting toward multiplatform video experiences, Crown Media seized the opportunity to launch two additional linear networks—Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama—along with both video on demand (VOD) and subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms for all three of its networks.
MORE PLATFORMS, MORE PROBLEMS
Crown Media’s programming success is undeniable. The network has produced so much content over the years that it easily airs movies 24/7 during the holiday season. Despite this success, the launch of the new networks and services presented Crown Media with a new task of managing multiple platforms. This encompassed reaching new viewers and needing to understand them to best serve advertisers—a tough-but-necessary task for any network.
From video tagging and encoding to delivery, Crown Media initially worked with multiple vendors to individually address various aspects of its multiplatform strategy, resulting in sometimes complicated workflows. The media company was also forced to manage multiple video players native to each platform, as its original solution could not adequately support live linear channels or Neilsen viewer measurement. This required that the same functionality be repeatedly built out for each player.
Crown Media recognized it needed more sophisticated and streamlined workflows, media players and reporting to help track and understand its new platform network.
Crown Media enlisted the help of Akamai, which it was already using for content delivery network (CDN) services. In implementing Akamai’s Adaptive Media Player (AMP) and adaptive bitrate playback capabilities, Crown Media was able to reduce the vendor complexity and minimize integrations, ultimately, simplifying a monster task within its streaming workflows.
By using Adaptive Media Player, Crown Media deployed both on-demand and linear content playback for its expanding catalog. The company could also tap the FreeWheel AdManager for ad regulating, certify Nielsen measurement, deploy Comscore and Adobe measurement and gain visibility into its streaming video performance through Akamai Media Analytics.
Akamai’s AMP helped Crown Media launch a single player for top devices and platforms: web (desktop and mobile), mobile (iOS and Android) and connected TV (tvOS and Fire TV).
The Media Player also helped maximize the impact of Crown Media’s evolving media workflow. For example, despite having a more sophisticated workflow to power its growing requirements, the media company actually now faces fewer touch points throughout the workflow. Crown Media platforms can support both on-demand and linear on major platforms, with Nielsen tracking across all of them.
With easy access to Nielsen viewer measurement, Crown Media can also better understand its traditional and digital viewership and monetize audiences for both traditional TV and its streaming properties. The company has also gained greater visibility into its video performance through Akamai Media Analytics with the ability to quickly identify and mitigate issues potentially impacting the viewer experience.
Perhaps most impressively, Akamai’s AMP helped Crown Media to nearly double its audience reach over the Christmas 2018 season. It has been a win-win: Crown Media has been able to fully monetize its content, and users have enjoyed an improved catalog and user experience as evidenced by increases in app store ratings.
UNWRAPPING SUCCESS ALL YEAR LONG
Looking ahead, Crown Media is positioned to take advantage of Akamai’s experience and Adaptive Media Player to advance its capabilities well beyond the holiday season. With support for header bidding and server-side ad integration, AMP can help make it possible to continue to monetize Crown Media content. In the meantime, Crown Media is enjoying an expanded reach and greater insight into audiences across web, mobile and connected TVs, ultimately providing better viewer experiences and helping the business reach new heights.
Frank Paolino is the senior director of Global Services for Akamai.