Viacom has recently announced a change in strategy. Its new five-point plan includes concentrating its resources behind six of their main brands: BET, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central and Paramount.

Boutique Brands as the focal point for creating digital tribes.

It might look initially as a pure exercise of establishing focus across what has become a very vast array of networks, brands, channel, etc. But I assume there is a much deeper shift going on. Viacom will abandon the strategy of being a supermarket wholesale brand and plans to become a boutique shop. The boutiques will be the six main brands, on which it concentrates its efforts now. The concept and ultimate goal of that strategy is also to build digital tribes around these brands – that is my guess. I believe that this also indicated in Viacom’s new commitment to build “more deeper, client-centric relationships”, as stated by it’s CEO Bob Bakish.

In a more diverse distribution world the focus on digital tribe are an opportunity to grow your market share and establish loyal, committed followers for your brand. Followers, who will be more than just viewers. They will grow into your consumers, since you will be able to sell them more services, products – be they digital or services, on subscription base or one-off fees, or classic ship-to-home merchandise and beyond. To build a digital tribe, you need a strong, attractive brand – it is the totem around which the digital tribe can commence. It is the linchpin that allures more followers. And a TV channel (especially with an established, well-recognized and relished brand) is the ideal centre-piece of such a digital tribe or digital silo.

Single TV Brands are linchpins

The old concept of building bulk with many diverse TV channels is obsolete in todays fragmented distribution world. Having 20+ strong channel in your sales basket was a good tool to show muscle when you had to negotiate CPS deals with the cable operators and their like. You could dictate terms and you would also be keen to occupy as much shelf-space as possible in the network line up. Consumers who had 200, 300 or more channels available via their platform would only flock to your brand if you had a strong one and if you had many networks present in that universe that could cross-promote your other brands. But the fragmented digital world and the need for smaller bouquets and targeted packaging of content makes a channel bulk rather look like a heavy tanker. You want speed boat, elegant yachts and specialized trawlers these days instead. Hence, the boutique approach makes much more sense than the supermarket concept.

Viacom is now able to concentrate on making each of these brand stronger and build the tribe around it. It will require more focus on the brand marketing, but even more: it will require a lot of resources to build the digital silo. You need to develop new products and services. A lot of it will be trial-and-error and a rather iterative approach. This is nevertheless, the only way  to do it. There is not really a clear cut, straight forward plan to build such a tribe. A lot of the development is beyond your control and defined by the community, that you serve. You must involve the community to be your partner and entrust them with building with you the tribe. All can be very costly over the next few years and yet it seems the best way to move  brands such as Viacom into the new world order of digital and tv entertainment.

I believe Viacom is on the right path and if they stick to it, if they allow the community to get involved and take in many parts the lead, if Viacom starts to consider itself a service company first, then it will be a big success.

Do you need to reassess your TV strategy, too? Contact us and explore how we can become your sparring partner in creating a new strategy.