Adam Lewinson, the chief content officer at Tubi, discussed curation and what’s driving viewership across the platform’s on-demand and FAST channel lineups as the last day of the FAST Festival kicked off today.
Owned by FOX Corporation, Tubi is the most successful FAST channel operator measured by Nielsen’s The Gauge ratings service. Lewinson participated in a keynote conversation with World Screen’s Anna Carugati that you can watch here.
Lewinson began the session by discussing his long-held belief in the ad-supported television business. “Predominantly, television viewing has been free. The perception was flipped over the past several years and the rise of SVODs. And now we’ve seen, due to macroeconomic factors and ultimately so much content and so many different platforms for viewers to choose from, the average viewer is really settling in on one, maybe two SVOD services and then increasingly, the bulk of their viewing behavior is being satisfied with free content. Our vision has always been that the future of television is going to be free and specifically on-demand.”
Per The Gauge, Tubi recorded 1.3 percent of total television viewing in May. “We’re the fastest-growing and largest of the free streaming platforms. With our audience of over 64 million monthly active users and growing, that’s just been the proof point that this has been the right direction for Tubi, and we think incredibly important to the TV ecosystem into the future.”
Tubi’s success stems from evolving consumption habits, Lewinson noted. “We used to live in this world of monoculture where everybody was consuming a certain thing at the same time, and then we’d all go into the office to the watercooler and talk about it. That can still happen—the Super Bowl, some really big events that are communal—but if you think about it beyond that, everything is now fractionalized. We’ve got this omni culture where everyone has their own unique POV, their own rabbit holes. It’s important for any streamer to recognize that viewers are individuals and treat them that way. Our whole business model is predicated around this massive library, well past 50,000 titles, with personalization tools so that viewers can go deep down these rabbit holes that interest them. We’re super-serving those audiences.”
The platform is one of the youngest in terms of streaming audiences, Lewinson said. “Our median age is 39, which is among the youngest in television. And 36 percent of our audience is between the ages of 18 to 34. They’re used to making their own choices and opting in.”
On the thinking behind curating that 50,000-plus-title slate, Lewinson noted: “We have well past 450 content partners. We work with all the major studios, all the major TV providers, all of the indies and many international partners, whether we’re bringing that content to the States or where Tubi is internationally. Every month, we look at how we are super-serving our audience. What are they looking for? Who are the content suppliers that have that content in abundance?”
Lewinson went on to discuss the investments Tubi is making in content and creators that may not have broad exposure elsewhere, such as its collection of films from Black filmmakers, both as acquisitions and original productions. Catching the interest of “fandoms” across multiple genres has been key, Lewinson said.
“They come to Tubi and see this deep, deep library, whether it’s beloved titles or, in some cases, titles they’re discovering for the first time.”
The conversation then moved over to the role FAST channels play for Tubi. “So much of FAST channel viewing thus far has been with older demos,” mainly due to their comfort with an EPG, Lewinson explained. “We looked at it through the lens of two things. What FAST channel content will appeal to our older demos? That’s where live news has come into play. We have local news channels in all major DMAs. That’s diversified our audience base.”
Tubi also sees FAST channels as an opportunity to deliver lean-back entertainment and promote sampling of content, such as its Tubi Originals channel. The platform has also fared well with its Gordon Ramsay channel and has been expanding its sports lineup, delivering channels with FIFA, NFL and more. “That’s been a great way for us to broaden our audience as well. Sports is very of the moment. It’s very topical. So much of sports viewing is what just happened today or yesterday. That’s a problem that live does such a better job of solving. So that’s been our philosophy and approach to FAST channels.”
Lewinson then talked about Tubi’s original programming strategy, which began two years ago with Twisted House Sitter. “We’ve been successful in nontraditional ways,” he said. “This is not the playbook of any other successful streamer. We’ve gotten to this place without having a Game of Thrones-level massive hit. We’ve been doing it with more of a personalized approach. When we decided it was time to create our own content, my thought was to continue to super-serve these audience segments, including in niche areas like horror. We’re looking at [this] through a very disciplined approach in terms of our spend. If I know that this particular original may reach a million viewers, that’s one level of investment. This one could reach 10 million, 15 million viewers—a different level of investment there.”
Being part of FOX Corporation, alongside sister company MarVista Entertainment, has benefited Tubi’s original content approach, Lewinson said. “They’ve helped keep this high volume. We’re now at over 100 originals, on the road to 200. It’s also been a balance between scripted and unscripted. Lots of documentaries and reality TV, leaning in with our partners at FOX Entertainment, which includes Gordon Ramsay’s production company. FOX Alternative Entertainment produces lots of documentaries for us, TMZ, etc. We’re doing a lot in the animation space. We’re doing a lot with Bento Box [Entertainment], which is also a FOX-owned entity. This is phase one. As we look into phase two, we’re focused on titles that will resonate above and beyond just the core Tubi viewer.”
The conversation then moved to Tubi Kids, a dedicated section within the Tubi app. “For most viewers in a free environment, it is tremendously important. It has proven to provide so many amazing co-viewing experiences. It’s a great mix of content. There are headliners on there. Lots of Scooby-Doo cartoons, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and The Smurfs. We’ve had franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog for quite some time. We have some stellar movies coming up soon, big recent animated films. We’re starting to do some investing on the originals side as well. We’re going to keep investing in Tubi Kids and age-appropriate content.”
Lewinson then talked about the advertising outlook for AVOD platforms and FAST channels. “Despite some people proclaiming gloom and doom over the industry, deals are happening and closing with strong CPMs. Macroeconomically speaking, the sky has not fallen. Brands are always looking to find great ways to connect with viewers. Tubi offers two incredibly appealing things: younger demos and our ad server and targeting technologies. Given the scale of our audience, reach and tools, it’s just a better way for a brand to reach the right partner.”
The session wrapped with a discussion about Tubi’s international presence, with a footprint now covering Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Latin America. “We’re attracting younger demos. We’re coming in with a different content offering than our competitive set. Viewers are leaning in. We have an eye toward future expansion.”