Madonna is towering over Los Angeles. Billboards throughout the city are announcing the June 22 debut of her “MDNA” concert special on EPIX, the multiplatform movie service jointly owned by Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate.
It’s the biggest advertising campaign EPIX has launched for one of its original shows. Linking Madonna with the channel extends the EPIX brand in a way that was only hinted at in concert programs featuring Britney Spears, Usher, Coldplay, the Black Eyed Peas and others. Amid its blockbuster offerings including “The Avengers,” “The Hunger Games,” comedy shows and the Rick Springfield documentary “An Affair of the Heart,” it’s Madonna who’s the face of EPIX this month.
What we’re seeing in the fortnight leading up to the Madonna show is above-ground manifestation of a promotional campaign rooted in social media, EPIX CEO Mark Greenberg explains. Social media has been crucial in driving the marketing to this point: He estimates that Madonna’s concert will top the 250 million social media mentions EPIX’s Spears concert generated.
And while Madonna’s presence certainly serves to increase EPIX’s visibility, it more importantly reveals an expansive distribution model for music programming that far outshines the days when HBO was making a bid for subscribers by offering the Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson live.
The definition of EPIX begins with its place as a premium cable channel, getting into 30 million homes through Charter Communications, Cox Communications, the DISH Network and a few smaller cable companies. Its strategy, by and large, is to target consumers in spaces where their TV sets aren’t located, connecting their content with consumers on iPads, Samsung smart TVs, Xbox consoles and Android tablets. One key to promoting movies, whether they be blockbusters or specialty documentaries, has been through applications.
“We don’t want to be like the music business was — afraid of the Internet,” Greenberg says, noting the next step for EPIX’s on-demand services is increased personalization to guide users through its 3,000 titles.
One way is through the continued development of apps to curate EPIX’s catalog and enhance the viewers’ experience. Greenberg points out that every year, “the average age of a video-on-demand user goes up,” which means the network needs to continue migrating away from the big screen in the living room. “We need to be filling [the network] with content, but content that is appropriate for the space,” he says, noting that the space is increasingly tablets and other mobile devices.
During the recent Cable Show conference, EPIX announced findings of a survey that backed up its premise that pay TV’s future is in multiple platforms. Hub Entertainment, which conducted the research, reported that pay TV subscribers’ value ratings increase by up to 83% for viewers who access programming on multiple devices compared with those who watch TV only. Among pay TV subscribers who view content on a TV plus three additional devices, 71% feel pay TV is an “excellent/good” value; the percentage increases to 88% among pay TV subscribers viewing on TV and four other devices. Among subscribers who view content only on a TV, 48% believe that they are getting an “excellent/good” value from their pay TV subscription.
The results are self-serving, but make clear how greater access increases customer satisfaction, a point the music business should well heed as it continues to migrate to subscription.