Can a streaming channel dedicated to horses sustain itself long-term?
Amsterdam’s HorseLifestyle.TV launched Nov. 21. It’s an online streaming service dedicated to movies, books, series and all things horses, for a monthly $12.95 fee.
“Our goal is to gather the best the horse world has to offer for people,” said Vanessa Sommers, co-founder and CEO of Horse Lifestyle, in a release.
There are an estimated seven million people who ride horses in the U.S., so if even if only 0.1% sign up, that’s still a cool $90,000 the company will bring in monthly. And that’s not counting potential global audiences.
But, are there really enough people to sustain a channel dedicated to horses? Or any super-niche channel, really? It’s not the first channel to devote itself wholly to a topic of unique interest. OTT provider FloSports has been busy launching a number of channels dedicated to very specific pastimes, like cheerleading, jiu jitsu and body building, with subscriptions costing $12.99 per month (for access to all of FloSports’ content). AcornTV has also made its name by offering U.S. audiences uniquely British fare, while Crunchyroll’s anime offering appears to be on a roll.
But how niche is too niche?
Nellie Kim, a branding expert and creative director at Toronto-based advertising agency Lg2, told StreamDaily, while these brands might seem a bit precise, they can develop a core expertise and become the go-to place for all-things their audiences love. Many will remain subscription-only, but those that do want to approach advertisers for more diverse sources of revenue will have a glut of insight into their audiences, which is incredibly unique.
“A platform that can measure and provide information about an engaged audience is extremely valuable to advertisers and marketers and it informs how to adjust messaging in real time,” said Kim. “This creates more opportunities to pinpoint true insights into specific segments.”
The danger, of course, is the risk that introducing content that doesn’t fit the overall “brand” the streaming companies have built for themselves around their niches.
FloCheer, for example, can get away with grabbing all the rights to Bring it On, but might not be able to swing gymnastic-themed films like Stick It. Same goes for advertisers — for the providers that opt to bring brands on board, the companies that do slot in ads or sponsored content have to be a perfect fit, otherwise they’ll seem out of place against the very tailored offering, said Kim.
And that can create another problem, said Megan Siegel, a strategist at Lg2. How much content for jiu jitsu, or horses, etc. is there, really?
At such a high premium, these providers will need to have a pretty hefty refresh rate to keep audiences coming back for more. The more niche the channel, the harder the content is to come by. (Not to mention, the more niche the topic, the smaller the target demographic is, which means less subscriber revenue.)
At the same time, digital has opened up the opportunity for brands to truly tap into these underserved markets. (There’s a reason Crunchyroll just secured an extra $22 million in funding). People willing to pay for these channels will be ardent fans — the kind that streaming providers and advertisers, in particular, would love to tap, said Kim. These are the fans who will create content for you, line up to meet the industry “celebs,” buy the merch, talk about the shows ad nauseum and truly build communities — which is a brand’s dream target.
When it comes to fandom, for many viewers, there’s no horsing around.