Inside Bloomberg’s bid to corner the OTT business news market as streaming wars intensify
As Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to win the Democratic nomination and oust Donald Trump from the White House is taking off, his Bloomberg media empire is separately planning to become a major player in the video streaming wars.
In a two-pronged push, Bloomberg Media, the mogul’s eponymous finance, data and media empire, is looking to put business programming at the heart of the streaming revolution through its new Bloomberg TV+ digital service and QuickTake by Bloomberg, a digital channel focused at a young business audience. QuickTake, which began life on social media, will launch as a streaming service early this year.
The former mayor of New York’s political and business ambitions are distinct. Bloomberg media channels are not doing investigations into either their owner or any of his rivals in the race for the Democratic nomination (although it is providing general coverage of all candidates). Bloomberg would sell his business if elected president (although it’s not currently for sale).
In an interview with The Drum, Scott Havens, Bloomberg’s global head of digital and media distribution, says the company believes it has the opportunity in video “to be one of the only providers of a truly data-driven global and objective business news and general news platform”. Bloomberg is targeting both subscription-supported (SVOD) and advertiser-supported (AVOD) platforms. “There are amazing amounts of money being shifted into these marketplaces.”
QuickTake is to have its own studios in New York, with anchor presenters who “connect to the new guard”, as Havens and his colleagues refer to QuickTake’s target audience of up-and-coming business professionals. “[The studio] will be for live breaking news and for our top-of-the-hour, ‘here’s what you need to know’ updates,” says Havens. “[The anchor desk] will cut out to live footage or to pre-taped segments all the time, but we felt we needed a home base that had the right tone and design and flexibility.”
QuickTake was originally launched on Twitter as TicToc in 2017, but Bloomberg decided to rebrand it last year, with the China-based video-sharing channel TikTok achieving huge profile among young audiences worldwide. Any confusion over the name change appears to have been overcome, with QuickTake generating 137m video views last month. It has 946,000 followers on Twitter and has expanded to other social channels including Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube. Right now, the focus is on turning QuickTake into an OTT (over-the-top) streaming service and the team is being expanded both in New York and internationally.
Havens says QuickTake is “still fine-tuning the programming wheel” but the eventual aim is to provide 24-7 global news coverage. “Ultimately we do aspire to follow the sun,” he says. “We don’t have the capability to do that from day one, so I think we are going to focus on original programming for nine to 10 hours a day.” The schedule will also aim to be a home for third-party produced content that suits the ‘new guard’ audience and some of the new formats made for Bloomberg TV+, which launched as an OTT service last summer.
Bloomberg TV+ is a reimagining of Bloomberg Television, the pay-TV network that launched in 1994 with studios in New York, London and Hong Kong and a focus on the global markets. The OTT version, Havens says, includes, alongside the markets coverage, a number of original shows designed to “broaden our appeal a bit and reach maybe perhaps a broader business audience versus a financial and markets-focused audience”.
Moonshot is a show billed as “crazy scientists chasing humanity’s wildest dreams”. Giant Leap is focused on the space industry, while Prognosis is about breakthroughs in medicine. Good Money is intended to be an “unconventional” look at personal finance.
Havens says that the Bloomberg digital video originals team will be housed alongside the QuickTake operation “so that they can bring their medium and long form documentary and explainer style to this new streaming channel”.
On social media, QuickTake specialises in snappy videos, graphics and data cards. “What works on Twitter is 30-60 seconds, people are going through the feed and if you give them a 5-minute video they likely will not stay through it, we know this,” says Havens. “[But] when you move to
streaming in your home and you have got this thing on for an hour or two hours we have a little more space to unpack the story and provide more context and analysis from Bloomberg.”
As it integrates Bloomberg TV+ and QuickTake into the OTT ecosystem, the company is talking to SVODS, AVODS and more traditional TV companies that are transitioning to streaming. The aim is to make the two services “as far-reaching as they can be”, Havens says. “By the end of 2020, we are very confident that we will have incredibly wide global distribution of both Bloomberg TV+ and QuickTake in its streaming channel form.”
BloombergTV+ has a commercial partnership with Verizon and Havens says that the move to OTT offers improved relationships with advertisers. “More and better data is important for the advertising ecosystem period,” Havens says. “Because now we compete – no matter what platform we are on – with Facebook and Google, who do provide pretty good data.”
He is brutal in his assessment of past provision of business news in video. “I don’t think if you look back over the last 30 years that anyone could claim that media providers have provided the most compelling content in the business landscape.” Much of the output, he says, leaves younger people in business feeling cold.
“The average age for a lot of news programming and business programming around the world tends to be quite old,” he says. The average age of viewers of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC is between 60-65, according to Nielsen. “I think their programming doesn’t appeal and their tone and approach doesn’t appeal (to young audiences) and frankly the audience is busy during the day and using social to keep up on the news.”
He thinks QuickTake can fill that gap. “We didn’t want to replicate what every business or general news cable outlet has been doing for the last 20 years, we wanted to invent something new for this steaming world and for this audience that is rejecting the traditional.”
Havens has been impressed by business-based documentaries that have enjoyed extraordinary success on entertainment channels. notably Netflix film ‘Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened’ about a doomed music festival, and HBO’s ‘The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley’ which documented the Theranos blood-testing scandal and digital entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes. “Those are both business stories and they both did wildly well,” Havens says.
Bloomberg has seen growing audiences coming to its original shows on its YouTube channel where it has 2.08m subscribers and is generating 30m views per month. It hopes to migrate these viewers to its owned-and-operated (O&O) services, such as its app and paywalled website, which Havens says ranks as a “must-read” for business alongside the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal. These O&O platforms have a global audience of 65 million.
QuickTake is a conduit for bringing young businesspeople to such products. “Most 23-year-olds, unless they are a banker or a trader or work for a financial firm, are not necessarily craving watching market coverage all day long,” he says. “So if we are able to connect with them on a brand like QuickTake and migrate them into Bloomberg dot com and/or Bloomberg TV that’s a wonderful onboarding ramp for our company. That’s the strategy here.”
The mission received a boost with the arrival of yet another sub-brand, Bloomberg Green, which was launched recently at the World Economic Forum. The idea of Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, it aims to focus the minds of the business community on finding solutions to climate change. “He was so passionate that we have the opportunity, the capabilities and frankly the responsibility to own the global climate change story in a way that others probably couldn’t cover it,” says Havens. “Globally we can chronicle the effects of climate change but then offer up solutions and highlight technologies with a focus on trying to arm our executive audiences with the ways to navigate and succeed in a changing globe.”
Bloomberg Green is a “major commitment”, he says, predicting a likely magazine and TV show on the new streaming platforms. A global Bloomberg Green database which scores products and services on their sustainability is in production.
Bloomberg Media has been a disruptive force in media since it was founded in 1981, making its founder a fortune through the Bloomberg Terminal, a computer software system that transformed the finance sector with its unrivalled data offering. Because the company has avoided the economic stresses that burden most traditional media companies it has been able to pursue a strategy that allows “more experimentation and testing and trialling and innovation,” Havens says.
In media, as with the climate, nothing stays the same, he points out. “The world changes and if you don’t change, then good luck surviving.”
Full disclosure: Ian Burrell has previously worked for Bloomberg Media Studios, a commercial arm of Bloomberg Media
Ian Burrell's column, The News Business, is published on The Drum each Thursday. Follow Ian on Twitter @iburrell