Partnering for FAST Growth — Samsung TV Plus X CJ ENMShare open/close
Eunhye Park, Head of Content Distribution Strategy at CJ ENM,1 had a choice to make. Park was tasked with finding new business opportunities to leverage the company’s broad portfolio of content. CJ ENM, well known for producing and distributing popular content across various genres, was already viewed as a leader in the K-culture industry. With their running businesses stable and Korean pop music, TV shows, and films increasingly gaining popularity around the globe, CJ ENM’s business leaders sought to further expand their global market.
While CJ ENM’s content distribution businesses — including several cable channels and “TVING,” a proprietary streaming service — were already well-established, the media landscape continues to evolve and one miss could lead to a spiraling downfall. The company is known for keeping its antennae out for new opportunities and Park’s job was to find the next big thing. As searches for new business opportunities always accompany uncertainty, Park’s priorities were twofold — first, to explore fields where CJ ENM’s strengths seem likely to mitigate threats, and second, to find partners that can share the risk and work to expand the field. Enter free ad-supported TV streaming TV (often shortened as “FAST”) and Samsung TV Plus — a global FAST service operated by the leader in the global TV market.
Samsung TV Plus: Samsung Enters the Content Market
Samsung has continuously strived to enhance users’ lives through ceaseless innovation. While much of the efforts are often highlighted on the product side, the company saw the potential of leveraging TVs already installed in homes to provide further services. “With the vast number of existing Samsung TV users globally, we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity with TV Plus,” said Junga Park.
When Samsung TV Plus was first introduced in 2015, Samsung had maintained its leadership in global TV sales for nine consecutive years — now 17 consecutive years — demonstrating its dominant market position ideal for entering the content service sector. By securing a place within both the TV device and content sides, Samsung sought to provide a new viewing experience for existing users as well as earn ad revenue through its owned platform. With the right partnerships, this would grow into an ecosystem where all parties involved — platform, content and ad partners, and, of course, the viewers — are happy. Recognizing this space, Samsung put forth TV Plus.
For many decades, Samsung has developed several strategic partnerships across different industries — helping build out its robust portfolio of products and services. Managing content and advertisements became more efficient through Samsung TV Plus, with the availability of valuable data beyond viewer ratings such as when and where consumers watch content, how long they watch for and more. Equipped with these useful insights, Samsung began developing a platform that benefits consumers, content providers and advertisers alike.
Upon its release, the platform initially garnered considerable attention from international users as cord-cutting became more commonplace and streaming platforms surged in popularity. The prevalence of smart TVs helped boost the growth of Samsung TV Plus, with smart TVs accounting for 92% of total TV shipments in the first quarter of 2023 according to market research firm Omdia.
Over the course of eight years, Samsung TV Plus has grown into a massive platform with an extensive content library — offering more than 2,000 channels in 24 countries and recording three billion hours of accumulated viewing time worldwide in 2022. After establishing its presence within the market, Samsung expanded Samsung TV Plus to mobile devices starting in April 2021 and to smart monitors and the Family Hub refrigerator in 2022, allowing users to enjoy more connected experiences.
While all this was happening, one key factor in keeping the platform attractive was to diversify content offerings in each of the operating markets. In Korea, partnered with CJ ENM to strengthen its competitive edge.
FAST Market Growth Through Mutual Cooperation
While seeking new ways to expand its global market presence, CJ ENM had been monitoring the growth of FAST, acknowledging it as a potential tool for reaching new audiences. “When I was working in Japan, a senior colleague turned on the TV and introduced me to a platform,” recalled Eunhye Park, Head of Content Distribution Strategy at CJ ENM. “Content was playing but this was not an ordinary broadcast television station nor an over-the-top (OTT) streaming service. Only the power and internet were connected — no additional cables. This was a free ad-supported streaming platform — FAST.”
Unlike many OTT streaming platforms, FAST offers free access to ad-supported content on digital channels via smart TVs connected to the Internet. It is a popular option for consumers in North America and Europe who want a more affordable TV plan. In recent years, the global FAST industry thrived as total revenue jumped 20-fold between 2019 and 2022, according to the research from Omdia. The popularity is expected to continue, with revenue predicted to triple to 12 billion USD between 2022 and 2027.
After viewing growth trends and market indicators, Eunhye recognized the enormous growth potential in the FAST market. “After seeing the growth of FAST in North America, we knew it had the potential to be even more successful in Korea,” said Eunhye.
Despite its global growth, the FAST market in Korea was still in its infancy — especially as traditional cable TV and OTT streaming services dominated the content industry while other digital platforms were becoming prominent in the advertising space. CJ ENM could have entered the FAST market early to become a leader, but it required a considerable investment of resources and strategic partnerships.
The company also needed data related to the digital industry which was difficult to obtain. While Eunhye’s Content Distribution Strategy team consisted of a group of experts, each bringing considerable experience to the table, the media landscape was becoming more and more complex. With cable TV, OTT streaming services, digital platforms and more, collecting cross-platform data and analyzing user preferences proved to be a challenge.
“A program can be popular on one platform yet fail on another. Short-form and long-form content also perform differently depending on the platform. Clearly identifying users’ preferences is a must when organizing a channel — and a massive amount of data is required,” explained Eunhye.
CJ ENM needed a partner that could shoulder some of the investments and also one to stably provide reliable viewing data. CJ ENM found both in Samsung TV Plus.
Making Everyone Happy — Especially the Viewers
In May 2023, CJ ENM’s brand channel was added to Samsung TV Plus, helping the platform rise to become a top FAST service in Korea.
Since partnering with CJ ENM, Samsung is now targeting existing smart TV users through Samsung TV Plus. “We are focusing on how to improve the viewing experience for users who are already using our products, going beyond selling new TVs,“ said Junga.
To continue providing users with the best content available, Samsung TV Plus is curating a variety of older, fan-favorite content and repackaging them on the platform, in addition to newer more trendy shows. This encourages users to rewatch their favorite programs — even ones they may have forgotten. This, in turn, helps content providers. “Over time, people easily and naturally forget content they enjoyed watching in the past,” said Jipyeong Cheon of CJ ENM. “Samsung TV Plus is helping people rediscover this nostalgia by offering older titles on the platform, helping them become popular again.”
While platform and content partners benefit from Samsung TV Plus, consumers enjoy the greatest benefits. Users can watch a wide assortment of content for free, and Samsung TV Plus curates a personalized list of content based on unique user preferences, helping viewers find new titles to enjoy. To provide the best and most optimal service, Samsung is constantly working to enhance its offerings. “We are continuing to further diversify content and improve profitability for partners to deliver better experiences for our consumers,“ said Junga.
Mutual Benefits for Continued Business Growth
FAST has experienced incredible growth since its inception, but it is still unfamiliar to many consumers. To continue developing the FAST market, it is important to continue with long-term investments as well as garner relationships with viewers and partners. Samsung is reaching out to content providers to both enrich the user experience and further expand the market in Korea and beyond. In Korea, Samsung is also helping establish FAST as a major digital ad market.
Boasting a variety of advanced features, including optimized content and advertising based on unique user preferences, Samsung TV Plus enables partners to directly reach and connect with consumers. In addition, as the platform is available in 24 countries, companies can utilize Samsung’s expansive international network to target new markets. Recognizing these benefits, CJ ENM chose to work with Samsung to break into the North American market.
“During negotiations, we learn about our partners’ strengths first and suggest various channel strategies. Through our successes, we learned how to strengthen and benefit our partners as well,” said Junga.
Media Outlook for the FAST Market
The future of Samsung TV Plus is bright. Reports from Omdia and Blue Ant suggest that the number of monthly active users of Samsung TV Plus will increase to 58 million in 2027, driven by the rise in the popularity of smart TVs. To meet this demand and showcase diverse content on the platform, Samsung continues to add more content to give audience members something they’ll love watching. Recently, Samsung globally added FIFA+ on Samsung TV Plus to celebrate the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.
In line with constantly changing content consumption patterns and streaming environments, Samsung and CJ ENM are working to spearhead the FAST market not only in Korea but also in North America and beyond. And with more partners and projects in the works, Samsung TV Plus continues to grow as a platform.
1 CJ ENM is a leading entertainment company based in Korea. Since 1995, the company has engaged in a wide array of businesses across the industry spectrum including media content, music, film, performing arts, and animation, providing its top-notch original content to various media platforms. CJ ENM has created, produced and distributed globally acclaimed content including Oscar-winning film Parasite, Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, record-breaking Korean box office hits Roaring Currents, Extreme Job, Ode to My Father, along with sought-after television series such as Mr. Sunshine, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Grandpas over Flowers, I Can See Your Voice and more. To offer the best K-Culture experiences worldwide, CJ ENM presents KCON, the world’s largest K-culture convention & festival celebrating Hallyu and Mnet ASIAN MUSIC AWARDS (MAMA), the world’s No.1 K-pop music awards. With regional offices in Asia, Europe and the U.S., CJ ENM currently employs over 3,600 people. For more information, please visit: http://www.cjenm.com.
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