Content Marketing via Branded Content may finally hit the mainstream as Marriot, the most unlikely of Brands, announced the global launch of its content marketing studio. Prior to this, Brands more connected to lifestyle and entertainment categories like Pepsi, Coke, RedBull and GoPro have been the ones to set the stage. Anheuser-Busch had a very unsuccessful ($15MM) attempt in 2006 with Bud.TV most likely due to both the age-gate requirements of the liquor industry in addition to the fact that streaming video back then was far from mainstream. was before its time.

Provided the content is great, the time is now for Brands to serve as the next niche networks (along with publishing companies who are already doing this).Why? Because they know their niche way better than any studio or network.

Think about it. Marriot has some of the best data around travel. They know when, where, how and why people travel. Mapped against demographics, this allows them to intelligently deliver the right type of content, specific to the right type of need across both business and personal travel. Not many companies with their history, other than American Express can do this globally at scale. A lot is at stake. The first ones to jump in and deliver could own the category and that is worth risking and fighting for.

Prior to the democratization of video platforms and tools, it did not make economic sense to bear the burden associated with launching a broadcast network if the reach was not broad. Cable helped…a bit, but the availability of broadband, search, global reach and affordable tools enables anyone to launch a niche network targeted towards a specific audience on a global scale.

Digital video has also grown up. Influencers and Creators have signed up with the top multi-channel networks (MCN) who are now being gobbled up by traditional broadcasters like Disney’s Maker Studios acquisition & AwesomenessTV’s purchase of Big Frame. The first generation of YouTube stars have grown up. Some, like Ray William Johnson, with tens of millions of subscribers as they move into TV and film. Research is also showing that this next gen of celebrity is also more widely recognized by many millennials vs. traditional celebrity and influencers. Look at the rise of the YouTube stars own mega channels like PewDiePie, Smosh & Fine Brothers. Brands like Marriot are going to take advantage of the right influencers and integrate with them online.

While the traditional networks had been somewhat insulated given they owned the larger TV screen, digital platforms like YouTube, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo & AOL are now all available via apps on SmartTV’s and tablets or phones ready to stream to the bigger screen. We are also only a few months away from set-top boxes opening up app stores for these devices. Just like AppleTV has an app for RedBull, any Brand will be able to push this out pretty soon.

Brands have always been content creators, but the strategy has been largely promotional. The space has finally come full circle, and brands are reasserting themselves as content creators. Marriot owning the leading travel channel could make sense if they focus on the content.

With the right approach, Brands, like publishers, are set to be the next niche networks.

If you are interested in the same opportunity that will be the rebirth of the publishing industry, take a look at some of my blog posts dating back to 2006!

For a list of top YouTube talent, feel free to subscribe to my Twitter List.

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