The Halo effect?

What do whitepapers and Paramount’s new TV show Halo have in common? Hint: you probably won’t guess it.

Last week, Paramount launched its streaming service Paramount Plus in the UK, and with it came a raft of content that had been living exclusively on the US-only service up until that point.

Its flagship new show Halo – based on the award-winning video game – had its global premier in March and went straight to the US service. It was not available for viewing in the UK until last week, when it was used as one of the main selling points for the UK launch of Paramount Plus.

So, what DO Halo and whitepapers have in common?

The answer: gated content.

In a rare move, Paramount chose to air the first episode of Halo on its free-to-air TV channel, Channel 5. To watch the rest of the series, viewers were told that they would have to sign-up for a Paramount Plus subscription, where they could immediately access two more episodes with more coming weekly.

While it is one of the first examples of free taster content on UK TV channels, it won’t be the last. Channel 5 will be continuing to run a ‘Paramount+ Presents’ segment that features taster content from the service.

It’s an interesting approach to customer acquisition. Other streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, offer free trials which give users access to the entire catalogue for a month. But this relies on customers seeking out the platform and signing up before seeing its benefits. Whereas Paramount is driving mass awareness by meeting consumers on the channels they are already engaging with, before then gating the additional content once they’ve seen the value.

Sound familiar?

In marketing and comms circles, it is of course common practice – and often expected – for content to be gated. You read an interesting extract from a whitepaper or blog, then have to pony up your name, job title, role and contact information to gain access to the rest of the report. Giving your information and consent for contact is seen as the price you pay for the rest of the report.

Although it may be a somewhat new approach for the entertainment industry, it certainly does not come as a surprise. In fact, we’ve seen the publishing industry use this approach long before even the first streaming service was born – with extracts or summary findings from both fiction and non-fiction works commonly used to drive sales.

What can we take away from Paramount’s approach?

The move by Paramount to boost awareness through the competitive advantage that it possesses with Channel 5 is smart. But that doesn’t mean the approach is right for everyone.

It comes at a time when some in the B2B tech industry have started to shun gated content to drive greater brand awareness, opting to meet that high-intent buyer further down the funnel.

So, what does this mean for the future of gated content? Ultimately, it is best used to engage high-intent purchasers. For Paramount, they are engaging viewers that already have a high-intent to watch Halo, given they have already sought it out on Channel 5. For marketers and comms professionals, we need greater consideration over what to gate, prioritising content that is likely to be consumed by someone that is considering making a purchase.

And for now, we just have to weigh up whether that first episode of Halo is good enough for a new subscription…

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