Bloomberg Media Aims to Disrupt Cable TV, and Itself, With Streaming Relaunch

Bloomberg's Hello World. Inset: CEO Justin Smith.

To hear Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith tell it, the linear TV business is facing a ticking time bomb. While he acknowledges that cable news channels (including Bloomberg TV) still have “valuable audiences,” young executives at many global companies don’t necessarily get their news from TV — or even pay for cable.

“That ship has largely sailed for the next generation,” Smith tells The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “The shift in consumption in business information, financial information and more general quality news information has decisively moved away from linear television to digital and largely social mobile platforms.”

Bloomberg is hoping to get ahead of linear TV’s decline, relaunching its QuickTake video service Nov. 9 with 100 dedicated staffers as a global, 24-hour streaming service in an effort to reach the audience that, internally, the company refers to as “modern, rising leaders.”

Smith says the novel coronavirus pandemic only made the relaunch more urgent, calling the project “one of the most consequential, if not the most consequential, launch in the news industry this year.”

“Great new media brands are often created in the wake of significant social or economic changes,” Smith says, noting the rise of new media brands on the internet. “For this target audience, the world in March of 2020 completely changed.

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“We are creating in some ways the first post-COVID business network, a brand that is designed to explain and chronicle this new business world that we are all living in,” he adds.

QuickTake originally launched in 2017 as TicToc by Bloomberg, partnering with Twitter to produce breaking news and live event coverage on the tech giant’s platform. It has since expanded to other social platforms, and rebranded as QuickTake last year. It currently has about 50 million unique monthly viewers and 120 million monthly video views, according to the company.

“It feels like there is such urgency to create a network of record for this era,” QuickTake general manager Jean Ellen Cowgill says. “There does not exist a video network that is really thinking about this audience in a way that is purposeful.”

Adds Bloomberg chief growth officer Scott Havens of the new format, “While we launched QuickTake on social first, we always planned on expanding, and for us it is not so much reinventing, it is inventing something that hasn’t really been done before in video.”

Version 2 of QuickTake will launch with about 10.5 hours of original content per day, with the intention of getting to 24 hours of original content within a year or so of launch. It will be a true global streaming service, available in every country where Bloomberg’s apps are accessible, on mobile phones, social platforms and connected TV platforms like Roku.

At launch, it will be ad-supported, relying on both direct sales and programmatic opportunities, which are abundant on OTT devices.

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However, the company also plans to explore other opportunities to monetize QuickTake’s content through licensing deals, and QuickTake-branded shows on subscription streaming services (think Netflix or Hulu).

New programs at launch will include a weekly documentary series, Storylines, as well as a nightly news program called Off Script and tech series Hello World.

Streaming news channels are multiplying, but Bloomberg executives argue that there remains a white space in the market, with the smaller OTT player Cheddar having been acquired by cable giant Altice, and streaming efforts by the major networks like CBS and ABC focused on a general news audience only in the U.S.

“While [the broadcast networks] have moved into streaming [news], their programming feels very traditional,” says Cowgill, who adds that other streaming services like Netflix have “more innovative programming,” but produce it less frequently.

“A big part of our vision is that we are marrying the 24/7 and global velocity of coverage from those more traditional networks with the kind of innovations we are seeing in video from the SVOD players like Netflix,” Cowgill says.

Adds Smith, “It is a wide-open field because the traditional players are wedded to their traditional models and are unable to aggressively enter this OTT space.” He notes that NBCUniversal abandoned plans to launch a global news service after the onset of the pandemic.

That, ultimately, is Bloomberg’s bet with the new QuickTake: As cable TV slowly fades alongside its legacy business model and aging audience, new video brands will rise to take their place.

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“The days of getting paid for carriage are starting to end, unless you are ESPN, and even those guys are under pressure from carriers,” Havens says.

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