Polaris, one of only a few black-owned TV networks, made its debut on Vigo’s streaming service, Watchfree Plus, in October.
But Polaris was 20 years before the Vigio deal.
Former digital news and MTV exec Rahman Dukes launched Polaris as a media outlet for BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) makers for storytelling and to bring a wider audience and access to advertising. Dukes sees Polaris as an opportunity to “correct some of the flaws” in the TV ecosystem, especially the lack of monetization of artists and content creators, Chief Operating Officer Nathaniel Clark told AdExchange.
Clark, who joined the company in 2021 with a background in finance, emphasized the role of data-driven marketing in growing Polaris’ “pulse on culture”. Polaris brings digital techniques to news and entertainment, such as hip-hop and live events, “old school” storytelling, he said.
But good stories take time, and scale calls for data.
In the case of KPIs for CTV channels, performance measures everything, Clark said. Nielsen reports that 18-34-year-old demos are over-indexed for “love” and “hip-hop” entertainment, but advertisers don’t necessarily buy without the hassle of shopping for site visits and back-ups, contrary to those reports.
Polaris says the production of its content is also tied to advertising opportunities. For example, it plans content around specific events with which familiar spikes are involved (for media companies and their advertisers). MLK Junior Day doubles the average number of sessions in a 24-hour programming marathon day, Clark said.
The channel’s real secret sauce for data-driven content is its landing page.
As a free, ad-supported TV (FAST) channel, Polaris’ home page is the best opportunity for the channel to collect first-party data directly and curate or recommend new shows. And personalized content means the network is selling more personalized ads. As a “monitor” of user interactions, Clark says data helps manage campaigns.
It’s not just about digital signals; It’s about “connection,” Clark said. “Data gains trust over time, but similar relationships need to be in content.”
Currently, Polaris is available for free on VIZIO devices via SmartCast OS. Creating brand awareness and “brand commitment” at an early stage, Clark said. But the channel has plans to monetize this year’s roadmap.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” he said.
Polaris plans to increase its data pool and advertising revenue stream. But to do that, it has to invest in content.
Currently, about 40% of Polaris content is original, the rest is licensed by third parties. “Over the next two quarters, you’ll see that we’re moving toward more core content,” Clark said. Polaris plans to bump up the main content ratio to 70% by the end of Q3.
The channel is also launching a new website this month, where it can hold more content – and not just video. Most of it will be free and ad-supported, but it will also carry new special offers behind a payroll, such as gaming media.
The website may generate first-party data, not isolated by any TV manufacturer or streaming service. Clark said the expansion should be a boon to ad sales and open up a whole new opportunity for data licensing, which is currently in beta testing.