How Media Executives Are Navigating the Changing Television Landscape

July 18, 2017, 11:53 PM UTC

The rise of streaming media has transformed the way television industry executives navigate a rapidly evolving entertainment landscape. It’s no longer enough to ask what TV viewers want to watch. Now they also must consider how and where.

Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, one of the people responsible for answering those questions, joined Fortune senior writer Michal Lev-Ram onstage Tuesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado. Hopkins noted that the increasingly crowded field of programming and content producers that are available to viewers means TV networks and digital companies need to “break through the clutter” in order to stand out. That can mean producing high-quality content (Hulu recently scored several Emmy nominations for its streaming original series The Handmaid’s Tale), but it’s also important know your viewers, anticipating what they’ll want to watch and when.

In that regard, Hopkins said it’s “critical” that Hulu leverage its access to its user data that tells the company which shows and films different groups of viewers are streaming, and how their interests overlap. “That’s a database that we’re collecting over time, and each and every year that goes by, you get better at that,” Hopkins said.

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For streaming media companies, that data is invaluable—especially when it comes to competing with traditional networks that depend more on Nielsen audience measurement numbers. But, Hopkins notes, Nielsen numbers can’t tell executives if viewers of one particular program are also watching another specific show. And that advantage helps companies like Hulu understand what programming to invest in, and how to market that content to users.

Fortune‘s Lev-Ram also asked both Hopkins and Charlie Collier, the president of the AMC and Sundance TV networks, how they feel about competing with Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN) at a time when the streaming giants are spending a combined $10.5 billion this year alone on churning out an ever-growing number of original TV series and films.

Collier argued that “more isn’t always better” when it comes to TV content options, especially at a time when viewers have so many different programming options. He pointed to AMC’s success with critically-acclaimed programming such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, noting that “[quality] is the great equalizer.”