Have streaming channels given up on aspirational branding?

As TV entertainment channels have shifted from being desirable to essential, the sector’s branding has gone mainstream too, losing its cultural edge in the process, says Trollbäck + Company’s Mika Saulitis

Entertainment brands used to be built around aspiration. They were cool, sexy, and culture-defining. Taglines like ‘It’s not TV, it’s HBO’ spoke to the proud reputation of a network known not just for its top-notch programming, but its position as one of America’s most influential cultural institutions with sway on everything from business to technology to fashion.

For 80s and 90s kids, ‘I want my MTV’ conveyed a yearning for days spent tuning into music videos and a counter-cultural revolution everyone wanted to be part of. From the glossily iconic to the purposefully subversive, entertainment brands have long used the aspiration of cultural kudos as a branding silver bullet.

Today, both the entertainment landscape and the cultural context are radically different. For so long, the battle of TV supremacy was between streaming and traditional broadcast and cable. Streaming’s promise was simple: pay less, get access to more content, have a better experience. But the market has since become heavily saturated, and now with subscription prices continuing to rise and every media company offering a service — or two, or three — streaming’s rival is no longer just traditional media: it’s streaming itself.

Image shows an outdoor advert featuring the new Prime Video branding. The ad reads 'Here Comes The A-Train' in blue and white text on a black background
Top image: Shutterstock; Above: Prime Video branding by Pentagram