Talking with Oliver Renick about the TD Ameritrade Network, Over-The-Top Content, and More
Back in August, we had the pleasure of meeting and working with some team members from the TD Ameritrade Network, as Hazem Dawani — CEO of Predata, one of our clients — appeared on Morning Trade Live to discuss predictive analytics with host Oliver Renick.
We’ve been intrigued by the TD Ameritrade Network for a while now, both for its financial analysis and its role in reshaping media and content delivery. It’s also located just a few blocks away, and we always love to see another Chicago company doing cool things.
So after Oliver’s interview with Hazem, we reached out to him about doing a little role reversal, interviewing him about what he and the TD Ameritrade Network are building. Check out our Q&A with Oliver (edited lightly for readability) below.
When and why did you decide to join TD Ameritrade Network?
I joined almost exactly two years ago, in October 2017. At the time, the TD Ameritrade Network was a single trading show, but it’s now branched into a full suite of programming, with eight hours of live content per day, and more live shows being launched.
I came from Bloomberg, and leaving was a difficult decision. Bloomberg is a great place, and they have some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. But this was also a great opportunity — I was sold as soon as I heard about it. I consider myself an analyst more than an anchor sometimes, and the entrepreneurial angle was appealing to me as well.
Can you tell us more about the Network’s mission and value proposition?
I’ve covered markets since college, and I noticed a lot of content seemed to be overlooking the end consumer. It has drifted away from the core purpose of financial journalism. The market is becoming more volatile, people are asking for more information, and we need to be providing better utility today.
From TD Ameritrade’s perspective, education is a top priority. So content on the TD Ameritrade Network certainly helps the brokerage clients of TD Ameritrade, and the business synergies are obvious — we want to offer as many tools as possible for people to understand markets. We want to provide content that helps investors understand what they’re doing.
With our own network, we can create highly specific content, and that is the beauty of “over-the-top content” or “OTT” [streaming content offered directly to viewers via the internet]: you can create stuff you know investors want and need. In this case, our audience is people who want market analysis any time. They know exactly what they’re getting, and they’re getting what they want all the time.
You mentioned over-the-top content — why is OTT such a game-changer?
Simply put, we know what people are interested in, content-wise. The analogy I like is, growing up, I loved football, and I would watch highlights on ESPN. But that also meant I had to wait for hockey, baseball, etc., sometimes before I could see my football highlights. Now, I can just sign up for the NFL’s package and not have to worry about the other sports. Same thing for hockey, baseball — they all have their own networks..
There are big enough verticals to exist in every field to reach specific audiences. Disney is doing it, WWE has done it. And others in the financial industry are doing it as well… There is generally more room for bespoke, interest-driven, smaller business models.
How do you maintain journalistic integrity alongside TD Ameritrade’s brokerage business?
That was a priority when we started this, to keep church and state separate. There is a clear independence that the Network has. We’re not promoting things, there’s no advertising of [TD Ameritrade’s other] content and products. Content-wise, it is all market analysis all the time.
There is really no need to bleed over, as the synergy is very obvious: why not put content in front of viewers to help them understand what they are doing? Then you have a well-informed trader on your platform who better understands what they are doing.
How do you straddle the line between being entertaining enough for people to tune in while still being substantive?
The catchphrase I like is “utility over entertainment.” I believe people want to learn and are excited when they feel they’re getting something useful. The mass appeal of the internet clickbait boom — I think that’s largely passed. There was a peak of that, and it has since shifted.
Instead, things are moving to highly specific over-the-top delivery methods. With over-the-top content, everything exists with a delivery method that can target people and give them what they want. We generally believe that there is a big enough subset of people interested in financial analysis, and it’s a big enough market to keep the operation running.
Because people are cutting the cord, [and with so many outlets now for news and financial news,] there is a battle to reach an end viewer. So the content has to be more compelling. One way to do that is sensationalizing — but that’s something we’re never going to do. No exaggeration, no political stuff, no cultural stuff. If you like that, that’s great, but it’s not us. I believe that, when all you do is talk about markets, you’re always ahead of people who have to talk about other things as well.
[That said,] I do find the content exciting. It’s entertaining, but only if you like markets. I tell my friends, if you don’t like news about markets, just don’t watch us. Just like if you don’t like baseball, don’t watch the MLB network.
Where do you see the Network going in the next year or so?
It’s a very interesting time for markets. Everybody has a different view. What happens next, with the end of monetary policy as the only game in town? We don’t know what will happen. What I know as a news anchor is that there is going to be a demand for coverage that has not been seen during this bull-market cycle. We need to figure out the best way to analyze these topics. I see more technical analysis becoming prominent again [and also] deeper interviews with mid-/small-cap companies’ CEOs. Whatever it is, we will have to be ready to adapt and meet the demand.