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Content Discovery Will Decide the Streaming Wars

With the recent launches of Warner Media’s HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, the entertainment streaming landscape is now more competitive than ever before. Audiences have their pick of streaming services, with the average U.S. household having access to nearly 100,000 hours of content, delivered via 3.8 different providers according to a recent study. Though each platform spotlights its prized IP, having the ‘best’ content is no longer enough of a differentiator for audiences. And with the rising costs of original programming, platforms are being pushed to re-imagine their catalogue content to reach new audiences.

Alex Akers, manager of consulting

Alex Akers, manager of consulting, KlarisIP (Image credit: KlarisIP)

For these services, a robust content discovery strategy has become essential to keeping audiences engaged. Viewers expect simple, intuitive, and highly personalized experiences when navigating these services. Simply put, investing in how viewers seamlessly discover content is just as important as the value of the content available.

Audience First and Foremost

Optimizing a platform for content discovery isn’t an easy feat. It requires heavy investments in technology as well as aggressive recruitment of data science, design, and engineering talent to maximize those investments. But perhaps most importantly, winning in content discovery commands user-centric thinking across the organization so that all initiatives ultimately enhance the experience of the viewer.

An example of this could include delivering more tailored title recommendations to audiences by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) engines to extract the most meaningful metadata from millions of hours of catalogue video programming. Or measuring each user’s home screen engagement in real-time and deploying scaled machine learning to serve collections of titles that resonate best.

Across industry, Netflix is a leader in content discovery with a user interface (UI) design that has become a template for new competitors to follow and a gargantuan list of genres and niche sub-genres that make the platform appear almost sentient at times. Recent browsing during the COVID-19 pandemic displayed several ‘Feel-Good’ programming options from sports movies to TV shows, hinting that perhaps the platform itself had become aware of our collective extended couch time and was adopting metadata tags to resonate with those of us looking for some pick-me-up content.

In any case the objective is clear: maximize user engagement by delivering the most personalized experience. And while every platform supports discovery mechanisms today, those that are able to best curate their content offerings uniquely for their users will see the highest platform engagement.

Re-Imagine Content for Max Value 

2019 was an arms race for premium content, with U.S. media and entertainment companies spending over $120 billion on original content alone. And as programming costs continue to rise, platforms are adopting new approaches to re-imagine their IP which enable users to discover both new and legacy titles in imaginative ways.

With Peacock, NBCUniversal has incorporated short-form content into its channel programming model, pulling prized segments from fan favorites like The Office, Saturday Night Live, and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon and serving them as bite-sized mini-episodes in their own dedicated channels.

Could this serving of program snippets drive more consumption of their parent television shows? Or could we see more false starts like short-form streamer Quibi, who has struggled to find its audience since launching earlier this year. Time will tell, however as legacy studios and broadcasters compete for audience attention with social content platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, it’s clear that the content itself will need to evolve beyond film and television and short-form could be the next evolutionary stage. 

And with the pandemic stalling production of original programming across the board, perhaps we’ll see an uptick in mash-up style content that repurposes existing catalogue video. ESPN’s recent docuseries, The Last Dance, is a captivating case study of audience demand for 20+ year old sports footage. Similarly, companies with deep content archives could revitalize previous fan favorites to reach new audiences. The re-emergence of ‘90s episodes of Supermarket Sweep on Netflix as well as the launch of classic MTV titles on Amazon Prime’s MTV Hits channel certainly seem to signal an appetite for nostalgic viewing. 

Or could these catalogues discover brand new audiences when incorporated into interactive-style programming as AR and VR technologies become more common? The options are truly endless and it will be fascinating to see how IP is re-imagined over time to discover new audiences.

As 2020 comes to a close and entertainment options across the board begin to resume normal operations, organizations that have prioritized content discovery will be in the best position to succeed long-term. And with the rising costs of original programming, content re-imagining could be a key differentiator for extending the lifecycle of IP and discovering new audiences, who will ultimately decide the winners and the losers of the streaming wars.

KlarisIP is a boutique consulting and managed services firm focusing on IP rights & royalties, digital asset management and metadata.