As we leave 2020 in our wake, let’s further explore the topics in my recent piece “Opportunities for Operators in the New TV Equilibrium.” In that article, I suggested operators have an important role to play as aggregators. However, to succeed they need to evolve their technology and business models while adopting a customer engagement mentality. Let’s dig a little deeper.
With help from COVID-19, last year was a boon for video streaming. According to GoGlobe, video streaming accounted for 82% of all internet traffic in 2020. The good news is that the market chaos imposed by streaming on the traditional TV space will eventually subside. Those disrupted by the changes are making adjustments to their business models and investing in new infrastructure, while those doing the disrupting are coming to terms with the economic realities of the market.
The first key takeaway for operators is to worry less about the over-the-top SVOD services collectively (market economics will be your friend) and focus on making sure your service is in the top three choices consumers make for video. Let’s assume Netflix will have one of those slots. Your job is to make sure you win one of the remaining two. Here’s how.
Win the Aggregation Game
Content value is measured by the breadth and depth of the catalog with bonus points for exclusive content. The costs of content will unrelentingly increase and everyone will have to pay market rates for studio content and premium sports leagues. To affordably expand the content catalog and control total content costs, operators should look to differentiate against premium SVOD services in three ways:
• Exploit lower cost-content closer to home. Live, local content, especially sports, contributes in two unique ways. First, sports brings avid fans, and avid fans are influencers who bring their friends and can help with lowering churn. Creating “fan circles” is another way operators can start to add value around content.
• Embrace OTT content and make it yours. Since OTT content will flow over your network no matter what, operators should partner when they can and link out when they have to. The vast majority of SVOD services will not be in the top three and they’ll be looking for operators to boost their distribution. Even without formal agreements, operators can become the app aggregator and leverage live content to be the starting point on the content discovery journey. Having live local TV gives operators a huge advantage over SVOD services or consumer platforms, because even when users go to other apps, they’ll always come home for live content.
• Curate the niches. While there are plenty of channels on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and other sites covering many topics, they don’t make a compelling TV experience. By curating select OTT content that might be applicable to your local audience, and focusing on the best of the best, you can build on the two points above: local interest (fan base) and affordable (free) OTT content to build a catalog bigger than the biggest SVOD providers. With such a massive trove of content to pull from, it is easy to rotate interesting content into the experience and use analytics to fine-tune selection.
Engagement Builds Loyalty
Remember the days when “location, location, location” was the way to win in real estate? In TV’s streaming age, it’s “engagement, engagement, engagement.” Operators need to continuously refresh the user experience and promote popular content to keep the service top of mind. There are two ways to do that:
• Add value to the content. Sports is a key differentiator for operators to create unique value versus typical streaming services. Sports fans are rabid consumers and addicted to watching game or player highlights. Operators, with the benefit of cloud recording technology, can offer personalized highlight reels for sports fans. Have only five minutes for the best game highlights during an Uber ride? Dial it in. Only care about a player on your fantasy league team? Show highlights for just that player.
• Add value to the experience. Several services have announced watch together features. Although it’s not something everyone will use regularly, it’s important for the big game or a play date with grandma. Unlike on-demand services, operators can also apply watch together to live programs (e.g., sports), where emotionally rich content makes watching together all that more satisfying.
Promote and Merchandise
Content is still king and operators need to continuously remind their subscribers that they are the best place for the best content, and make it easy to buy more.
• Promote through personalization. Promoting content to customers who have already purchased your service reminds them its value, keeps them coming back, and contributes to your digital ad insertion revenue stream. No eyeballs, no ads. No ads, no revenue.
• Merchandise premium packages and content. Operators need to create a user experience that intelligently promotes content customers can already access, and introduces them to content outside their subscription package.
• Cross-sell other services. As operators, a key economic and retention advantage in your battle with OTT services is that you have multiple lines of business with a wide range of products and services. You also have free and direct access to the most important ad screen in the home. Dropping your own ads promoting faster internet or mobile phone service is as easy as putting a movie poster in the UI.
There’s no doubt the business of pay TV is harder than it has ever been. But operators still have inherent advantages that others in the market cannot easily replicate. Occupying that critical position between the customer and the content, operators uniquely fulfill the vital role of super-aggregator of content and customers.
Matt Cuson is VP of product and marketing at Minvera Networks.
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