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Taking Efficiency, Focus Over-the-Top

SAN FRANCISCO — Of all the challenges faced by over-the-top providers, YipTV chairman, co-founder and CEO Michael Tribolet may have identified the most stressful: “Analysis paralysis.”

OTT providers are still learning how to analyze all of the data they receive from viewers who use their platforms, Tribolet said on a Next TV Summit panel discussion titled, “The Winning OTT Models.”

It only gets worse when you’re talking about millennial OTT users. “A.D.D. on crack,” Tribolet quipped.

Finding out what millennials — and all OTT viewers — want is proving more important by the day. New research from Parks Associates found that nearly a quarter of millennial broadband homes have cut the cord in favor of OTT, topping the national average of 15% of all broadband homes that have done the same.

“It comes down to the content and we see it all the time,” Stefan Van Engen, senior vice president of content programming and acquisitions for ad-supported OTT service Xumo, noted on another OTT-focused panel. “If a user likes what they’re seeing, they’ll come back for more.”

Van Engen shared stats showing that nearly 50% of Xumo users will come back within a week to find the next installment of a show they’ve already watched. But if it isn’t there when they first check, they won’t be back for another three weeks.

Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media, seconded that idea: Because of how fragmented the OTT world is, operators have to work hard to keep people coming back. “If you don’t hook them the first time, you may never,” he said. “Attracting [viewers] is easy. Retaining them isn’t as simple.”

Ted Malone, vice president of planning and strategy for Ericsson’s TV and media business, said content is the most important part of any OTT offering. But a bad user experience can turn OTT customers away, even if the content is there, he added.

“Don’t think about it as a technology problem,” Malone said. “Think about it as a user experience problem.”

That’s the tack Turner Classic Movies and Criterion Collection are taking as they approach the launch of art-house film OTT service FilmStruck later this year, TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian said.

“Start with the consumer problem, and solve it with technology and content,” Dorian said.

When FilmStruck lands this fall, it’ll try to differentiate itself among the hundreds of other OTT services by adding things few OTT services offer: bonus features.

“We at TCM want to learn about engagement,” she said.

Ed Lee, vice president of content acquisition for Roku, said his company employs its own internal team that handles audience development, helping channel operators to better deliver their content. What they’ve repeatedly discovered is that the harder you make it to find your content, the more assured you are of losing subscribers.

Meanwhile, Celiena Adcock, industry manager of entertainment for Facebook, said it’s rare for OTT subscribers — millennial or otherwise — to have any sort of brand affinity when it comes to their subscriptions. If they can’t find what they’re looking for in one spot, they simply move to another.

“Content is driving decision-making,” she said. “And our job at Facebook is to help with discovery.”