Last week on this blog we looked at three things to consider when launching an OTT service, giving particular spotlight to getting your content online, establishing your audience, and getting to market quickly in order to realise earlier video revenue. This week, we’ll look at the next step in the chain – your video service is launched and off the ground, but now it’s out there, what do you need to do to create and maintain growth?
With the service up and running, the most important viewers you’ll have are those that joined early. In most cases, these are the fans that subscribed as soon as was possible because they knew the content they were hungry for would be appearing on a streaming service. While these viewers are likely the most engaged you’ll get, they are also the most demanding, and this will particularly focus around the expectation that new content will be added regularly.
We have examples that we can look to that underscore this point – every time a series of Game of Thrones has ended, HBO has seen noticeable drop offs in subscriber numbers. Over the last several years they have tried to staunch this churn by dropping other high quality series (like Westworld) near to when GOT finishes, but viewers that are only on the service because they are fans of the Game of Thrones keep leaving anyway. That’s because, as we mentioned last week, they’re loyal to the content, not the service. On the flip side, Eurosport was worried about experiencing the same levels of churn and disengagement when it broadcast the French Open tennis tournament, and so deployed increased tennis programming on days where there weren’t matches, and after the tournament had ended. This had the effect of greatly keeping engagement rates up during the tournament, and reducing the level of subscriber drop off that happened post-growth for the tournament.
By giving viewers more of what they wanted, Eurosport was able to do what HBO was not, and keep more subscribers following the end of a tentpole event. This lesson applies to direct to consumer services just as much as it does for more general aggregation services like HBO, by giving your viewers more of what they want in the form of regular content updates (and communicating this effectively), you are much likely to keep your most passionate viewers engaged and loyal, while further growth can be enhanced when new viewers who will see a growing catalogue of content and know they are getting value for what they’ll be subscribing to.
In most cases, when a service first launches, the range of devices is not huge. It is smarter to get your service to market with a few devices that give the kind of coverage you need at the beginning (in most cases mobile and tablet), than extending your rollout time by months to try and cover every connected screen under the sun. Once you’re live though, then it is time to consider getting onto other devices. Viewers will give you a bit of a grace period at the beginning, but will in many cases expect device growth so that they can access to their content on more than just web, mobile and tablet (for example).
For many, smart TV apps are not usually the first device they think of when thinking of where an OTT service should be available, but for many viewers lean back, big screen viewing is still a favourite way to watch content, so it is important to be able to reach those screens relatively quickly. That can be achieved through methods like Airplay and Chromecast support, streaming media device apps (Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire), or by dedicated smart TV apps, but it is important to get there to give your viewers a range of options for how they want to watch. Technology vendors that have templated app frameworks can help speed this process by getting you onto many devices quickly while keeping costs low.
For many direct to consumer services, prior to launching their own service, they were reliant on aggregation platforms to get their content to their audience. While those aggregation platforms might have increased reach, the amount of data available about how, when, where and why viewers were consuming content was limited (in some cases severely). There is no such limitation on a direct to consumer platform – all that information is available to you directly and exclusively, providing you with far greater insight into the behaviour and preferences of your audience.
It is vitally important that services make use of this data, because this is the thing that can really help them set themselves apart and tailor their experience to make it truly unique to their customers. This enhanced knowledge can bleed over into everything they do, informing how best to communicate with viewers, what kind of content to deploy/purchase/commission, or what kind of devices to give preferential treatment to. Doing this will further improve the product, which can in turn lead to better growth and retention rates as viewers will know they are getting a quality experience.Contact Airbeem