A modern CTV ecosystem is a complex mechanics where a viewer is a king and all the ecosystem stakeholders are responsible for the king’s experience (While it's commonly said that content is king, in this kingdom, the viewer takes centre stage.) TV manufacturers, CTV devices, VOD platforms, advertisers, and other parties – each of these pieces form one big complex puzzle that consumer sees as a pretty picture and calls it “tv entertainment".
Looking For a Needle in a Haystack: Content Discovery on CTV
Swiftly delivering what viewers desire or suggesting content they didn't even know they wanted to see is a game-changer for CTV services. Behind the scenes, a complex CTV ecosystem operates with various services employing different monetization strategies, offering content of diverse tiers and types, and implementing a mix of advertising strategies. However, amidst this complexity, all users really want is to find a nice film or TV show… promptly.
The study indicates, that 40% of CTV users experience confusion regarding where to locate a desired title when on a home page. When delving into the realm of content discovery, a few key concepts come into play: UX/UI, data collection and user recommendations, OS development and updates, AI, and voice features.
The front-end design of a CTV service carries immense significance. Viewers should encounter intuitive navigation, ensuring that trailers load instantly. Furthermore, the service must be adaptable to screens of any size. Additionally, a service should embrace what is commonly referred to as universal search for its content, regardless of the type of provider – be it SVOD, TVOD, AVOD, FAST, Linear, and so forth. In simpler terms, when a user searches for "Fast and Furious," they should instantly see results without the need to switch between different apps within the CTV service.
Data collection and user profiles within a service should be leveraged to discern what users watch and how they watch it, enabling the creation of personalized recommendations. In the modern world, this has become a requisite and an expected feature for any entertainment service. Viewers anticipate a service that understands their viewing habits, such as the amount of time spent on content, preferred viewing times, language preferences, and content preferences, including genres and favorite stars. Utilizing this wealth of data allows the service to offer users tailored recommendations, ultimately enhancing satisfaction and reducing their search time, which currently averages around 6 minutes.
Exciting developments are anticipated in the realm of voice content discovery, with some features already in existence and others on the horizon. Gabriel Cosgrave from Xperi, an American provider of media platform solutions for video services over broadband, shared insights into innovations making their way to CTV services. One notable advancement is the enhancement of existing voice search functions, aiming to create a more human-like interaction. Currently, users primarily engage in direct or half-conversational voice searches, requesting to play specific titles or shows featuring particular actors. However, in the near future, users will have the capability to instruct their CTVs based on their mood or even play content based on a phrase from a movie whose title they may not recall.
Another significant trend highlighted by Cosgrave involves data collection and profiling through voice recognition, particularly valuable for households with kids. This innovation enables a CTV service to identify the individual making a voice request or determine if there's a child in the room. Consequently, the service can provide tailored content recommendations or conceal age-sensitive material accordingly. Similar technology can extend to room scans and human detection via the CTV device's camera. These AI-powered advancements promise to significantly enhance user profiling accuracy, benefiting not only the user but also advertisers seeking more detailed persona profiling.
Another avenue where AI can work its magic is through chatbots. A CTV service can recognize when a user has been scrolling for a long period, prompting a conversational window to appear. This chatbot can assist the user in finding the perfect title based on their mood, available time for entertainment, favorite shows or actors, and other preferences.
Gijsbert Pols, Director of Connected TV and New Channels at Adjust, advocates for a content discovery experience on CTV that resembles that of social media platforms, such as TikTok. He believes that successful experiments with content discovery have the potential to reduce churn rates, highlighting the importance of aligning CTV strategies with the engaging and user-friendly experiences seen on popular social media platforms.
Churn Happens: Understand Your Audience
The discourse surrounding churn rates and their impact on the revenue and growth of the streaming business is pervasive. TV streaming players, once fervently focused on subscriber acquisition at any cost, have now come to the realization that retaining those subscribers is an equally intricate and crucial strategic challenge. In the contemporary landscape, where switching subscriptions comes at a low cost and the price for leading streaming services surged in 2023, the average churn rate stands at a notable 6%, varying from nearly 13% to 2% based on individual streaming platforms.
Amidst a myriad of factors, including the surge of FAST channels, it's important to recognize that a subscriber's departure isn't always attributable to the service itself—sometimes, the root cause lies within the subscriber. Each subscriber is akin to a unique snowflake, characterized by distinct viewing habits, preferences, and attitudes toward entertainment. Despite this individuality, subscribers can be categorized into a few distinct groups. Every service or analyst firm employs its unique approach to segmenting the subscriber base; for instance, Peacock has intricately categorized people into as many as 500 different groups. While the sheer number of segments may not be the focal point, the crucial aspect lies in understanding the existence of these diverse segments and managing them distinctively. This understanding is pivotal for reducing churn, enhancing the lifetime value, and improving retention rates.
Consultancy firm “Magid” classifies subscribers into 6 different segments. Let's delve into two particularly intriguing segments that highlight the nuanced nature of churn. Mike Bloxham, the EVP of Magid, noted that, based on their findings, a substantial portion of new subscribers—specifically, 42%—have no intentions of remaining with the service for more than 6 months. Some of these individuals belong to a segment called "hypers"—subscribers indicative of a "healthy churn" base. While these subscribers exhibit frequent churning habits, their departures are not primarily due to dissatisfaction with the service itself. Instead, their tendency to "media-hop" frequently prompts their exits, but they also play a crucial role in creating a lot of hype around your service. There's a likelihood of them returning later, making them a unique and valuable segment in the media landscape.
In contrast to "hypers," a churn of loyal customers does indeed signal underlying issues within a service. This segment typically boasts a low churn rate and a high lifetime value, indicating their sustained commitment to the platform.
While each service's current position and future goals may differ, there is no universal strategy to combat churn. However, comprehending the audience and the proportion of segments plays a pivotal role in predicting subscriber behaviors and maximizing the value of each segment. Just as illustrated in the examples above, each segment should be treated uniquely, employing distinct marketing, remarketing, and customer care approaches to encourage longer stays and quicker returns.
Bundle is the New Black
According to MNTN Research, 40% of streaming households have opted to consolidate all of their services through their home service providers. While bundling is not a new concept, it's emerging as a prominent trend for 2024, particularly among Connected TV (CTV) users. Consumers are increasingly drawn to bundles, finding them to be a cost-effective way to enjoy multiple services at a lower price. In turn, companies offering bundled services aim for reduced churn rates and heightened user acquisition when executed successfully.
Bundles manifest in various forms:
Ecosystem Bundle: This involves bundling services within one parent company. An example is the Apple One offer, which includes six Apple services packaged together.
Cross-Platform Bundle: This allows customers to access products and services from different companies, sometimes not even in the same industry. In 2022, Walmart+ and Paramount+ capitalized on shared buying personas, forming a bundle for their customers.
Content Bundle: This combines different tiers of content or monetization options. For instance, the Hulu + Live TV bundle offers movies, shows, and sports along with 95+ live TV channels like ABC and ESPN.
Kim Kelleher, Chief Commercial Officer at AMC Networks, along with several other television industry experts, anticipates a continued rise in bundles in 2024. The creativity of media and entertainment companies in crafting bundles and how CTV stakeholders will benefit from them is an intriguing prospect. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that forming a bundle is not a straightforward task.
Several considerations should be kept in mind:
Understanding Your Audience: Just as we discussed churn rates and audience segments, knowing your audience is paramount when forming a bundle. Not all offers may resonate well with your viewers, potentially resulting in losses.
Careful Partner Selection: As bundles necessitate resource investment and involve risks, choosing a partner for bundling should be a thoughtful process. Not all partnerships proceed smoothly, as evident in the ongoing negotiations between Charter, one of the largest cable TV providers in the US, and Disney. It underscores the importance of strategic decisions to prevent resource loss.
Charting the Horizon of 2024
As we navigate the evolving landscape of Connected TV, the focus on content discovery, churn dynamics, and bundled offerings stands paramount. These are not merely challenges to overcome but trends to watch and opportunities to seize in the upcoming year. The harmony between viewer experience and technological innovation will define the success stories of CTV services, as they continue to craft an engaging and immersive entertainment journey for audiences worldwide.
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