The power of fan engagement for a successful OTT service

11.08.19

by Editorial Staff

11.08.19

by Editorial Staff

Have you ever thought of how much audiences tastes and behaviours have changed? Users have now multiple ways to choose how to spend their time and money. Sports properties, TV platform operators and media companies are competing not simply within their league, sport, or category, but with ‘life’. They are competing with leisure time spent at the gym, at the cinema, at live events and, yes, even time spent with friends and family.

They are also facing the competition of other digital platforms. Think of the time spent on Instagram, consuming content from YouTube or emerging social networks like Tik Tok. There’s even the rising phenomenon of podcasts. In the UK only, 12% of adults listen to podcasts weekly. They are predominant among 25-34 year-olds. Even more interestingly, audiences seem to prefer podcast consumption while doing other activities, like driving or travelling (30% of the total time listening), or working and studying (29%).

The result of this is that everyone is on a journey to understand their audience in a much deeper and more rounded way than ever before. They need to think more broadly about how they fit into their overall lifestyles, and what the crossover could be with other sports/music/lifestyle choices to make their content different, able to stand out.

We caught up with Adam Nightingale, who has just joined Deltatre as SVP. Commercial for OTT. With IBC 2019 just around the corner, we asked him a few questions about the OTT space today, from current trends to tech development and opportunities for the near future. Here is what he told us.

#1. What OTT trends have you seen developing over the past few years? What’s coming next?

Fan and viewer engagement sits at its core of an operator’s priority list. This will be a hot topic at the forthcoming IBC. Here at Deltatre we have to answer a simple question; how can operators both in sports and entertainment leverage technology to provide the highest quality services to their audience? Focus has shifted from getting content to as many devices as possible, to delivering something unique and unforgettable that puts engagement first. Fundamentally, we need to bring sports and entertainment closer to the fans and to the viewing public. To do that, we need to work with our customers to create a first-class product.

Bringing together platforms like DIVA, our best-in-class, interactive video player, and AXIS, a targeted UX management console, exemplifies a company that understands this objective. Not only do both products offer new and exciting ways of showcasing content, but do so in a way that streamlines internal workflows, helps the bottom line, and enables rights owners to focus on what they’re best at - engaging an audience. With 15% of the total budget from these organisations allocated to developing the OTT technology stack, there’s never been more of a focus on next-level functionality which wins the attention of entertainment viewers and sports fans alike.

Of course, data will play a huge role in shaping the OTT services of the future. Next-level fan engagement starts with adaptation and personalisation. It’s clear that most companies understand the need to collect and use data, yet some still struggle when it comes to figuring out what to do with it. They need tools that enable them to act fast, smart, and evaluate/iterate on experiments. And that’s where Deltatre comes into the picture.

#2. What opportunities exist in OTT for rights holders to enhance the live experience?

Compared to traditional linear broadcast, OTT offers a nearly limitless spectrum of opportunities for rights holders to enhance the experience around live events. A more interactive and user-first experience is made possible by best-of-breed software and solutions, such as Deltatre’s video player DIVA which enables fans to experience every moment of the action, as it happens and as if they were there. Through features like live game stats, social media integration, full DVR with a visual timeline and multi-camera viewing, DIVA empowers rights owners to offer new levels of engagement unseen elsewhere in our space. In some ways, we’re making OTT even better than actually being there.

It’s important to remember that content consumption today is not limited to the event itself. Pre and post-event content provides rights holders with a ‘white space’ that is and will be key to maximising the lifetime value of live events and building loyalty and engagement, that all-important fan equity. There is also that ‘off-season’ time where the lack of live action needs to be filled with behind-the-scenes exclusive content that users and super-fans crave. Broadcast rights owners are in a privileged position and can look to the future with the ambition of becoming owners and operators of their own properties. To do so, there is a critical need to capture data holistically, from every touchpoint. This creates an opportunity to define a single customer view and drives a deeper understanding of complex audiences. Based on this, each user experience can and needs to be personalised on the basis of users’ lives, tastes and their daily and weekly routines. This results in a tailored video experience, which is key to making content more compelling than anything else, at a given time.

Sports and entertainment are still quite far from each other in the OTT space; it’s probably fair to say that the sports environment is a good three years behind. Businesses seem to be considering a more direct-to-consumer approach, and there is a need for rights owners themselves to rethink their strategy.

#3. What role will machine learning play in how operators engage with fans?

Machine learning can help achieve better results from two different angles. Firstly, let’s look at operational efficiency. This comes back to unlocking the opportunities that are still unseen. The sheer amount of data available means that operators are often forced to employ big and costly teams of data scientists to analyse and generate insights from the figures, or find the right tools that can do it for them at scale. We expect to see greater adoption of the latter as a complement to the expertise of human data scientists. Tools of this kind will be able to rapidly ingest and analyse user behaviours and generate actionable insights that can be deployed and experimented with.

Beyond this, operators have a responsibility to pursue stronger brand affinity with their audience. Users consume content through a service, the machine understands what they do identifies trends, rolls out updates to the UI/UX that are personalised based on the individual user, measures success, and iterates. Note that we’re not talking about just content recommendations here - the entire UI/UX should be considered based on behavioural insights. Everything from design, feature set, navigation and promotions have an overall impact on how long a user sticks around and on the revenue generated from that user.

Ultimately however, we believe OTT services will never run fully autonomously. And they shouldn’t! The right combination of human and machine editors is the difference between success and failure. As machines become more effective at crunching data to generate insights, these insights will then drive human ideas and actions. Both in terms of operational efficiency and brand affinity, it’s clear how data has become a crucial link, feeding the machine learning itself.”

#4. Netflix is seen by many as the industry benchmark when it comes to UX. Has the fan experience not essentially become a commodity when everyone is just trying to copy ‘the best’?

Undeniably, Netflix has paved the way for OTT operators to engage fans in new and exciting ways. However, the Californian business invested a huge amount of $1.5 billion on technology in 2018 and trying to mimic its proposition from a technology standpoint is unreachable for all but those with the deepest pockets. We should also note that the company invested $12 billion in content and $2.37 billion on marketing in the same period.

Firstly, there is an argument around brand quality. Netflix is so successful because it’s Netflix. Ask yourself - it is possible to be successful if you try and do a half-baked version of something else? The answer is rather straightforward and the path is the one that starts from your audience, not from your competitors. Focus on your audience, on their pain points, their challenges. How do they want to consume content? What happens if they can’t find what they’re looking for? Where are they watching? Answers to these questions sits at the foundation of what makes a great user experience. The general requirements for live sports OTT platforms will be different from an entertainment SVOD service. Even the service between football and tennis, within the sports ecosystem, won’t be the same. Start with the user!

Personalisation, rapid testing and iteration of new features, a high-quality player - these are only a few of the things that are critical OTT services finding success - and many are available readily. Identify the tools that can provide high levels of functionality without incurring prohibitive costs. And above all else, these tools should be used to support a unique vision that is yours and yours alone.

Compared to traditional linear broadcast, OTT offers a nearly limitless spectrum of opportunities for rights holders to enhance the experience around live events.

Adam Nightingale - OTT SVP. Commercial

The themes explored above will be among the many topics that will animate the debate at IBC 2019 this September. We will be in Amsterdam from 13 to 17 September 2019. You will find us at the Deltatre Booth #14.F06.

Click here to book a meeting and discuss the future of OTT through Deltatre solutions and products. Our team will be in touch soon. See you there!

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