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OTT Leadership Summit: Crunchyroll on How to Super-Serve Fans
At the OTT Leadership Summit at Streaming Media West, Michael Dale of Ellation—which runs both Crunchyroll and VRV—will join panelists from Fox, Tribune Media, and Vubiquity to discuss how to create OTT services consumers want.

The goal of the OTT Leadership Summit—which will debut at this year’s Streaming Media West in Huntington Beach, Calif. November 13-14—will bring together executives and innovators to discuss how technology, business, and content intersect to create successful OTT services.

The Summit will feature speakers from Netflix, Fox Networks, Tribune Media, 20thCentury Fox, Sky News, Newsy, and others to discuss topics like customer engagement, advertising, artificial intelligence, data, and piracy.

The event will lead off with a session called “Building a Better OTT Mousetrap: Creating Services Consumers Want,” moderated by Jonathan Hurd of Altman Vilandrie & Co. He’ll present findings from Altman Vilandrie’s annual survey on topics like consumer preferences for specific programs, interest in live sports, video watching through social media, willingness to pay, problems with streaming, account sharing and piracy, and other areas of critical importance to the OTT industry. Following that will be a panel discussion exploring how to give viewers what they’re looking for.

One of the most successful companies to emerge in the OTT space is Ellation, which offers both the anime subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service Crunchyroll and VRV, a fan-focused aggregation platform for complementary niche SVOD services. Michael Dale, Ellation’s executive vice-president for media and entertainment, will participate in the panel, and he took some time to offer his insights into both Crunchyroll/VRV and the OTT market in general. 

Streaming Media: The title of the panel you’re on is “Building a Better OTT Mousetrap: Creating Video Services Consumers Want.” What are the top 3 things Crunchyroll and VRV have learned about what consumers want, and how can video services satisfy those needs?

Michael Dale: At Crunchyroll and VRV we have focused on becoming everything to someone rather than something for everyone. This includes leveraging the direct-to-consumer relationship to go beyond video in supporting brand affinity for our primary SVOD product. In the case of Crunchyroll, we super-serve our community with e-commerce, CRX (Crunchyroll’s owned con), our annual anime awards, Crunchyroll Movie Nights, other domestic and international events, anime news, a strong social presence (over 27 million social followers across platforms), and more.

In terms of VRV, we started by super-serving the fan base with content that expands from anime to a broader catalog. We surface this catalog to the user by leveraging on-platform viewership data, enabling a personalized content journey to more deeply engage with our fans.

Finally, it almost goes without saying operational excellence is something consumers have come to expect. We have to work extra hard to stay up to date with latest technologies to meet the high quality of experience bar set by more vertically integrated market leaders that operate at a larger scale.

Monetization is obviously a huge challenge. What sort of innovative approaches do you think are necessary to get consumers to hand over their hard-earned cash? Are they willing to accept advertising in exchange for well-curated content?

We employ a top funnel advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) strategy that brings in audience that then is converted against premium windows, removing ads, and super-serving fan benefits. We find social & brand affinity to be strong barometers towards consumers’ ability to pay. Towards this end, we are experimenting with a few features that focus on community and deeper social engagement on platform.   

Most of the conversations around audience focus on millennials and younger viewers. What’s different about appealing to them as opposed to older viewers?

Ellation’s consumer facing brands are focused on this demographic. Our brand voice speaks to authenticity (and) self-deprecation, and is engaged with our audience. Fun is integrated into the platform in user name selection, feedback flows, error messages, and application UX. This is in sync with the content that has many of the same properties.      

How important is the user experience/interface to winning customer attention and loyalty? What have you found works best there?

Media theorists reference the concept that the “medium is message.” When we transpose that concept to multi-device, multi-medium engagement of contemporary brands, I would argue the experience/interface and social engagement is on par with content as consumers make choices in their attention and loyalty.

(Read more about Ellation's approach to monetization in this Streaming Media article.)

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