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Big Data's Big Value: How Broadcasters Can Get an Upper Hand

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The amount of data generated every day is continuing to grow, with the collective sum of the world’s data expected to increase from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025. In line with this, broadcasters are handling more big data than ever before, both in the form of video content which they are creating, and also in terms of the information they are capturing on their audiences. The latter can be hugely beneficial to broadcasters, but only if they are able to store and manage it in a way which will allow them to access and analyze the data. Once they have done this, it will be possible for broadcasters to extract value from their data by using it to inform business decision and get ahead of the competition.

Informing Business Decisions

Historically, broadcasters looked to firms such as Nielsen or surveys to provide the insights they needed to understand viewing habits. However, with the rise of OTT streaming platforms, broadcasters are no longer reliant on these external parties and can capture data themselves detailing the programs users watch, how long they watched for, and their favorite genres. Once they have this information, it’s possible to maximize its value by using it to inform business models and to drive engagement. For example, Netflix and YouTube use algorithms to turn data into content recommendations to try to further engage users and encourage them to stay on the platform. Netflix has been using big data in this way successfully with its recommendation system reportedly influencing 80% of the content watched on the platform.

Another way in which Netflix is extracting value from big data is by using predictive analytics to inform decisions about which shows to commission and for how many seasons. For instance, Netflix used big data to form its decision to commission 26 episodes of House of Cards, despite not having seen the pilot, basing it on information such as the subject matter, the fact that there was an existing fan base due to the original British series, and the appeal of the actors and director attached to the project. Broadcasters including Netflix also reportedly used big data in their decision to cut the standard length of a season from the traditional 13 episodes to 10 episodes or less. It is thought that big data revealed that 10 episodes are optimal and any more do not add value, making them an unnecessary expense for the broadcaster.

Using Data to Get Ahead of the Competition

The second half of this year is set to see the launch of a number of new streaming platforms, including Disney+, Apple TV+, and BritBox, which will intensify competition within the market. As the more established players within the industry try to cement their place in the face of this competition, it is likely that they will use their expanse of big data to increase engagement, as outlined. However, the anomaly among these emerging services is Disney+, which has a massive amount of data at its disposal, with information collected over more than 80 years. After all, the first Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released almost 60 years before the launch of Netflix and 68 years before Amazon Prime Video.

Yet, despite Walt Disney Pictures having gained vast amounts of data about which films and programs are the most successful, which themes resonate the most, and which demographics it should aim at during this time, this data is now outdated. Although this data will have been extremely useful to the organization when making decisions regarding new films to commission or which films should have a sequel, for example, it is unlikely to be as valuable when it comes to its new platform, owing to the fact it will have aged substantially. In this scenario, Netflix and Amazon will have the upper hand as the data in their possession is based on current users which will be more beneficial for personalizing the platform for each individual user, for example, which Disney+ will be unable to do—at least not immediately. Consequently, in some ways, Disney+ will have to start afresh when it comes to capturing data on its viewers and build up this information over months and years. That’s not to say its existing data will go unused. Instead, it will have to be combined with new and up-to-date information to provide any real value.

The Real Value of Big Data

Not only is competition increasing, but so too is the number of subscribers to video on-demand services, set to reach more than 700 million globally in 2022, compared to 474 million in 2018. As a result, broadcasters will begin to create even more content to cater to the differing tastes of such a vast audience and get ahead of the competition, while the amount of data captured from the audience will increase exponentially. Therefore, it is vital that broadcasters are able to store and manage their data effectively in order to derive as much value from it as possible. These insights can then be used to inform decision-making about everything from which time of year to broadcast certain types of programs to which are the most popular types of content and how long a series should run. It will also be possible to create more algorithm-driven personalized viewing experiences tailored by the information gathered on individual users. By maximizing the value big data has to offer, broadcasters will be better placed to get ahead of the competition and gain a larger segment of the market.

 [Editor's Note: This is a contributed article from Imagen. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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