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CES '18: Paying for Content with Data Instead of Dollars

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If the TV advertising market is around $80 billion in the U.S., and worldwide revenues for all streaming services are around $21 billion, how will the streaming business model evolve to compete? That was the question posed by John Penney, EVP, strategic partnerships, Twentieth Century Fox during the panel "Consumer Preferences for Personalized Content Viewing" at CES 2017 on Monday. The answer, according to the panelists, is today's viewers are paying with data instead of dollars.

Advertising vs. the Skinny Bundle

According to a Consumer Technology Association (CTA) study in 2017, more than half of U.S. consumers watch streaming content every day. 75% of U.S. adults reported that they pay for TV subscriptions, and 53% pay for streaming services, said Lesley Rohrbaugh, senior manager, market research, for the CTA. "In total, more than 37% of the general population have paid TV and streaming services."

These viewers are watching on a variety of devices, and the data consumers are providing is giving publishers and brands the ability to provide free content in exchange for finding out much more about their viewers than the TV environment ever did. However, things are still in the early adopter stage in many perspectives, where viewers tend to be younger and more tech savvy. "From the content side, it's critical that you all remember the world can't just shift to subscription content," said Penney. "(They) can't just shift to streaming because there's not enough money in that overall."

"When you disconnect from an established bundle with an MPVD and add broadband costs into the mix, many consumers are finding that the price is actually higher than they want. [We've] seen a lot of SVOD services come and go in the last year as a result," said Eric Berger, CDO, Sony Pictures Television Networks and GM of Crackle. Crackle provides ad-supported content on 25-30 different applications.

"Crackle happens to be a free service, and the logic behind that is that there's always room for free in your personal bundle," said Berger. "There's a lot of free ad-supported services that are growing quite quickly (to address this)." However, as any viewer knows, free so far has meant either a heavy ad load or a request for personal information.

The Cost of Free

Are consumers selling their souls, or at least their personal information, for access to the content they want? Yes. "We have the ability to reach a consumer at a specific point in time, at a specific location, with a specific service, through a specific technology," said Jonathan Steuer, chief research officer, Omnicom Media Group. The challenge is to be able to do so without creeping out the customer. One audience member asked how much data should they provide and the panel said there's no formula, but more is generally better.

The benefit of providing personal information to the viewer is being able to save things in a que, pause and resume across different devices, in different locations for Crackle viewers. Crackle introduced the singe-ad ad pod for binge viewers. "A Nielsen labs study found it had six times the brand recall and seven times the purchase intent of a regular linear TV ad," said Berger.

Different Strategies for Different Generations

The comfort level on the data transaction is proving to be generational. "Boomers didn't expect there to be a world of targeted advertising at all. So every new step (to provide information) matters a lot to them," said Steuer. Therefore, easier to lose them by being too confusing or asking for too much.

"Gen Xers have always thought in a somewhat transactional way. 'Are you give me the benefit that is at least commensurate with the amount of data I'm giving you?' Most are on Facebook and more than happy to give away massive amounts of their personal data in exchange for what they consider to be valuable content or services," he said. "Millennials grew up in an environment where unless someone was encouraging them to think about it they don't even think about it."

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