CES '18: The State of the Stream

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Streaming video has been around for 20 years, but today media companies are having to rethink how to broaden the viewing experience to continue to drive engagement with their viewers. At a CES panel called "The State of the Stream," executives from Disney, Fandango, Amazon, and Oath identified four top trends that video publishers need to watch.

Diversified Delivery

"We want to be where the audiences are," said Andrew Sugerman, EVP, publishing and digital media, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, adding that Disney has delivers on its own platforms as well as licensing it to other services. "We're bringing content out across different platforms in numerous ways." In addition to bringing out its own OTT service later this year, Disney is also continuing to innovate on various platforms. Sugerman said Disney tries to add as much social interaction to content as possible because it serves as a starting point for dialogue with viewers. "We actually use that [social feedback] to create more content," he said.

"We have the benefit of having a huge installed base. We have about 1.1 billion followers on social platforms. For us it's less now about growing that further and [more about] really focusing on interaction and how to draw the audience deeper into the content experience," said Sugerman.

One way Disney has been able to do this was by bringing back Mickey Mouse club content that was created twenty-five years ago. "We like experimenting and finding those ways to both get the social connections, but also that engagement," said Sugerman. "The way we launched it was thoroughly deconstructing a show and publishing it through a feed on Facebook with almost a thousand assets published in a six-week window. We reached 20-30% of the United States. It was a huge engagement, and it worked and resonated in a completely non-traditional way."

Engagement Begets Scale

"People are moving through this really big life-cycle in this relationship with content," said Paul Yanover, president, Fandango. "Sometimes they are in discovery mode, sometimes they are in fan mode, sometimes they are in planning mode, and sometimes they are in watching mode. We have put together a bunch of assets that are trying to create one complete 360° experience."

Fandango has built out a loyal audience by using its own platform as well as best-of-breed tools from other platforms to engage with their audience around a variety of needs. Fandango customers are able to buy tickets to movie theatres, see movie trailers online, or use other digital tools. "We are really doing multiple things. We have partners, we are serving content, and we have 23 million followers on YouTube," said Yanover. "We have movie planning tools through platforms like Facebook Messenger and Apple iMessage, we have showtimes thru Google search and commerce, and we have a huge O & O [owned & operated platform] for all of those things."

“We're happy if someone watches their favorite clip online or if they buy a ticket, because the engagement begets scale—so the more they do the more they get,” said Yanover.

The Data Imperative

Amazon is one of the most data-rich companies in the world, and this plays out in a couple of different scenarios. "One of the key things we are spending a lot of time on is around this idea of when you get to the home screen, it's always going to have the things that most matter to the person sitting in front of the home screen," said Marc Whitten, VP, Fire TV, Amazon.

What if the viewer doesn't know what they want? The magic voice in cyberspace is there to help. "One of the things that we have been learning [about how Alexa is used] is not necessarily that she just has facts; it's making sure she has an opinion [so she can answer] 'What does Alexa think is interesting to watch?’,” said Whitten. "You almost want to recreate the video store movie buff as an assistant sitting in your living room, in terms of what is really interesting right now based on deep understanding of data, what's going on in the zeitgeist, and what your users actually care about."

The other thing Whitten has learned about introducing voice control into the video experience is to let the users guide how they want their user interface to be developed. "It's really been how do we get out of our own way and get out of the box about how we thought about creating experiences. People are going to say things that are very different than how you put a bunch of content into a grid," he said.

Getting Personal

The last word goes to Alex Wallace, VP, OTT Video Production and Distribution, Oath. The digital and mobile media company has more than 50 brands (including Yahoo, HuffPost, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, and Makers) within the Verizon family of companies.

"I still think it's a world where we don't know exactly where we need to be because there is so much right now," Wallace said. "If you really studied me algorithmically online you should know what I like to watch to read to listen to. I talk to Alexa and Google home every morning and I keep waiting. At some point they should know me well enough at what time of day [to know] what type of information or content I want." While the panel mostly spoke about the here and now, the promise of AI is that media companies should be able to further personalize the content they're serving. Companies who are able to provide relevant, personalized content will be the future, said Wallace.

She also sees the immersive experience as where content is heading. "I think there will be a day where instead of you telling your kids to go watch Mickey Mouse, it will be ‘Go play with Mickey Mouse,’ and there [will be] a way to interact with Mickey Mouse in your den. That is going to happen sooner rather than later." 

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