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Expect Broadcasters to Demand Access to Platform Data in 2017

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Media companies are having trouble getting a hold of their viewing data. The current hot video platforms—Facebook Live and Instagram—are walled gardens and they aren't sharing. But look for that to change in the near future.

Speaking at today's SVG Digital Summit in New York City (a conference looking at the state of online sports streaming) David Dowd, vice president of customer growth for Tubular Labs, said live video viewers are twice as engaged as those watching clips, and are more likely to join discussions on social platforms. Sports broadcasters could capitalize on this and hone their offerings, except platform viewing data isn't filtered down to them. There's no way to see which moments or camera angles lead to the highest engagement. Dowd expects that to change as broadcasters demand access to their own viewing data.

While some in the industry believe online streaming is hurting sports TV ratings, Dowd says skillful use of online video is growing millennial audiences. He pointed to the NBA's difficulty in reaching younger viewers, which led to a strategy of posting clips on Instagram highlighting major moments from games. That was a huge success.

"YouTube used to be the place for that. It's not anymore," Dowd said. Big teams are not getting behind Instagram because that's where the passionate fans are.

Pointing to work his company has done with Fox Sports, Dowd noted that today's viewers are "a very scattered audience," but that Fox Sports doesn't care where its views happen. The broadcaster increasingly posts clips and highlights to social channels to increase an audience among cord cutters and recognize just how diverse today's audience is.

"They are really focused on views and engagement data no matter where it happens, not just broadcast," Dowd said. He conceded that compensation for online views hasn't caught up yet, but said broadcasters must look forward and not ignore online viewing.

While Facebook video is taking off, that's due to smart moves by the social network and not big licensing deals.

"Facebook isn’t making huge investments in content right now," Dowd said. It sees how ESPN is struggling and doesn't want to go down that road.

Sharing data from NeuLion, Chris Wagner, the company's executive vice president and co-founder, said clips are driving today's sport viewing: 54 percent of all video starts are from mobile. Connected TVs average 107 minutes per viewing session, while phone and tablets average 28.5 minutes per viewing session. As OTT services grow, "watch data becomes a really important thing for marketers," Wagner said.

NeuLion's larger customers are focused on driving OTT subscriptions. Offering an interactive experience is crucial not just for attracting subscribers, but for getting them to renew. Giving fans the opportunity to personalize their experience keeps them interested and leads to higher profits. OTT subs also provide publishers with customer data they use to stream targeted video ads on Facebook. Serving targeted ads helps drive down the acquisition cost per subscriber. Facebook has become a nice ad platform for premium video and targeted ads, Wagner noted.

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