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Streaming Media West: Sling TV on Killer Features, OTT Competition

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Streaming Media West is only one week away now, and with registrations way up (and the weather forecast looking gorgeous) this promises to be a memorable one. The show will feature three big-name kickoff speakers: Apple will start the day on Wednesday, and Google will wrap it up. But the Tuesday opener belongs to Warren Schlichting, executive vice president and group president at Sling TV, who will explain how to monetize an OTT video service and deliver a consumer-based experience. We spoke with Schlichting to get a preview of his talk.

Streaming Media: What does it mean for an OTT service to deliver a consumer-based experience? 

Warren Schlichting: At Sling TV, we’re focused on building a relationship with our customers and delivering the best experience possible—including a reliable, stable service, personalized features, flexible programming, and more. We know that consumers come and go on an ongoing basis, but a seamless viewing experience is what keeps them coming back. Sling TV remains the number one live TV streaming service; we have always thought long-term about our relationship with our customers and focus on reinvesting in a user-friendly experience based on consumer behaviors and what our customers tell us. For example, we recently started displaying popular shows and movies in our guide that customers might not have known we offered, and made it easier to access that content by allowing them to subscribe to a package or channel directly in the app.    

Are OTT services offering excellent content personalization and recommendations at this point? If not, what more needs to be done?

Content personalization is something that OTT providers have only one chance to get right. A provider will lose consumer trust in the feature if it makes recommendations that aren’t spot-on. Providing recommendations is very personal to customers, and tough to perfect; no OTT provider has it just right, because there’s always room for improvement. Prediction engines need to learn about a user by collecting viewership data; the more a user watches, the smarter the engine becomes and the better the recommendations. 

How important is targeted advertising for connected TV and OTT monetization? Do consumers like the targeted appeals? Is there a danger in intruding on their privacy? 

Targeted advertising is crucial in today’s OTT live television model, which is why dynamic ad insertion remains a top priority for us. In 2017, Sling TV was the first to launch dynamic ad insertion in live streaming TV, bringing targeted, one-to-one impression-based advertising to Sling TV through programmatic buying. Since then, other vMVPDs have followed, slowly introducing dynamic ad insertion to networks on their services. By having a more targeted appeal served on an individual basis, consumers are likely to be more engaged in an ad. This means that two people in the same household could be watching the same program and see two different ads that are tailored to them. We are committed to protecting the privacy of our customers, which is why there are specific limitations in place concerning the types of data sets available to use for targeting.

Do viewers want a la carte viewing options? Or are they happier with small customizable bundles? Is a la carte ever likely to happen?

Viewers no longer want a big, bigger, biggest TV bundle—they only want to pay for what they want to watch, which is why Sling TV was the pioneer of a la carte TV with customizable streaming choices. Our model is unique to us; with genre-based Extra packs and individual channel add-ons, no other live OTT provider offers more choice and customization than we do. While a la carte seems great on the surface, in reality, all those costs for individual channels add up quickly, which wouldn’t be great for consumers. 

Some major players are entering the OTT space soon. Does this worry you? How does Sling TV best capitalize on this moment in our changing viewing habits, when the market is still young but already feels crowded?

There has certainly been in influx of players entering the OTT space, but we have a long way to go in terms of educating the general public about the OTT options out there. In fact, most people don’t understand the difference between services, and it creates a lot of confusion for the consumer. Sling TV differentiates itself through our unique model, which is focused on choice and control. We were the first live OTT service out there and we still lead the space in terms of subscribers and device compatibility, giving customers the ability to view live television no matter where they are. By continuing to focus on stability, we provide a consistent viewing experience to our customers, which is the most important quality an OTT service can have. We make it as easy as possible to give customers the content they love—even if it’s without a base package. That’s why earlier this year, we introduced the ability for former customers to purchase several standalone channels, pay-per-view events, or rent a movie without having to subscribe to Sling Orange or Sling Blue. As the market has become more crowded, we continue to remain America’s #1 live TV streaming service and evolve our product to adapt to consumer behaviors.

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