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Beyond the Binge: Making the Most of Post-Play Moments to Boost Engagement

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Are you feeling bereft after a binge on the latest season of Stranger Things? Lost without any more episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi? Still missing season 3 of The Boys? Maybe you’ve just worked your way through all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have forgotten what it was like to not have the next one ready to watch?  

We’ve all felt that void that’s left when our current binge-watching obsession is over. So why are so many streaming services missing out on a chance to feed our need for something new to watch at this crucial moment? 

Binge-watching is now a widespread phenomenon, and many streaming services encourage it with an “auto-play” feature. Within seconds of the credits rolling on the TV show you’re watching, the next episode will auto-play unless you disable the feature or hit the pause button. They may even give you the chance to skip the opening credits!

Auto-play is great for encouraging binge behaviors and is pretty easy to implement in episodic content. But how many streaming services are really optimizing the post-play behavior for content that doesn’t have an obvious sequel - like a standalone movie or the final episode of a series? 

Successfully filling the hole in a consumer’s life that comes when their current favorite show comes to an end is not just good for engagement, it’s great for consumer satisfaction. And that’s essential to counteracting churn in the current market.

Our experience suggests that adding personalized recommendations at this moment is an excellent way to increase conversions. The BBC agrees. When I interviewed former Director of Product for BBC iPlayer, Dan Taylor-Watt, he told me the moment at the end of playback was “one of the most effective areas” for their use of personalization. In fact, he said that “moving from an opportunity to offer a generic recommendation to actually something specific in that moment,” gave them some of the “biggest uplifts” they saw from their personalization program. 

Making all the right connections 

So how do you hit the right note with post-play recommendations? We typically recommend our clients use the same algorithm that’s behind their “More Like This” and “Because You Watched” categories on their homepage. In my last article about the psychology of recommendations I noted that these models should usually be tuned to place more emphasis on metadata correlation than techniques like user clustering. Of course that requires high-quality metadata matches, a topic so fraught with difficulty that it will get an article of its own in the coming weeks. 

However, there are still important considerations around user behavior. When I wrote about striking the balance between automation and editorial curation, I highlighted how algorithms can be used to make sure you don’t waste too much time recommending the latest episode of a series to someone who has already watched it. So why then, to take one of my earlier examples, does Disney+ recommend the series Ms. Marvel to me after I’ve watched the latest Marvel film, even though its data should clearly show I have already watched Ms. Marvel in the past few weeks? I wonder if there’s an automated rule in play here that is triggering the latest MCU series after the latest MCU film? But why not take user behavior into account too? 

Of course there can be value in recommending people rewatch an old favorite. But there’s also a chance you’ll waste this golden opportunity to introduce them to something new. I’ve often found myself graduating to a third or fourth rewatch of a much-loved series rather than wasting my evening scrolling through category after category looking for something new. Once again, testing can confirm which approach works best for your particular audience. Perhaps the answer is to have a UX which offers two post-play recommendations to maximize the real-estate. A streaming equivalent of the old rhyme: something old and something new? 

To auto-play? Or not to auto-play? That is the question!

Speaking of UX, a debate we often get drawn into with customers is what should the post-play experience look like? Many of our streaming customers consider auto-play to be a bit too intrusive in scenarios where there’s not another episode coming right up. They choose to offer one or more recommendations that the consumer can opt-in to very easily, but not to make the play decision for them. One leading streaming service we’ve worked with calls it “auto-suggest” rather than “auto-play” for just this reason. 

Conversely, other services fully embrace auto-play. This comes down to understanding your customer and giving them an experience that fits their needs. If you’re confident that your customer wants to find good content but also avoid too much decision-making after a long hard day at work, then auto-play is a great solution, so long as you’re confident in the relevance of your content. 

In many ways, streaming services that do this are replicating the experience of a linear channel in a VOD scenario. Just as in the world of live TV - and especially the “laid-back” experience of big-screen viewing that 24i knows so well - many consumers enjoy not having to touch the remote too often. From the service provider’s perspective, it’s possible that by the time the customer has found the remote or the pause button, they will have seen enough to be convinced the suggested show is worth watching. 

If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your metadata for effective recommendations, you can wait for my next article coming next week, or you can download 24i’s e-guide: Five engagement-boosting strategies every streaming service should adopt right now.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from 24i. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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