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  • March 12, 2021
  • By Linda Abrams Head of Global Business Development, North America, 24i
  • Blog

Know Your Audience: Understanding the 'Who, What, and How' of OTT Streaming

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The widely reported deep-pocketed battle between Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu tells only half the story of the streaming landscape, with specialist and genre-driven OTT services finding similarly fertile ground in the online video space. In a market that’s growing—OTT video subscriptions are set to surpass two billion by 2025, according to Juniper Research—and is ready to burst with competition, passionate audiences and the decreasing cost of technology and infrastructure create space for these smaller and more targeted services. Yet it's a tough market to survive in. To flourish, smaller OTT services must understand the "who, what, and how" of their business to effectively grow and nurture their audiences.

Laying the Groundwork for OTT Success

Beyond having a strong foundation of popular content and the financial wherewithal to compete, it's essential for OTT services to know, nurture, and grow an audience in order to thrive.

It's never been more important for OTT services to know who their audience is, what they want, and how they consume entertainment. It is also vital to understand the nuances that drive their preferences and buying decisions. Understanding this conundrum is critical for any OTT service, and having a deep knowledge of an audience should start long before a service locks in its programming strategy or builds its first app. Surveys, focus groups, and trial apps can all help to determine whether there's enough demand to make a niche or thematic service viable.

Preparation Pays Off

OTT services may find themselves experimenting for up to two years with various short-form series and digital offerings to ensure their concept is marketable. Running a free channel on a pay TV service or leveraging social media marketing tools can form an essential part of pre-launch information gathering to test whether a particular concept has an audience. The important thing is finding ownable whitespace and being confident that people are going to respond.

Once an audience has been attracted to a specialist service, the challenge of keeping them is best addressed through a deeper understanding of their likes and dislikes so that they can be super-served. This is done not just with great content they'll love but also with a user experience that suits them. It's therefore little surprise that a common theme for niche OTT services is the fundamental importance of analytics. Smaller OTT services are all looking to create a feedback loop whereby the audience is not only listened to but feel they have truly been heard. The messaging, recommendations, personalization, and customer service all combine to feed the fandom of whatever niche content is being delivered.  

Predicting and Preventing Churn

Free trials can be a worthwhile investment for novel OTT services looking to hook new subscribers, but quality analytics will maximize that investment. A service can position titles that they believe are interesting from a curatorial perspective and can monitor audience behavior patterns that lead to success. For example, suppose three or four titles are particularly successful in converting subscribers from a free trial to a paid subscription. In that case, services can position these on the UI to achieve a better conversion rate for other subscribers.

Analytics help OTT services better understand their audience's behavior and extend the average subscription's lifetime value. There are several indicators services can monitor whereby different behavioral trends emerge, helping them strategically adjust their subscriptions based on the relevancy of the content available. It's possible to predict whether a viewer might be likely to churn after 60 to 90 days or whether they might be a 12-month subscriber. Services can then develop campaigns around these insights and target marketing towards these subscribers.

The best way to grow an OTT business is to put constant effort into retaining and satisfying existing customers. Happy customers are willing to add services and upgrade their current packages. It's also important to note that OTT services should not view the absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction. In fact, according to industry analyst Estaban Kolsky, just one in every 26 unhappy customers complains about the service—the rest churn. The real enemy of a growing OTT service is indifference.  

The Key to AVOD Success

Super-serving an audience is also essential in advertising-based OTT models. Particularly for services that run channels within a pay TV package or vMVPD, having a direct relationship with viewers can be tricky. This is where having robust analytics earlier in a deployment lifecycle can be invaluable. Knowing what your users look like, what devices they're using, and what the completion rate looks like is one thing. But it's something entirely different to segment these people to understand who it is that is using an app or service.  

An app may have a large number of monthly users. However, the data may show that it's only a relatively small number of regular users. Being able to target a high concentration of a specific demographic that's highly engaged and active has tremendous value for advertisers, helping boost ad revenues. Finding out which environments and device types are most used here is key, opening up more opportunities to sell ads based on which platforms make the most sense and are most aligned with an audience.


Embarking on a new OTT streaming service is an exciting journey. To succeed you need to make sure that the audience is connected and engaged with the product and its content. It's a process that takes time, with each action informed by analytics-based insights and two-way conversations with subscribers.

The journey certainly doesn't end with the app's launch and, in fact, keeping an audience entertained and engaged in the long term can often be the most complex challenge. Nonetheless, with the right preparation and business plan, the possibilities are endless for new OTT services.

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