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Is Your Streaming Service Fit for Whatever Comes Your Way?

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How certain are you of what’s next for the streaming industry? We know video streaming continues to grow and is rapidly eclipsing traditional methods of viewing, but what does your crystal ball tell you about the future role of AI or the impact of writers’ and actors’ union strikes? Did you accurately predict the dramatic growth in FAST channels in the USA, or that Netflix and Disney+ would pivot to offer ad-funded tiers? Were you ahead of the curve on the rush to Connected TV viewing? Can you be sure what devices, business models, and technologies will reign supreme in the coming years?

The short answer is, of course, “No.” Despite the flurry of predictions that are released in each January and to coincide with big shows like NAB and IBC, none of us can be 100% sure what’s coming next. M&A, shifting rights deals, and wider economic conditions can all bring rapid change to even the most stable organizations. So, it’s essential for all streaming services to build-in flexibility to their operations and tech-stack to ensure they can more easily and rapidly pivot in the face of the winds of change. But where do they need it most?

Based on nearly 15 years experience helping streaming services of all sizes to grow their revenue on devices of all kinds, 24i has compiled a list of the four key areas where we believe it’s most important to retain flexibility. Here are our tips on what to look for in each of these areas:

1. User experience: Go for configurable over custom, plus cross-platform appeal

Viewers love the big screen experience, but that can mean a multitude of things - Apple TV, a Roku box, an Amazon Fire Stick, or an app on a dozen different smart TV operating systems. Building a custom app from scratch for every device is simply not fast or cost-effective. Simplifying your design, build and maintenance processes around a single, cross-platform application codebase is essential.

Choosing this kind of white label solution should not mean sacrificing a differentiated and fully branded user experience, however. Look for a solution that enables you to quickly configure as many parameters as possible in your apps so you’re in charge of the look and feel. The more parameters you have control of in your applications, the more likely it is that you can quickly accommodate future business needs or rebranding exercises. Consider also whether the solution can support customization in the future as your needs grow, without starting again from scratch.

2. Business model: Demand asset-level availability and integrated ad data

Any streaming service that has tried to quickly add AVOD to their SVOD offering or integrate FAST channels into their VOD app will tell you that blending or adjusting business models in an existing app can present significant challenges, not only for UX but also content and rights management. Their tech stack may only allow availability windows to be assigned to a group of assets rather than per episode or season. Some will only allow one set of availability information per video asset.

Ultimate flexibility requires asset-level availability that allows you to configure a choice of business models per asset. This gives you the freedom to define access rules that reflect your business goals. For example, offering one or two episodes of a new show as AVOD to get users hooked, then upselling them to SVOD to watch the rest. Or switching assets from our premium SVOD tier to AVOD and then back to your basic SVOD tier over the course of their lifetime to get the very best from the content you’ve invested in.

When it comes to ad-funded content, we know that not all views are worth the same. To maximize CPM, look for a streaming platform that is able to hold knowledge of both the content metadata and the viewing preferences of individual (anonymized) viewers using profiles. This will enable you to feed combined information to your dynamic ad insertion (DAI) provider to get ads that are both addressable and contextual. This is an important consideration for the many FAST channel providers now looking to move beyond their initial channel syndication strategy and take more control of their content with their own direct-to-consumer applications

3. Content discovery: Seek out a mix of automation, curation and personalization

Content discovery is one of the most crucial aspects of your streaming user experience. If users sign-up to watch one flagship show and then leave, you’ve wasted significant user acquisition costs. Getting them to discover and taste a wider range of the shows you have on offer is crucial to keeping them long-term. Analysis of our customers with subscription-based streaming services suggests that getting users to try more than three different content brands within the first 14 days of their subscription is key as it results in a 55% lower likelihood of churn.

So how do you make that happen? Automated playlists are an essential content management tool if you want to expose users to as much of your library as possible. Instead of manually adding content to a rail in your app, you can set parameters that are then used by your CMS to automatically pull-in content that matches those criteria.

Look for a solution that will enable you to mix and match criteria in imaginative ways so you can surface content to your consumers in equally imaginative ways. Combine genre with a year to get a collection of “80s Horror” that spans both movies and TV series. Or pull-in all the content you’ve got featuring two specific actors who are making headlines right now. The more parameters that can be combined, the more creative you can be in promoting your content while remaining efficient.

Of course, everyone has their own personal tastes and it's impossible to please everyone. Or is it? Streaming personalization is really good for business. Data from companies that use a personalization platform, such as 24iQ, suggests users who interact with content that’s recommended based on their viewing habits will go on to watch almost twice as much content (44.7%) as those who don’t interact with recommendations. Imagine what “twice as much content viewed” would do to your AVOD or FAST revenue, or your SVOD churn rate? Automated personalization is the ultimate in flexibility and can’t afford to be overlooked.

4. Integrations: Investigate innovation track-record, consider a headless future

It’s not just the consumer-facing elements of your streaming service that need to be flexible for an uncertain future. Whether your backend technology is an all-in-one solution, a bespoke collection of technology providers, you need to be sure you’ve got the ability to adjust it over time without crippling costs or development timelines. Look for complete platforms or constituent vendor solutions that not only have plenty of current partner integrations, but also a track record of adding innovative technologies as they emerge. A flexible and well-documented API means the vendor (or your own integration resources) can more easily connect a new technology or partner capability when required.

Another area to consider is whether the vendor’s solution can pivot to be used as a “headless” technology. In other words, can the constituent parts be used separately, allowing you to switch video backend, for example, or to move to a custom front-end application in the future without changing CMS? If a vendor’s front and back ends are inextricably linked, you may find you need to throw away the whole infrastructure just to change one element or because you need to reach consumers on an emerging device platform that’s not supported by your vendor’s system.

You can get more hints and tips on flexibility around UX, business models, content curation and integrations - and the implications to your bottom line here.

[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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