Putting data central in a broadcaster multiscreen strategy

ComingNext.TV is constlanty looking for strategies and trends that help broadcasters, advertisers and production companies stay competitive in a rapidly transforming market. We have developed a new strategic framework, that illustrates how to put data central in a broadcasters multiscreen strategy.

New devices, new behaviour

TV is globally still the most important medium in its ability to reach, inform and emote large groups of people. It is a familiar value for advertisers and hence a reliable revenue stream for broadcasters.

The rise of smartphones and tablets is challenging the dominance of television as the viewer’s attention is not limited to one big screen – the TV screen – anymore. The device itself is also changing as traditional TV sets are being replaced by smart TV’s.

This graph shows the number of connect TV sets globally from 2010 to 2012, with a forecast until 2018. It is estimated that by the end of 2018 there will be around 759.3 million connected Smart TV sets globally.


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Users are embracing the interactive capabilities of the smart devices and eyeballs are shifting away from linear TV to streaming and on-demand services. Netflix subscriber base tripled from 23 million in to 75 million in 2015, and the number is still rising. In advanced markets like the US and some European countries over 20% of households have a Netflix subscription. Millennials lead this trend of device-independent content consumption, Ericsson found that 16-34 year olds spend 53% of video viewing on smartphone, tablet or laptop.

“The ongoing shift from linear television to ad-free (Netflix) or ad-light (Hulu) OTT consumption, meanwhile, means that audiences can also watch 20-35% more video content per unit of time than they could during the days of linear-only viewing.”

A new generation of viewers want to watch whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want it. This introduces new viewing moments, for example when travelling or during the lunch break. But viewers also demand that content is available on-demand and on any device. YouTube and Netflix offer that and reap the benefits of this changing viewer behaviour.

Just copying content from one screen to the other however is not enough. Content needs to be tailored to each platform individually and a data centric approach is key.

More engagement, more data

With multiscreen formats, which complementary experiences on different screens, broadcasters can leverage the strength of different devices and screens. It allows users to engage with the format outside of broadcast hours, thus creating additional touchpoints. This can be off-platform engagement like Jimmy Fallon’s highly popular YouTube posts, or on-platform engagement like the mobile apps for The Voice.

The value proposition for the viewers evolves from a passive experience – watching content – to active engagement: participation, influence, social sharing and extended storylines. This requires login to let the user to have an experience consistent across platforms.  Data is needed to measure the reach and engagement for creators and advertisers.

Engagement drives ratings and downloads

Second screen participation during a show, and then using the results to influence the show on the TV screen drives ratings. Scientific research has shown that intense Twitter usage by ‘Survivor’ US increased participation with users and drove ratings. Here you can read about how buzz drives ratings in our blogpost.

Leading broadcasters like Channel 4, NBC and M6 are acknowledging the value of engagement through participation and program participatory formats. ‘Qu’est ce que je sais vraiment’, for example, is a show format from M6 that allows viewer to play along. Not only does it engage the audience by allowing them to participate, it drives downloads and sign-ups for the M6Play app and generates detailed individual user data that can be used for targeted advertising.

Engagement on Social Media 

Sharing on social media drives engagement in two ways. As viewers associate themselves publicly with a show they strengthening their commitment to it, which can drive tune-in. The people who see these shares, are then more likely to tune-in. Nielsen demonstrated the causal relationship between Tweets about TV content and ratings. To drive social sharing, producers use hashtags, social handles like @TheVoice and show Tweets in the show.

Broadcaster use Youtube as a platform for content that is not shown on TV, but is made for digital. Shows like Jimmy Fallon and The Voice are taking social engagement to a next level, by creating content, which is exclusively created to be shared on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram (so called off-platform from a broadcaster’s perspective). YouTube is not only used to provide video content but also to drive traffic to other media channels. FOX’s successful show ‘Empire’ just launched a digital aftershow, only available on YouTube and hosted by one of the actresses, Ta’Rhonda Jones.

The data broadcasters get from social media is much more detailed than normal ratings and ‘social buzz’ is a valuable source of information for the shows producers. As most of the data resides with the social media platforms, the data value of off-platform engagement is limited.

New and more forms of content

Additional content can also be distributed through owned properties. Apps like Amazon X-Ray and Orange’s Game of Thrones app use this approach to provide additional information about a show, behind the scenes content, and background stories.

AMC takes with story synch a different approach and provides a live sync app that follows the progress of a show and shows additional information, polls and predictions.

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User engagement on owned properties like apps and websites is more difficult to achieve as it requires extensive calls to actions and cross-promotion strategies. The data value of these properties is much greater. These new touchpoints provide information about the individual viewer and can increase the engagement of the most loyal fans.

Data and content discovery

In all these examples, data plays a central role in the content creation process and how content gets discovered by the user. This level of personalisation is only possible, if accurate and extensive metadata has been added to the content on the platform in order to learn what content the user likes to watch. How well the recommendation system and personalisation works, is highly dependent on depth and correctness of the meta data.  

Every title on platforms has hundreds of metadata points: The genre the titles can be classified in, which actors are playing, which producers, which production year, which social and cultural background, which language and so on. Additional usage data like the amount of titles watched, at what time the user watched content, on which device the user watches content, provide the basis for making the recommendations individual.

How to make sense of the data

Recommendations are essential as the amount of content is exploding, but the user ideally wants to go through an easy discovery process and end up with the content he or she really wants to watch.

Netflix is famous for its recommendation algorithms. New users need to state their preferences (‘Choose three shows you like’) and build a viewer profile based on usage data. Netflix itself calls it ‘member cold starting’ in its recently published white paper. YouTube does not ask for preferences at the beginning, but its page construction algorithm is built on previously watched content, the usage history.YouTube builds its recommendations on similarities in genre, publishers, or on what other people viewed after watching specific titles. Simply put, Youtube is comparing similar use cases and following the principle ‘other viewers also watched’.

Data plays a central role in future programming and content discovery strategies. Multiscreen formats deliver a wide range and wealth of data, that can be collected and used in many ways. Either to directly integrate data in a feedback loop and influence the show content itself, or to get an in depth user profile over a longer period of time. The latter also builds the basis for a well functioning recommendation system. Both drive user engagement and increase the experience and value for users. A data centric approach is a strategic necessity for broadcasters impacting content creation, distribution, and viewer engagement. It is the key requirement to move from a one-to-many medium towards a tailored and personalised proposition.

In our next blog post

In part II of this post, we explain how a data centric multiscreen framework makes sense for advertisers and sponsor integration. Want to be notified as soon as we publish it? Sign up for our newsletter below or follow ComingNext.TV on Twitter.

How we can help you

ComingNext.TV supports broadcasters, production companies and advertisers the multiscreen space. With our workshops, research and consulting services we design, deliver and improve multiscreen activities. Contact us to find out more.

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