By 2022 OTT revenues will top $83.4 billion – roughly half of the expected pay-TV revenues by 2022, which are expected to steadily decline over the same period.

Not bad for a technology once written off by some entertainment professionals.

But as the pie gets bigger, more players are starting to pick up plates and reach to grab themselves a slice. By our estimations, there are around eight hundred pure-play online video streaming services available to consumers worldwide.

This increase in sources of video entertainment hasn’t been matched by the addition of the same number of hours in a day. Viewers still have to work, socialize and look after their families within the same timeframe they did twenty years ago. What has changed is that they can now be a lot more selective in the content they consume in their free time.

And that’s why engagement has never been as critical.

In a video world increasingly dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook, each who command ever-rising content and technology budgets, it has become crucial for media players to find innovative solutions for increasing engagement and brand ‘stickiness.’

In the following paragraphs, we share some insights that we’ve picked up over our twenty-plus years’ working on the front-line with operators to achieve exactly that. We’d love to hear what you think. You can reach us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

#1. Understand Your Users

Billy Gregory is a former Senior Accessibility Engineer from The Paciello Group in Canada (he’s now their Director of Training – way to go, Bill) and summed up our first point on increasing engagement with a tweet:

'When UX doesn’t consider all users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?’

This is where it all starts - knowing your user. What drives their viewing behavior? How do they engage with your service? What aspect of their personality, interests, decision-making process and one thousand other attributes can be studied and used to define a user experience that they alone can see?

Only armed with this information, collected from a robust analytics platform and/or CRM, can you even begin to start increasing viewer engagement on your OTT service. Without it, you risk committing the cardinal sin of UX design – guesswork. At best you create a lukewarm “all-in-one” experience that reaches everyone but talks to no-one. At worst you put people off your brand for good.

Either way, it’s a lose-lose.

#2. Segment the Experience

Eighty percent of people say that brands are not tailored to their needs. The drive towards personalized experiences requires serious investment, and at the forefront of those efforts are large global market leaders like Netflix and Amazon. To stay competitive, smaller brands now have no choice but to try and keep up. 

In line with this trend, the industry has experienced an influx of direct-to-consumer OTT services targeted at a specific niche. DAZN caters to the global sports fan tired of paying large monthly pay-TV subscription fees; Britbox to English expats hungry for their dose of Miss Marple while abroad. These are two very different examples, but ones that share a fundamental trait.

They are built for a specific audience.

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From the content selection to the payment model to the consumer experience – all have been finely tuned to the expectations of their respective audience bases. As such, both services are growing from strength to strength. A week doesn’t seem to go by without DAZN announcing the acquisition of a new set of content rights and Britbox recently announced its milestone of hitting half a million subscribers.

🚨 Warning - Shameless Plug Incoming 🚨

Our tool AXIS helps TV operators segment and customize their OTT services in real-time. We’re not just talking about content – every aspect of what the consumer can see and touch across devices is fully configurable within AXIS.

If you deal in sports, craft an experience for your football fans that is different from the one you put in front of your basketball fans. Have a bunch of kids content? Ensure that every time a child logs in that’s what they see (like our customer, Telecine), not the promotions, advertisements or age-restricted programming you’re putting in front of adults.

🚨 Shameless Plug Over 🚨

#3. Show Customers You Care 

I was going to start with a stat here that would demonstrate the importance of customer service, but it seems a little moot. We all know how important it is. Good customer service builds trust, grows brand awareness, and reduces churn. No brainer.

But there are other ways to show the customer that you care beyond a kind help desk operator. Here are some examples of what we mean:

  • Make it Easy to Unsubscribe. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It may not be your fault – people just get bored sometimes. And if they want to leave, you should let them do so quickly and seamlessly. But not without offering them an exclusive discount first. NOW TV, the direct-to-consumer OTT service from Sky, are masters at this strategy.
  • Remember their Birthday. Simple but often overlooked. As part of your sign-up process, be sure to capture some personal details on the user that can be used to craft marketing campaigns where you offer a discount or tailored promotions.
  • Give Without Asking for Anything in Return. With the right collection of user data, you can optimize promotional campaigns around your most loyal customers. Offering a free month for your highest-value viewers is a short-term loss, but long-term gain.
  • Say Thanks. In an email, in the post,  or on-screen message. It’ll go a long way.

#4. Leverage Real-World Events 

There are several marquee events throughout the year that are guaranteed to generate some buzz – we call them ‘cultural temples.’ In entertainment, it’s the Oscars, Emmy awards, and Golden Globe award ceremonies and blockbuster releases. Sport includes a combination of World Cups, Olympics and (pick your sport) finals.

These are ideal opportunities for your marketing and content scheduling teams to get together and build promotional campaigns that will leverage the interest in these fixtures to generate engagement within your service.

For instance, say a hotly anticipated sequel to a Marvel movie is due to be released in the theatres. It’s generating a lot of coverage in the press and data from your service seem to suggest that movie sequels within your service are seeing an uplift in consumption as a result. Using a tool like AXIS, you can quickly create a row in your service like the below and target it to the users who have demonstrated an interest this type of content – all without writing a line of code.

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This works in the opposite as well. Say there’s a reason to quickly remove or hide the content featuring a famous actor or actress from your service due to a “real-world’ development, like if they were convicted of a crime. OTT providers should have the tools to quickly quash any negative association between the individual and their service.

#5. Have a Voice

Brands that don’t have a voice (or worse, try and copy the voice of a competitor) in 2019 are destined to crash. Nowadays, the personality that a company puts across its service and social media channels factors into the buying decision-making process.

Take Netflix. Here’s a recent exchange the SVOD service had with one of its customers around the conclusion of its show Sex Education.

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It’s a little edgy. It’s not for everyone. But it’s distinctly Netflix. Browsing through Twitter comments from users on the service read as if the OTT platform is a friend, one to return home to after a long day at the office and, dare I say, chill. The social interactions of many other streaming services read no different to a customer helpline – factual, informative but, overall, a little dry.

It’s this personality that shines through across all of Netflix’s social channels that sets it apart. Sure, alone it’s unlikely to move the needle – like in life, a bubbly personality doesn’t make up for lack of interesting content – but it does add a layer of gravity to the company that helps build deeper connections with their audience base. 

#5. Advertise - The Right Way

Advertising – a complicated subject. On the one hand, 38% of US online adult users have installed ad-blockers, and the curve seems to be heading up. On the other, digital ad revenues were expected to exceed $100 billion for the first time in 2018.

What is clear is that the way viewers expect to experience advertisements has changed. It can be summed up in three points.

  1. Their presence should have as minimal an impact on the viewing experience as possible.
  2. They should be targeted to the interests of the user seeing them.
  3. They should not be subject to long load times (one of the main reasons why people download an ad blocker, by the way.)

This trend has put pressure on operators who rely entirely upon or in part on ad revenue to fund their OTT video operation. But we think we have the answer. See below an example of what we mean.

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We call it ‘Sponsored UI’ – selling premium real-estate in the user interface to brands who want their products and services associated with particular content in a non-intrusive, but super impactful way. This could be just one or two rails of content, or an entire reskin for a limited time. It’s particularly useful for SVOD operators looking to scale their revenue potential without alienating customers who would raise hell at the sight of a pre- or mid-roll. 

#6. Provide a Great Content Mix to Enhance Storytelling

Ever since the dawn of man, storytelling has underpinned what makes us human. Whether it’s a tale of triumph over adversity, love conquering fear, or an underdog emerging victorious from hardship, our need for great stories has been one of the constants throughout our history.

Today, in the 21st century, there is no shortage of premium content out there to entertain the masses, nor platforms from which to consume it. Each of us in our pockets carries a portal to access the content we want to watch; most modern-day homes contain a device in front of which families gather to devour programming. And audiences have taken full advantage of this fact – streaming TV consumption more than doubled from 2017 to 2018.

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Operators and brands who leverage their unique ability to tell great stories in formats (that suit a user’s schedule) stand to gain greater market share. Take the NFL Game Pass app. Beyond broadcasting each game every week, the league offers its subscribers access to award-winning, documentary-style shows and behind-the-scenes content that provide great context around the players and teams – helping forge a stronger bond between fan and content owner.

The options to provide content beyond the title asset itself are limitless – short, bite-size clip, articles, photo galleries, text articles, highlights, recaps, interviews and documentaries examples of a few – and providing fans with the right combination of long-form to snackable content can help provide a more engaging experience.

#7. Master the Perfect Design

We’ve been fortunate here at Massive to have helped some of the world’s most influential TV operators define what it means to watch television over our twenty-two-plus years’ experience. And during that time our core belief that user-centric design can have a tangible impact on a business’s bottom line has been reaffirmed time and time again. Today, it can be the difference between keeping a customer engaged with your brand and them seeking the same programming elsewhere.

UX has always been one of the primary drivers of success in business, whether you’re delivering content, building smartphones or selling cars. It reminds me of the quote from Dr. Ralf Speth, the CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, who said:

'If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.'

The numbers back it up too. Forrester Research came out with a study last year, ‘The Six Steps for Justifying Better UX,’ which revealed that well-designed user experiences could increase conversion rates by over 400%.

In summary, content is surely king – but it takes excellent design to build the throne.

#8. Have Fun!

Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

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