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Three Keys to Delivering the Ultimate OTT Experience

Right now, OTT services abound. From incumbents like Netflix and iTunes to quirky point players like Sling and Hulu, there’s no shortage of on-demand content from a range of sources, each with their own approach to programming and definition of ‘premium.’ While I’d love to predict a day when tuning in is as simple as the days of yore, the future is more likely a mosaic of sources that consumers will have to navigate and subscribe to. It’ll be on marketers to educate them and on billing platforms to monetize them. For now, here’s a snapshot of how to make ‘premium’ worthy of the name.

Quality of recommendation engine

It’s not just about breadth of choice. What makes content feel luxurious is the relevance of recommendations and the navigational ease of the portal. The library may indeed be extensive, but it’s a mistake to think folks will pay for things they can’t find. Successful premium services have slick meta-menus that deliver users unto the content they want at exactly the right time.

When we think back, old-school TV did a good job of this. Networks knew the approximate time families would be finishing dinner, and they’d start off the night’s lineup with primetime shows, news, late-night and so on. They also knew Tuesday-night audiences were different from Friday ones.

These days, things are much more personal. OTT providers have much more than timing to contend with. They have to know what you watched before, how much of it you watched, how much you liked it, what else you browsed and so on. They also need to know how many viewers are in your household and convince you to set up separate profiles so that everyone develops a personal relationship with the service. And then they need to keep you long enough for the engine to learn your desires well enough to deliver more of the good. Back-catalogue streaming is a great way to learn a customer. How quickly does someone binge through a particular series? During which episode did they abandon it? When were they moved enough to rate a title? Do we continue listing films by genre, or do we list them by moods, such as ‘Stressed at Work” or ‘Nostalgic for Childhood’?

Partnerships and coopetition

Even with spot-on recommendations, a service will not feel premium unless it appeals to a heightened sense of lifestyle. In fact, I’d argue the more an OTT service feels like a life enhancement, the better. When service providers can tie subscriptions to other perks, such as discounted green fees or flight upgrades or free tickets to U2, the more they will become an indispensable presence in customers’ lives. I say instead of a ‘Recommendations Engine,” we should call it an “Amusement Engine.”

In the same vein, a service provider could sign a partnership with the NFL to deliver exclusive content or with E! to deliver a raw backstage feed at the Oscars. All brands involved stand much to gain in loyalty. For the service providers’ part, they have differentiated their brand in a way that keeps customers coming back and in a way that provides ongoing real estate to surface more content and create more programming bonds.

Free trials and the psychology of adoption

I won’t belabor the importance of the free trial. My last piece dealt this very topic. For now, suffice it to say that if customers can’t dip their toes, the provider is dead in the water. There’s no place for nickel-and-diming in the subscription economy. YouTube is always just a click away.


About the Author

Gene-Hoffman-2013-06-07Gene Hoffman, CEO of Vindicia