Churn Is OTT’s Great Challenge of 2021; Smarter Data Is the Solution

Every click, tap, and keystroke contains valuable information about the customer on the other side of the screen. Multiply those interactions by the 200 million streaming subscribers in the United States, and the result is a trove of data on how Americans are consuming, and abandoning, content. Media executives are turning to that data to overcome the vexing problem of customer churn.

Mark Moeder

OTT churn in the U.S. market reached 41% in the first quarter of 2020, up 6% from the previous year. It dropped to 38% by the third quarter, compared with 46% in Q3 of 2019. Fluctuating subscriber trends reflect the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns and economic uncertainty, which will influence consumer behavior for years to come. Media providers are bracing for the impact.

Weathering the storm will take actionable, predictive insight gleaned from every possible first- and third-party data source. Data-driven churn mitigation strategies call for scalable technology that can make sense of the mass, and mess, of available data.

The Anti-Churn Tool Kit

Almost two-thirds of media executives see “exploiting rapidly increasing availability of data” as a business opportunity, according to a global EY survey. Those who can move swiftly from data collection to quality insight will see the greatest impact on subscriber retention.

The danger lies in impartial execution. The most accessible data sets are not necessarily the most valuable, but organizations frequently rely on such limited sources to develop the customer profiles that drive engagement strategies. Even experienced media executives may not know what other data to look for, or how to make sense of it.

Truly anticipating what customers want takes deep data analysis at scale. Enterprise artificial intelligence enables rapid and comprehensive subscriber intelligence. One of AI’s most powerful capabilities is sorting unstructured data from diverse sources to find the most valuable insight. Media providers can leverage AI technology to get more value from these five essential data sources:

  • Interactive: Every decision made says something about what matters to a customer: search queries, session frequency and duration, and content genre and theme preferences.
  • Technographic: Companies should know customers more deeply than their demographics. Factors like device hopping and ISP speed impact customers’ experience of the content they choose to engage with.
  • Quality of experience: Streaming performance is a key differentiator for VOD audiences. Metrics like initial start time, buffering instances, and bit rate contain important signals that correlate to customer satisfaction.
  • Transactional: Payment data such as credit card expiration date and billing activity can indicate which promotional tactic will be most effective to minimize subscription lapse and maximize renewals and upgrades.
  • Marketability: Advanced segmentation based on churn risk rather than familiar (but potentially less effective) demographic criteria can optimize outreach, minimize customer acquisition cost and maximize lifetime value.

 

The Window for Differentiation Is Closing

Right now, AI is a competitive advantage, but eventually it will become table stakes in the industry. In 2017, as media and entertainment companies began experimenting with AI tools, Tod Loofbourrow, an entrepreneur and former Harvard Business School lecturer, said, “We’re at the very beginning of a 20-year megatrend.” Today, the same companies are now at drastically different stages in their AI journeys. But the window for AI differentiation, when they will have the opportunity to work with that data to reduce churn, among other cost-saving benefits, is already closing.

According to a global Gartner survey of chief information officers, including those in non-media companies, AI implementation in 2019 grew a remarkable 270% in the previous four years and 37% in the past year alone. A McKinsey survey that same year found that “a majority of executives whose companies have adopted AI report that it has provided an uptick in revenue in the business areas where it is used.” Only more companies, including media and entertainment firms, will apply AI to their business in the future.

Subscriber loyalty is a critical executive priority, and data is proliferating. For media and entertainment companies, time is of the essence to leverage that data. Executives can’t afford impartial insight if they intend to take decisive action to address churn. Comprehensive, scalable intelligence is essential to make churn mitigation an immediate reality. AI technology is the most effective tool available to bridge the gap.

Mark Moeder is the CEO of Symphony MediaAI, a provider of revenue optimization solutions exclusive to the media and entertainment sector.

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