Whip Media Launches Resource Center

Entertainment software platform and data provider Whip Media has launched the Center of Excellence, a professional services resource center to address new and emerging customer needs to drive efficiencies, automation and integration throughout the entertainment ecosystem.

The Center will be available to Whip Media clients globally and will work collaboratively with customers, strategic partners and advisors to gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the market for the company’s clients. The Center “will focus on integrating our customer’s needs and point of view into how we build products and solutions so that we are providing optimal value to them and the industry,” according to the company.

Melissa Kaspers has been appointed to the position of SVP of strategy and operations to lead the Center and oversee its programs around thought leadership, research and development, partnerships, education and best practices.  

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Kaspers is an experienced product executive and audience analytics expert with more than a decade of experience building technology platforms for enterprise and consumer companies, according to the company. In her new role, she will lead the the Center’s efforts to develop more intelligent tools and technology for customers. 

“Whip Media is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the media and entertainment industry, and our strategic client and partner relationships enable great visibility into the challenges faced by our customers and the industry as a whole,” Kaspers said in a statement. “Our Center of Excellence reinforces our commitment to a customer-focused culture that leverages our expertise and innovative ideas along with best practices to provide the most value to our clients.” 

Specifically, the Center’s programs include: 

  • a Customer Advisory Council and User Group, which is a forum composed of Whip Media customers that provides feedback and strategic guidance on market needs and demands with the goal to improve the product development process;
  • Whip Media Labs, a learning center for clients to help drive additional customer value and share best practices;
  • thought leadership from Whip Media executives who through research and events will share their expertise in the areas of audience and content insights, M&E operational processes and content monetization; and
  • the Licensing Lounge, an on-site experience powered by the Whip Media Exchange, the company’s content rights marketplace, that brings licensing experts and data analysts to offer predictive insights and recommendations based on a client’s content strategy.

 

For more information on the Whip Media Center of Excellence, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/coe.

Comscore CFO Departing

Comscore CFO Greg Fink is leaving the company “to pursue new interests,” the company announced.

Fink, who joined the media research firm in 2017, will depart at the end of August 2021. Comscore has retained a leading executive search firm to identify a new CFO, and Fink has agreed to provide support during the search process to ensure an orderly transition, according to Comscore.

“I thank Greg for his many contributions toward helping set the company on a course for success,” Comscore CEO Bill Livek said in a statement. “He has built a strong team, which I am confident will carry on the foundational work that enables us to continue our evolution to provide the best modern measurement services for the future of media.”

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“Over the last four years, we have developed a strong finance team, rebuilt our processes, implemented a new ERP, and refinanced our balance sheet.  I’m proud of the work we have done, and grateful for the opportunity to work with this team,” Fink said in a statement.

WarnerMedia Names Suja Viswesan Head of Data in Tech Group

WarnerMedia June 24 announced its newest technology and operations hire, Suja Viswesan, as head of data, completing the company’s executive leadership team for the tech group.

Effective immediately, Viswesan will lead the data, product and analytics strategy across the company’s technology and operations organization. This includes architecting and building a scalable and highly-distributed data infrastructure, as well as managing and optimizing core data infrastructure. Based in San Francisco, she reports to Richard Tom, chief technology officer of WarnerMedia.

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“Suja is the ideal leader to join our team as she not only has great experience that is deeply rooted in software development and big data, but she also brings with her a purposeful focus on building inclusive and global products and teams,” Tom said in a statement. “She will play a crucial role in how we apply data to build the best products and tools to deliver WarnerMedia’s content to millions of customers across the world, and I’m so excited that she’s here.”

Prior to joining WarnerMedia, Viswesan served as director of engineering at LinkedIn, where she led the big data applications and platform organization, and was responsible for the company’s data strategy, infrastructure and compliance. Her previous experience also includes leading a global team at IBM, where she supported the company’s global data and insights platform, as well as supported the development of the product management strategy.

“From VHS to DVDs to streaming, media has not only adopted and shaped bleeding-edge technology, but also has adapted to suit the demand of its audience,” Viswesan said in a statement.

Since joining WarnerMedia in June 2020, Tom has focused on revamping the company’s technology and operations structure, drawing on long-tenured leadership from across WarnerMedia’s existing businesses and importing external talent from top technology companies to its senior leadership team.

The technology and operations team is responsible for delivering the tech strategy, platform development and operations across the full scope of WarnerMedia’s portfolio of its linear, digital and streaming platforms. This includes the company’s data strategy, content delivery systems, master control operations, broadcast engineering, advertising technology and the technology platform for HBO Max, while also supporting the everyday underpinnings of the company and its global workforce.

In addition to Viswasen, the WarnerMedia technology and operations executive leadership team reporting to Tom includes:

  • Bob Hesskamp, a longtime veteran with more than 25 years of experience with Turner and CNN, serves as EVP of production engineering.
  • Patty Hirsch, a digital technology executive with past leadership roles at Warner Bros., Time Warner and CBS Interactive, is EVP of consumer digital platforms for the company’s entertainment, news and sports division.
  • Ben John, an engineer and established technology leader with previous roles at AppNexus, Experian and Kaplan Test Prep, serves as chief technology officer of Xandr.
  • Lonn Lee, who joined the company most recently from Facebook in November 2020, is SVP of product innovation, media supply chain and content operations.
  • Jason Press, a former Comcast executive, joined WarnerMedia in 2019 and serves as EVP of direct-to-consumer technology and program management.
  • Kevin Seng joined WarnerMedia in November 2020 from Snap, and serves as SVP of advertising technology.
  • Kathy Styponias, a longtime HBO technology executive, is EVP of strategy and business operations.
  • Mike Welch leads the Xandr business as EVP and GM, bringing 24 years of experience working in various roles throughout AT&T.
  • Jeff Zeitz, a Warner Bros. executive for more than 25 years, serves as SVP of enterprise and workplace technology.

Documentary+ Streaming Platform to Share Viewing Data With Filmmakers

Free nonfiction streaming platform Documentary+ announced it will share comprehensive viewing data with filmmakers.

Filmmakers on Documentary+ will be able to request personalized reports about the performance and viewing data of their films on the platform including insights such as top cities, age group, platform, gender identity and related films being streamed on Documentary+.

“As the first major platform to do this, Documentary+ is spearheading a new era in which filmmakers and distribution platforms can coalesce to work together more as partners,” read a press release from the service. “At a time when the majority of streaming services still withhold viewership data or share it sparingly, Documentary+’s commitment to creative transparency is revolutionary and intended to empower filmmakers. This breakdown of information will help creatives better understand their audiences, which content formats are most impactful in driving reach and glean insight into their long term roadmaps for future productions.”

“Doc+ is shifting the power dynamics of film ‘ownership’ and we as makers of films are the ones who benefit,” Turner Ross, co-director of Documentary+’s top-performing film Western, said in a statement. “It’s a simple parting of the curtain that shouldn’t be revolutionary: They give a platform to our work, that platform garners an audience, we learn who our audience is. It’s a simple democratic notion of transparency. What a novel idea.”

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“Corporate streaming platforms use the data from films to influence their content strategies — but they keep it away from the filmmakers,” two-time Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning Bryn Mooser, Documentary+ and XTR CEO, said in a statement. “We believe filmmakers should have that same access and let them do what they want with it — hopefully even use it to influence what they think about their future art. We are the first platform to share data with filmmakers, I hope it creates a trend for the rest to follow.”

Documentary+ launched earlier this year to serve as a home for documentary films and series. A joint venture between nonfiction studio XTR and the late Tony Hsieh, the streaming service is available globally for free on all streaming platforms including Apple TV, Amazon and Roku, mobile devices and www.docplus.com.

XTR has six films featured at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, including Ailey, Ascension, Like a Rolling Stone, Tigre Gente, Wake Up on Mars and Miracle Fishing.

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.

Whip Media Inks Data Tracking Deal With Tastemade

Software platform and data provider Whip Media Feb. 25 announced that Tastemade, a media company with a global audience of more than 300 million monthly viewers, will utilize its data performance tracking solution for linear free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST).

A lifestyle media company, Tastemade produces hundreds of hours of video content and original programming in the categories of food, travel, and home and design on all major digital, mobile and streaming television platforms, streaming more than 2.5 billion views each month, according to a Whip press release.

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“The rapid growth of Tastemade’s audience and global OTT distribution partners created the need for better content performance tracking specific to digital linear networks,” according to the press release.

FAST content programmers do not currently have visibility into title-level performance across multiple digital platforms, creating data inefficiencies for FAST networks that need this data to make strategic content acquisition and programming decisions, according to Whip. Whip Media leveraged its data aggregation capabilities to solve this problem by mapping FAST network’s performance data to both its linear schedules and internal metadata, creating an automated performance tracking solution for digital linear networks. Designed to handle scale and improve performance visibility, this platform will help Tastemade make more informed programming decisions.

“As we rapidly expand our global distribution footprint, we’re excited to work with Whip Media to deepen our understanding of how viewers engage with our content across multiple platforms,” said Jay Holzer, head of programming for Tastemade Streaming Network.

“We applaud Tastemade, a truly data-forward modern media company and streaming network, for bringing more visibility to the industry and FAST networks to drive innovation in their businesses,” said Carol Hanley, chief revenue and strategy officer of Whip Media. “This partnership will help Tastemade to leverage the power of their data to drive revenue and share their premium original lifestyle programming with more audiences.”

Whip Media Hires Former Fox Exec Sherry Brennan

Entertainment data and software company Whip Media has appointed Sherry Brennan EVP and GM of its licensing technology division.

In this newly created role, Brennan will lead the company’s development and go-to-market strategy of new offerings to improve how media companies license digital content globally. She reports to Rob Gardos, president of Whip Media.

Brennan has more than 30 years of experience in pay-TV, including nearly 15 years with Fox Networks where she focused on the distribution of Fox’s content in new and emerging platforms including Hulu, content protection, strategic research and optimizing Fox’s content strategy for the digital age.

“Whip Media is transforming TV and movie licensing by leveraging its first-party consumer sentiment data and sophisticated AI technology to optimize content monetization,” Gardos said in a statement. “Sherry’s vast experience in global content distribution and licensing will be invaluable as we deliver new products to the market to support that vision. I’m thrilled to welcome her to the team.”

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“After spending nearly 15 years at Fox negotiating hundreds of content licensing deals, I believe Whip Media is uniquely positioned to transform and future-proof global content licensing as business models continue to evolve,” Brennan said in a statement.

Prior to joining Fox, Brennan spent seven years at Cablevision focused on then-emerging VOD and digital TV, including content licensing, marketing and UI/UX. She began her career at Falcon Cable TV and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She is co-founder of a social platform for women over 40 (The Woolfer), as well as a Board Member for the Food Resource Action Committee (FRAC), a DC-based lobbying organization. She is based in Los Angeles.

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Whip Media through its content value management and data platform manages billions of financial transactions from more than 1,000 operators and OTT platforms around the world. Clients include Disney, Warner Bros., Hulu, NBCU, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate, BBC, HBO, AT&T, T-Mobile, Liberty Global, Discovery and Pluto TV.