The industry organization OTT.X has announced it will return to in-person events, starting with a Los Angeles area Salon on July 22.
“It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 months since the last in-person OTT.X event, our NYC Roundtables in March of 2020, days before the city shut down,” reads a message to members. “We are excited to announce that in-person events at OTT.X are coming back.”
The 2021 OTT.X Summit: Conference and Market will also be in-person Sept. 1-2 at the Skirball Institute in Los Angeles, and the 13th annual OTT.X@Pipeline will also be held in-person at the Skirball on Dec. 8, the organization announced.
“We’ve learned a lot during the Pandemic about the value of virtual events, and we’ve developed a clear strategy for our future based on our learnings,” reads the message. “Over the past year, we’ve created networking opportunities and business meetings within virtual events — but these aren’t nearly effective as being in-person. On the other hand, offering panels and presentations virtually, both live and on-demand, have proven to be a value not only to our traditional attendees, but to a much broader audience unable to participate in person.”
Thus, OTT.X will not abandon virtual presentations. It will employ a hybrid strategy. Some events will be completely virtual, some events will be completely in-person, and some events, such as the Summit, may have some features of both (such as broadcasting the panels and presentations).
Rotten Tomatoes, a fan resource for movie, TV and streaming recommendations owned by Fandango, is expanding its entertainment footprint with the launch of the Rotten Tomatoes Channel, an OTT channel on The Roku Channel.
The 24/7 linear programming channel from Rotten Tomatoes will launch with more than 10 originally produced shows, totaling 100 hours of premium long and short-form video content.
The Rotten Tomatoes Channel is available now on The Roku Channel and is coming soon to Peacock, Xumo TV and vMPDs (virtual multichannel programming distributors), with more to come, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
“We are thrilled to extend our relationship with fans through our new Rotten Tomatoes OTT channel,” said Sandro Corsaro, Rotten Tomatoes SVP and chief creative officer. “The channel will not only deliver an around-the-clock celebration of entertainment but continue our brand promise to help fans find what to watch, by delivering the best movie, TV and streaming recommendations.”
On the Rotten Tomatoes Channel each week, viewers will get the latest trailers; breaking movie and TV news; new takes on beloved movie and TV scenes; conversations and games; and recommendations on what to watch. It will feature some of the biggest names in entertainment and will include interviews with stars such as Dwayne Johnson, Daniel Kaluuya, Awkwafina, Issa Rae, Robert Pattinson, Janelle Monae, Kevin Feige, Jordan Peele, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zendaya and more.
“Countdown,” a countdown to the best movies, shows, scenes and more according to the Tomatometer and top entertainment experts;
“The Vault,” a nostalgic look back at the best star interviews, red carpet chats, games, and more from the Rotten Tomatoes archives;
“Trailers Reloaded,” an opportunity to relive the hype around the biggest movies and shows ever with an extensive collection of trailers;
“Becoming,” in which Hollywood’s biggest names break down their biggest transformations from some of their most iconic roles;
“Rotten Tomatoes Essentials,” an informative look back at the movies, shows, stars and directors that defined genres and eras;
“Versus,” which uses Tomatometer scores, box office data, and more to settle the biggest movie and TV debates of all time;
“Oral History,” featuring the full stories behind the world’s most cherished films, shows, and franchises, from the people who made them great;
“Rotten Tomatoes Exclusive Interviews,” featuring the biggest stars and filmmakers in the world opening up about the movies and TV shows that have everyone talking;
“Aftershow,” in which ovie lovers, critics, and industry experts debate some of the biggest movies of recent times;
“Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong,” a video version of the weekly podcast, exploring some of the most beloved — and despised — movies and shows ever made;
“Scene Breakdown,” in which filmmakers and stars breakdown some of the most memorable scenes of recent times, moment by moment;
“Name the Review,” in which laughs ensue when stars are faced with some of their weirdest and harshest reviews; and
“Five Favorite Films,” in which filmmakers and stars share their all-time favorite movies — and why they mean so much to them.
Visits to its editorial content were up 157.4% in 2020 from the previous year — with a 26% increase in page views to TV and streaming pages, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Paramount+ launches with strong demand for its “Star Trek” series and original dramas, with seven originals at launch that rank in the “Outstanding” category of demand, according to Parrot Analytics, placing them in the top 3% of all TV series by demand.
“The fact that the platform’s top three series are all from the ‘Star Trek’ world suggests the emphasis on Paramount+ as the home of ‘Star Trek’ could be a winning strategy, ala Disney+’s use of ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ to build a massive subscriber base,” according to Parrot.
Paramount+ is outranking its most direct competitor — Comcast’s Peacock — in U.S. demand for original programming, according to Parrot. When compared to Peacock originals, Paramount+ has the top five and seven of the top eight most in-demand original series between the two platforms. Paramount+ has seven different series with “Outstanding” demand, compared to just one for Peacock.
Paramount+ has chosen several highly in-demand TV franchises to reboot or expand, targeting many different audiences, from anime, to sitcoms, to procedural dramas to children’s series, Parrot noted. CBS hit “Criminal Minds” will get a reboot. The show is currently drawing 36.5x the demand of the average series in the United States, putting it in the top 0.2% of all shows by demand.
“Considering it has been off air for more than a year and it’s still drawing this much demand, new content featuring this franchise will likely expand on its already massive audience,” according to Parrot.
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is another franchise that is ripe for audience expansion, according to Parrot. The show quickly became one of the top 10 most in-demand shows in the United States when it debuted on Netflix last summer, so Paramount+ getting the shows’ creators back in their fold looks like a “savvy move,” Parrot noted.
Parrot also looked at the potential for the streaming service, analyzing the content libraries it controls, including all titles they are able to regain once all licensing rights sold to third parties expire. In this regard, Viacom stacks up pretty well in its long-term potential, finishing just a hair behind AT&T, but well above Comcast and Netflix in the battle for library content demand, according to Parrot.
“Paramount+’s strategy of doubling down on the ‘Star Trek’ franchise while rebooting older highly in-demand TV content, along with its differentiators in the sports and news space, should place it in the middle tier of the streaming competition,” Parrot noted.
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.
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 ofSymphony MediaAI, a provider of revenue optimization solutions exclusive to the media and entertainment sector.
Nielsen’s Gracenote has launched a “Personalized Imagery” feature to customize images consumers see on streaming services.
The new feature will help video services present the most appealing program images to viewers in their user interfaces (UIs), content carousels and program guides, according to Gracenote.
Leveraging “Gracenote Video Descriptors,” including mood, theme and scenario in conjunction with cast information, the new imagery created by Gracenote will help optimize providers’ proprietary content discovery experiences and third-party recommendation results, according to the company.
With “Personalized Imagery,” linear and streaming TV providers and connected device makers can dynamically display program images capturing different aspects of a TV show or movie based on viewer preferences and previous consumption. For example, a theme such as “female bonding” might be the main element of a show that attracts one viewer’s interest while for another, its location or the presence of a favorite supporting actor could be the primary draw. The new Gracenote solution enables services to present the best images to individual viewers as they make tune-in decisions.
A recent pilot by a top-five U.S. streaming service that used targeted Gracenote program images instead of standard images resulted in an 11.2% increase in time spent watching titles and a 7.7% lift in the number of titles watched, according to the company.
“Viewers looking for new shows to watch today rely on program guides and UIs to browse available content choices,” Gracenote Kamran Lotfi, VP of product, said in a statement. “But a huge opportunity exists to deliver highly personalized user experiences that highlight content in ways that resonate more with viewers. With Gracenote Personalized Imagery, we are offering TV providers a proven way to increase engagement with their content and maximize viewership on their platforms.”
Gracenote is the content services arm of Nielsen Media.
DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s D2C Alliance Steering Committee Feb. 25 released a list of industry terminology endorsed by its members to help standardize communication about the various digital streaming models and services and to align the messaging regarding their features and benefits.
The Alliance-adopted terminology spans linear, transactional and subscription businesses:
AVOD: Ad-Supported Video-on-Demand services are usually free (no subscription fee) or discounted with the inclusion of advertising.
DTC: Direct-to-Consumer services deliver single- or multi-channel content to consumers directly from a network or provider.
DTO: Download-to-Own digital content is purchased or licensed from platforms like Amazon Prime and iTunes (similar to EST).
EST: Electronic Sell-Through enables standard or premium digital content to be streamed or downloaded by consumers for a fixed one-time fee over an extended period of time across multiple delivery points and devices.
FAST: Free Ad-Supported Television linear channels are delivered over the internet and available from third party platforms (e.g., Pluto, Tubi).
Linear TV: Linear TV refers to live or prerecorded television programs that are distributed in real time, rather than on-demand, by cable (e.g., Comcast), satellite (e.g., DirecTV), telco (e.g., Verizon Fios) or broadcast OTA (over-the-air) networks, as well as internet-delivered digital program distributors (e.g., Hulu + Live TV, YouTubeTV, SlingTV).
MVPD: Multichannel Video Program Distributors offer a variety of different linear content channels from multiple providers over cable, satellite or telco services (e.g., Comcast, DISH, DirecTV, Verizon Fios) on a subscription basis. Virtual MVPDS (vMVPDs) offer channels through internet-delivered services (e.g., Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV).
O&O: An abbreviated way to reference a broadcast station that is “owned-and-operated” by the network or company that it’s affiliated with. NBC 4 Los Angeles, for example, is owned and operated by NBCUniversal.
OTT: Over-the-Top services bypass traditional cable, broadcast and satellite TV platforms and use the internet to deliver or “stream” video directly to viewers. Netflix, Apple TV, and YouTube are all examples of OTT services.
PEST: Premium Electronic Sell-Through for a one-time fee offers a specific piece of digital content to be purchased or licensed earlier than its traditional release “window.”
PVOD: Premium Video-on-Demand services permit limited-time access, for a one-time fee, to a specific piece of content earlier than its traditional release “window.”
SVOD: Subscription Video-on-Demand services require a periodic fixed fee (most often monthly) for accessing and viewing content an unlimited number of times while a subscriber (e.g., Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max, Peacock).
TVOD: Transactional Video-on-Demand services charge a one-time fee for viewing a specific piece of content for either a limited rental period (typically 24 or 48 hours), or an extended collection period (EST).
The DEG’s D2C Alliance is focused on identifying the issues pertaining to both SVOD and AVOD services, including (but not limited to) definitions and standards; uniform messaging; activation and adoption; research and data analytics; consumer consumption patterns; improved quality of service; and generating greater overall awareness about the direct-to-consumer experience.
To this end, the Alliance also recently activated two new committees: TV & Connected Devices and DTC Targeted Services.
The members of the TV & Connected Devices committee include Amazon, Google, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony Electronics, TiVo, Verizon and Xfinity. The TV & Connected Devices committee seeks open communication with platforms and services as a way to improve the overall consumer streaming experience.
The DTC Targeted Services committee is comprised of specialized content companies, such as A+E Networks, AMC Networks, BBC Studios, FilmRise, National Geographic, The Great Courses, PBS Distribution and ScreenHits TV. The goal of the DTC Targeted Services committee is to ensure that the perspective of specialized services is represented in the key industry issues outlined above.
DEG’s D2C Alliance is guided by a group of Steering Committee executives, including Matt Strauss, chairman direct-to-consumer and international at NBCUniversal, as chair; Ron Lamprecht, director corporate business development at Amazon Prime, as vice chair; and Jonathan Zepp, M&E global partnerships, Google Platforms & Ecosystems, and Dan Cohen, president, ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group, as board officers. The officers were elected by the full D2C Alliance Steering Committee.
“Establishing accepted industry terminology is an important early step in both industry relations and consumer outreach,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO, in a statement. “This is an important milestone for the D2C Alliance as it moves forward with a strong base of support across platforms and services, device makers and content owners and distributors.”
Also Feb. 25, the DEG is presenting “The Maturing D2C Landscape,” an event to provide more insights about the emerging DTC ecosystem. The virtual event features experts from across the industry speaking about the targeted services landscape and the role connected devices play in consumer experience.
Premiere Digital, a media services, distribution and technology solutions company, has appointed Pamela Ng CFO.
In her role, Ng will oversee all financial operations and guide business strategy in line with growth and risk management initiatives, spearheading efforts in data-driven decision making.
She reports to Mark Lazar, CEO.
“Pamela’s financial leadership and expertise in supporting top companies make her a perfect fit for Premiere Digital,” Lazar said in a statement. “She’s the best individual to take on our next wave of investment in new technologies and work with the management team to help us rapidly grow our business.”
Ng has experience driving revenue, profitability and operational efficiency at top technology and CPG companies. Prior to joining Premiere Digital, she served as CFO at Irwin Naturals, a provider of premium vitamins; VP of strategy at Beachbody, a leading fitness streaming and nutrition company; and GM of Teleflora’s SaaS e-commerce platform.
“I am excited to step into the CFO role at Premiere Digital to help the company accelerate growth, and I look forward to working with the entire team to build on the company’s culture, momentum, and strong business and technology fundamentals,” Ng said in a statement.
Vubiquity, a provider of software and services to communications and media companies, has promoted John Smith and hired Cheryl Frohlich on its studio sales team in North America.
Smith has been promoted to SVP of studio sales in North America. Frohlich has joined the company as VP of studio sales, reporting to Smith.
Vubiquity is part of the Amdocs Media division of Amdocs.
“With over 20 years of industry experience, John is a well-respected leader whose deep knowledge of our business makes him ideal to guide our North American sales operations. This promotion is recognition of his many innovative contributions to our company,” said Raman Abrol, GM and chief commercial officer, Vubiquity and Amdocs Media, to whom Smith will report. “We are also thrilled that Cheryl is joining us and bringing her impressive expertise in media, entertainment and sales to the team.”
Frohlich joins Vubiquity from Deluxe Entertainment Service Group, where she recently held the position of VP, global client strategy. Prior to that, she was the global VP of enterprise account management at Whip Media. In these roles, she partnered with accounts in the OTT space, such as YouTube, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Pokémon, and provided post-production and localization solutions.
Hulu has officially launched the “Watch Party” feature for Hulu subscribers on Hulu.com, allowing up to eight Hulu subscribers to watch together.
After launching Hulu Watch Party through the “Watch Party” icon on each title’s Details page, viewers can share a link with up to seven other Hulu subscribers to join. Viewers must be 18 years of age or older to access the feature. While watching, group members are able to react in real-time through the chat function and control their own playback.
“Pen15” and “The Bachelorette” have been popular titles for Watch Party during the testing period, according to the service.
Starz has launched the direct-to-consumer OTT app Lionsgate Play in India, making premium Hollywood content available in multiple Indian languages, the company announced.
The service is priced at INR 699 for a year or INR 99 per month. In India, the app will be available to download across platforms and devices including the Google Play store, Apple app store and Amazon firestick.
New content available at launch includes the Anna Kendrick starrer “Love Life,” a fresh take on a romantic comedy anthology series; “No Man’s Land,” a Syrian civil war series; and “The Goes Wrong Show,” a comedy series with each episode having a different theme, including a period romance, spy thriller, a Deep South melodrama and a Christmas fable.
Movies offerings include the Jennifer Lopez starrer Hustlers, Gerald Butler’s action thriller Angel Has Fallen, the fantasy thriller Hellboy, and the action comedy The Gentlemen, starring Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant.
Starz first launched internationally with its Starzplay international premium streaming platform in 2018. This month it will expand its global footprint into 55 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, Canada, Japan and India.
“India has always been a key market for us,” Jeffrey A. Hirsch, president and CEO of Starz, said in a statement. “The large and diverse population, increased data usage in urban and rural markets, and adoption of OTT across all demographics created an exciting opportunity for us to launch Lionsgate Play. We’re confident that our unique, exclusive and exceptionally curated content will generate a great response from Indian audiences.”
“We will also be launching Indian originals in the coming months, featuring untold edgy urban stories from some of the best creative minds in the Indian film industry,” Rohit Jain, managing director of Lionsgate South Asia, said in a statement. “And we will continue our Lionsgate Play journey by adding to our deep roster of premium content through partnerships with exciting millennial stars like Kriti Sanon, Tiger Shroff and Sanjana Sanghi increasing the breadth and scope of entertainment for our subscribers.”