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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Cross-industry strategies for customer acquisition in media

February 15, 2021 | By Jose Luis Kruyff, SVP Broadcast/OTT, Americas — MPP Global @mppglobal

There is a lot that the OTT and publishing industries can learn from each other in terms of acquisition strategies. With a bit of adaptation, each could improve customer signups in unexpected ways.  

Ultimately, both industries focus on selling content direct to consumers. And there is significantly more crossover than there would have been 10 years ago, as video and online media have become the most common form of content consumption. OTT Market growth is expected to grow by 14% in 2021 and new digital subscription orders rose 420% in 2020 against the previous year. This provides the impetus for organizations on both sides to take advantage of this period of continued growth, and many of the strategies of one industry can be adapted and applied to the other.

Key Takeaways 

  • Physical and digital provisions are no longer silos in themselves, and are forming parts of a more unified strategy 
  • Payments and subscription dates can be disconnected for greater flexibility 
  • Offering the ability to pause subscriptions rather than cancel outright can reduce churn 
  • Bundling products together to form more focused packages can be more enticing than the all-you-can-eat approach 
  • Streamlining registration and payment journeys is critical to maximizing conversion 

Free content  

A common strategy in the publishing sector is to provide a certain amount of content for free. This might be a limited number of free articles, or content types/genres that is free to unregistered customers. Meanwhile, in OTT and SVOD, the general rule is to have content locked behind a paywall or have all content available for a limited free trial period. This is a commercially restrictive “all or nothing” approach.  

An alternative value exchange would be to provide a metered registration wall. In this way, you offer customers the ability to watch selected content for free in return for creating an account and sharing their personal details.

For services that do not provide a free trial, this can help entice new customers who get the opportunity to see the quality of the service. For churned customers, it is an opportunity to bring them back in. It also generates an opportunity to increases customer loyalty through other strategies. 

Subscription holidays  

A common scenario within the publishing sector, particularly those publishers that operate physical delivery, is where customers wish to “pause” their subscription for reasons such as going on holiday, or a financial decision. These customers do not want to churn. In this “subscription holiday” approach, access and payments are paused for a set length of time agreed by the customer and the provider. 

OTT, on the other hand, is either active or inactive. Customers who need to make this decision must typically cancel their subscription and then remember to reactivate. Once churned, they may choose not to come back at all. There are some services, particularly sports services such as BT Sport and Sky Sports, which offered to pause subscriptions in part of 2020 due to a lack of sports events. In the case of BT Sports, the payments could be halted, or donated to the NHS. Other sports-based OTT services offered payment holidays to their customers during this time.  

For OTT Sports, this is helpful for retaining customers who would otherwise churn in the off-season. Instead, customers can be at ease knowing their subscription and billing will only be active when they need the service.  

Product bundling  

Bundling is the process of combining multiple products and offering them in a single package. Using customer data insights and personalization solutions such as Zephr, businesses can get clear insights into the reading and viewing habits of their customers.

This data can be used to identify products that often perform well together. Then, those products can be offered in a package to the customer dynamically as an acquisition incentive. For publishing, this could be discounted access to certain articles based on topic, a group of magazines, or relevant discounts on third-party services. For larger OTT providers, this can be access to specific categories such as kids shows or movies.  

Express registration and checkout  

Netflix offers a model example of easy signup. Provide an email address and password and the customer account is ready. Amazon and Now TV both have simple sign-up pages to get customers viewing their content quickly. The key element is reducing the amount of personal data collected at the point of sign-up. The typical registration flow will offer email and password, or Social Sign On. Long signup forms are rare in the OTT space.

Publishing can stand to learn from this lesson: Customers expect as frictionless a sign-up process as possible. Where metered registration walls are used, it is a good idea to put the single sign-up process in a prominent place, using SSO and email/password only.Ensuring the registration and payment appears on a single page also reduces time and friction, which can increase acquisition rate. Publishers and OTT providers based in the European Economic Area (EEA) should also be aware of regulations around Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) and factor customer identity checks into their billing journeys.

Best of both

Acknowledging that content does not have to be an all or nothing approach. Using data to personalize offerings and create bundled content tailored content is a great way to win signups from customers.  

Physical and digital are no longer separate silos but are both key parts of the acquisition strategy. The popularity of video only continues to increase and is now the expected content format of any brand. The lines between OTT and publishing are continuing to blur. So, organizations that learn from this shift in expectation early stand to see major gains in customer acquisition. 

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