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Future of TV

Keep your viewers hooked: four steps for a 'one more video' mindset

By Steve Langdon, Director - Strategic Media Consulting Group

March 30, 2016 | 7 min read

Steve Langdon is the Director of the Strategic Media Consulting Group for Ooyala.

Last year, I asked a panel of online video content publishers what was their number one overall goal? One leader said without hesitation, “We want audiences to watch one more video.”

And rightly so, with so many devices and subscription services to watch content online, viewers have never had so many options for entertainment at their fingertips. Digital publishers have only seconds to make an impact strong enough to keep a viewer on the site watching content, engaged, and ideally, eager for more. So it’s vital to have a strategy to maximize the amount of time viewers spend on your site when you have them.

In order to guide audiences to watch one more video (and then another, and another), it takes a balance of audience insights, customization and creative thinking. Here is a four-step approach to accomplish this.

1. Follow The Trends

At a foundational level, recommendation engines gather video viewing data in order to offer trending or popular videos for viewers to watch next. As the process matures, viewing trends will start to bubble up about content performance and how audiences prefer to watch it. Use these insights about your audience and their behavior to build associated clips, packages and themes. And let the engine start surfacing the content you want to promote.

What are the viewing trends for a mobile viewer in the afternoon? How about on tablets at night? The trends are there, you just need to dig into the data. A properly gauged and maintained flow of content will help drive future recommendations, just be sure you make it simple for them to hit ‘play next’.

Also think about video lengths. Divide your videos into various lengths, analyze these splits, and adopt audience flow techniques for each. Watch how, where and why viewers drop-off during videos and make changes accordingly. The goal: keep viewers through the final frame, onto the next video.

2. Get Creative And Disrupt Yourself

Forward-thinking content providers need to be thinking about how to disrupt themselves, before being involuntarily disrupted. This industry is rapidly changing, and how consumers are watching TV is changing with it. It’s a tall order, but content providers must deliver additional value customers want before they find it elsewhere to remain relevant and stay ahead.

Here’s an example. I was recently working with a premium football pay-per-view cable channel that needed to give its audience something new, something to keep them coming back. The solution was an Internet simulcast, or the simultaneous live stream of a linear live channel, to reach new fans and meet their existing fanbase on new devices. The new facelift proved extremely valuable, not only for the viewers but for the business as well. For one, they’re reaching more audiences on more devices than before, and the content is now converted into additional video-on-demand assets, allowing their audiences to view catch-up at their convenience. All the while, the sports cable channel is expanding its library of content to serve more video, meaning more ads, meaning more monetization.

It’s a great example of an established channel reinventing itself to build value and, as a result, inviting millions of new global viewers to immerse themselves in a refreshed viewing experience. It’s all possible with creative thinking.

3. Tailor to the platform

Every platform is different. Compare how viewers watch video on Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter to an owned-and-operated web-based site, in-app streams or via connected devices like Roku or Chromecast. Each have their own nuance in how viewers consume video, and a successful video provider will tailor their content to each.

For instance, social media streams utilize auto-play as it’s shown to engage audiences and keep them watching more. Typically videos will auto-play sans sound, so tailoring your content to support that is critical, while keeping in mind social media viewers use video for rapid discovery and sharing. Grabbing attention quickly is critical, so start videos with a clear opening frame and strong hook. You can creatively and effectively craft your message in silence, using well-placed graphics and text.

Think about content testing. Make two different 30-second video versions. As a viewer, can you get as much from each without sound as you can with it?

Examine audience retention at quartile-viewing points over the length of each video. Are all your main hooks within the average time viewers spend on that length of content? Deconstructing a successful video clip lets you understand how to produce the next one and how viewing changes by platform.

4. Choose your business model wisely

Content owners often ask ‘Which monetization model works best for me?’

To think about which model could work for you, draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. The line represents a paywall with your video content on either side. To the left is your content ‘in the wild,’ where your success criteria are: reach, referrals and advertising, or in other words free-to-access. On the right is subscription content, with different success criteria: number of subscribers, duration of subscription and churn.

You may find that neither side of the paywall is the answer for your business, and you may need a hybrid approach, a recent example of this was when a cultural organisation came to us that wished to get their brand out to as many people globally as possible, yet also make some money from their core fans to continue subsidising their growing content library. In cases like this you can explore offering initial free access to your content paired with social teases to draw viewers into a paid offering. Or another model may place advertising on the most viewed and viral clips, while offering your full subscription-based catalogue for captured viewers.

Think about business goals. Consider costs and margins carefully, then choose a video model that meets your top-line business objectives, and continually analyze it for new opportunities. If consumption changes seasonally, explore a discounted subscription rate during high-churn months.

Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment. Consumers will tell you quickly whether you called it right or not.

There are many paths to achieving your video goals. Video can give you a marketplace advantage―if you know what questions to ask and (more importantly) how to take action on the answers. Monitor your results closely, stay flexible and creative, and you’ll ensure that your viewers are always watching ‘just one more’.

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