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When going out to eat sidelines Postmates, when the best seats in the house are no longer in the living room, and when a road trip takes you someplace more exotic than Trader Joe’s, what’s a streaming provider to do?

For more than a year, OTT video providers have had what literally were captive audiences. Consumers whose entertainment choices were constrained by lockdowns turned in increasing numbers to streaming services. OTT providers of all types saw several years of growth projections telescoped into a single year; at the end of 2020 combined U.S. subscriber numbers were more than 50% higher than they had been the previous year.

The challenges for streaming providers now are twofold: First, keeping viewers engaged and satisfied as dining and entertainment diversions again become available in the United States and elsewhere; and second, reaching beyond the low-hanging fruit of the last 12 months to attract new viewers.

Already, we’ve seen fault lines develop across the streaming landscape. Just 20% of streaming subscribers are content to stay with their current providers, according to Interpret. Consumers also are making choices based on specific shows, with 20% switching among services to watch platform exclusives and 13% cancelling a service after watching a particular series. And Omdia reports a 10% decline in the AVOD user base in the United States since the end of 2020.

With consumer loyalties in flux and 300 services competing for eyeballs in the US alone, streaming providers need to ask themselves these questions: Do I have the scale and the agility to capitalize on new adoption and monetization opportunities? How do I help trial or new subscribers see the value of my full content catalog? How do I become part of the viewer’s daily habit? Here are some thoughts our Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder, Paul Pastor, shared on “Data and Decision Making in Video Services,” a recent Parks Associates panel:

  • Apps should be fine-tuned to provide the best possible customer experience. While personalization, customization and engagement are all important, a poorly performing app or a glitches in content delivery can send customers streaming for the exits – and into the arms of a competitor.
  • Along with cost, a leading cause of churn is inability of subscribers to find new content of interest once they’ve finished watching the show that originally brought them to the service. OTT providers need to expedite discovery of content that can keep viewers engaged beyond their initial point of entry.
  • Data generated at every point in the marketing funnel should be used not only to inform viewer recommendations, but also to track how consumers interact with the platform and to shape platform improvements and content acquisition.
  • In the long run, providers should go beyond recommendations and superserve different cohorts with new features – Apple SharePlay is an example – that make products stickier and more engaging, reducing the temptation to unsubscribe and driving monetization.

As the pandemic wanes, streaming providers are entering uncharted waters with masks coming off and the resumption of traditional leisure pursuits. We’re not crystal ball types, but we are certain of this: those OTT providers who continue to thrive in the months ahead will be those who make data a priority amidst the crowd of competitors in the post-pandemic future.

Eric Goldstein