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AVOD – Will a More Targeted “Marketing Centric” Approach End the Choice Paralysis?

On Platform ‘Real Estate’


On air TV marketing planning has always been dependent on ensuring that there is enough “marketing real estate” available so that targeted promotional messages are able to cut through and make an impact. This is generally the norm on linear TV, with the ability to run effective, targeted campaigns, provide simple navigation messages and generally guide the viewers through what can be a bewildering choice of content across channels and portfolios.


This real estate however is not always available on streaming platforms and we at JWM see this as a wasted opportunity. However now appears to be a good time to change that.


The Value Equation


Given the cost-of-living crisis, it’s no surprise that recent Kantar research has shown 2 million paid streaming services in UK homes were cancelled last year. This is the first annual decline to such services. However, evidence suggests that the demand for streaming is actually on the increase; ITVX figures for its first month of streaming in December showed a very impressive 55% year on year increase on its predecessor ITV Hub. Perhaps more importantly as ITV’s CEO, Carolyn McCall commented, ITVX attracted “harder to reach audiences”.


The overall decline in paid streaming has also coincided with the end of many introductory bundles with affiliates where new streaming services are offered for free for a limited amount of time. Once they become a cost, the cord is cut. Kantar explains that the slight bounce back at the end of the year can be attributed to people taking out temporary subscriptions over Christmas when families got together or the taking advantage of short-term affiliate offers. This tends to happen most years.


Looking at ITVX more closely to see its attractiveness to viewers, especially to those that had previously not engaged with ITV Hub, can be boiled down to 2 factors:

1. Content – ITV plan to spend £160m this year on exclusive first run content on ITVX and at least £800m over 4 years, the majority of which are high-quality dramas. It is a bold step away from being a catch-up service. As well as these exclusives, it has curated content, News, and clear categorisation.

2. Affordability – the core ITVX offering is free with advertisements.


In short, it’s a major step change away from ITV Hub and is being treated as the destination for viewers who don’t want to pay for great, exclusive content. It’s not an ITV HUB+ - it’s a whole new service offering.


Paid subscriptions have been acknowledged by Netflix as a barrier to uptake hence the introduction of their advertising tier model which reduces the subscription cost. This however has had limited success which suggests that it has struggled to reignite growth in the company. This to me indicates that many lapsed or non-users will only be tempted by Netflix if it is “free” or only subscribe for short periods of time to binge key content or at key seasonal times.


At JWM we have seen many of our clients launch ad funded streaming services as is the norm in their transition from digital to linear. These have seen a range of successes generally with content exclusivity and being free being the key positive factors.


The Consumer ‘Cost’ of Free Streaming.


So, the demand for ‘free’ streaming does come at an opportunity ‘cost’ to the viewer’s leisure time – notably they need to watch commercials. For many this does appear to be a cost the viewer is prepared to bear rather than taking out a paid subscription, or certainly multiple subscriptions.


Some of the new viewers to streaming services will be used to the more conventional linear services and the ones who have accepted advertising as the trade-off of for not paying subscription fees realise that this will mean watching content other than programmes. So, the cost of streaming is watching advertisements. Once this acceptance is realised then suddenly, we can address the key issue that we raised at the beginning - why not extend this to relevant, targeted marketing messages as well to address the dearth of marketing real estate?


The Consumer Choice Paralysis


Once viewers sign up to a service there is the paradox of choice. A Harvard study by psychologist Barry Schwartz concluded that marketers assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing for them. But this is not the case all the time. It showed that there can be too much choice.


“When there is (too much choice), consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection. It has confirmed that excessive choice can produce ‘choice paralyses, but also that it can reduce people’s satisfaction with their decisions, even if they made good ones.”


This is mirrored when viewers are given a multitude of choices on streaming services.

The huge challenge once a viewer has chosen a service is to get them to stay and watch what is relevant to them. Basically, to avoid endless aimless scrolling.


The user experience between each AVOD service is very different. More than ever, it’s vital for broadcasters to give viewers a seamless, easy to understand, simple to use targeted content offering. In other words a more targeted marketing centric approach. There needs to be a greater emphasis on relevant content discovery rather than a baffling all-consuming content offering.


Put simply you have got the viewer to the service – make sure that you tell them what is relevant to them once they have started viewing content.


A Marketing Centric Approach – ‘If it’s not Broken don’t Fix It’.


One of the glaring omissions on streaming services has been the capability for on-platform marketing. The original investment in services has been focussed on content development and acquisition, and not a on how to inform the viewers about what is relevant to them. Often there is no space to place promotions or navigation messages, in other words, no marketing real estate.


Why then don’t AVOD services mirror many of the aspects of linear TV marketing that have proved so effective for some 75 years? This has vastly been over-looked by many VOD services at launch – hence customers have been pointed to a service with little or no direction once they got there.


There is of course an opportunity to give viewers an informed choice. Accepting that the viewer is going to watch and accept advertisements there is no reason why promotions cannot also be scheduled i.e. a marketing real estate presence. Ideally, but not critical, if streaming services are accessed via registration, then campaign metrics such as meaningful reach and frequency can be applied to these promotion campaigns. From robust campaigns, learnings can be maximised through evaluation in viewer behaviour covering factors such as position in break, length of break and break patterns within content. Unlike linear campaigns there will be the ability to execute targeted campaigns on streaming platforms – in fact registration allows this evaluation to be dramatically stronger allowing for amongst other measures creative copy testing.


A major stumbling block we have encountered to the placing of promotions within VOD has been from sales teams. They often see promotions as detracting from the revenue earnt from the ad sales or viewers will switch– despite the service not under the constraint of time pressures faced in linear. We argue that given the viewer is invested in the content and accepts that the ‘cost’ of free streaming is advertising, then promotions should not be treated any differently. It’s not promotions or ads that can run in this real estate, they both can. As with all media control rules over frequency and volume need to be adhered to. We would say a maximum of 30 seconds promotion per pre/mid/end roll. This of course can be tested and refined.


To further overcome what can be a baffling choice to viewers, now is also the time for AVOD services to give simple navigation messages throughout content as one has become accustomed to in linear . Secondary events & continuity direction can be applied.


These could include.

· Simple menus

· Curated recommendations

· Voiced continuity.

· Targeted credit squeezes

· In Programme Pointers / Lower Thirds


So, utilisation of the very same techniques that have been so successful on linear services for over 75 years!


Simply put, this is a more targeted, marketing centric experience without the viewer having to actively seek out content by continual search which in turn will help eliminate the choice paralysis. The viewer has an informed choice as to what to watch at both that time and in the future.


Our Blueprint to Avoid Choice Paralysis – On Platform Marketing


The Creation of marketing real estate by:

· Capture of and access to marketing fit for purpose data.

· Creation of real estate for on platform promotions

· Targeted and measurable campaigns

· Simple navigation

· Continual testing and success evaluations


In summary robust on platform marketing can only but will lead to increased audience engagement, allowing the viewer in turn to experience the full benefits of what such a platform provides, hence fulfilling appreciation, creating loyalty and maximising frequency & volume of viewing.


James & Wilkinson Media 3rd February 2023


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