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Streaming Service Market: How to Stand Out

Streaming Service Market: How to Stand Out

Streaming Service Marketing: Some automation efforts on digital platforms have reduced the burden of manual labor in marketing large-scale streaming video-on-demand inventory.

Marketing on a streaming service: it's hard to avoid facts that make you feel your age - I recently realized that there are people who are legally adults who have no idea that Netflix used to send DVDs through the mail. Before it became the world's most popular over-the-top (OTT) streaming service with nearly 150 million global subscribers, it helped bridge the gap between the days of heading to the local video store and the way we consume media today. Many have tried to follow in Netflix's footsteps, and with so much choice, audiences have become increasingly fickle and impatient. They want the best content possible at the lowest cost, and they want it available 24/7.

This year will be especially crowded in the OTT subscription market as Disney+, Apple TV+, and Britbox all launch to steamroll Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV, Roku, Hulu, HBO Go.... the list goes on. So how can brands stand out from the (crowded) crowd when launching a product like this?

Exploring niche audiences

Unlike your internet or gas provider, streaming services have the unusual quality of allowing users or households to choose more than one. In fact, a compelling argument for many of these big brands setting up new services is that almost half of UK households have more than one streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) subscription, and that the number of households with multiple subscriptions is growing every year. So knowing this, you might assume that a key audience for your new service is people who are already subscribed to another.

But let's think about that compelling argument for a second. Netflix is king, so that's probably the number one streaming service in many of these cases. And number two? Amazon Prime. With 75 million global subscribers, it's a not-so-immediate second. But to argue that so many households having more than one streaming service means they obviously don't mind paying twice ignores the other purpose of Amazon Prime. Prime Video comes with an Amazon Prime subscription. The incredibly popular membership that means next day delivery of millions of Amazon products. Speaking purely for myself, I've been a Prime member for almost a year (people are finally sick of me using theirs for deliveries) and have never signed up for Video. While I'm only a focus group of one, and I'm sure many Prime users choose to take advantage of the added bonus of Instant Video alongside fast delivery, it's hard to know how many "dual streamers" would have opted for this second service for the video content alone.

That's not to say that people aren't willing to pay for more than one streaming service, or that you should exclude current SVOD subscribers from your targeting, but you can't rely on them alone. Instead, it's important to identify other relevant niche audiences that respond to specific USPs. The best way to do this is by analyzing your first-party data, but without having any (what with it being a brand new service), there are plenty of tools to help you dive a little deeper, like Hitwise or Mintel.

Each of the SVOD services available today and released this year has something unique to offer, and they need to make sure they're getting that message out to the right audience. Simply saying "here's another streaming service to add to your list" won't cut it.

App installation formats

While it may seem obvious that in order to get people to use a streaming app, you should put some budget behind the app install formats, at Merkle we've learned that especially for a launch, that's where the vast majority of the budget needs to go.

Last year, when we launched a new sports streaming app, we originally planned for the majority of the budget to go behind ads that lead to the website. We felt that this was a new product and users would want the opportunity to learn more about the brand before signing up for a free trial and, of course, downloading the app. But we had to change our strategy very quickly as we found it fell short of our free trial goals. Instead, we started spending around 80% of the budget on the variety of app install formats available through our digital channels like:

  • Google App Campaigns: Single campaigns that run across Search, Google Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network. They're easy to set up, using text and content from your App Store listing to create ads and work with automatic bidding and targeting. The downside is that you have limited control over where your ads appear, so negative keyword and placement lists are important.
  • "Install Facebook App" Ads: Ads that can run across Facebook, Instagram, and the Facebook Audience Network and link directly to your app listing. Since 70% of traffic on Facebook is mobile, it's a fantastic way to reach users when they're in "app download mode." However, it's a good idea to supplement these ads with a targeting desktop that leads to your website so that the rest of the 30% of users aren't excluded.
  • DV360 mobile campaigns: Recently, the ability to promote apps through DV360 has been added. Simply create a new position and select "Mobile App install", and you can choose the same types of targeting that you would choose for any of your other campaigns on the platform.

If you use one of these formats, it's important to have pixels to track who has downloaded the app. Not only to be able to report on performance, but also to build a target audience of app downloaders that you can then exclude from these campaigns. Otherwise, you risk wasting money on users who have already taken the action you want.

Automation and personalization

One thing all SVOD services have in common is the amount of content. Some more than others, but we're talking thousands of combinations of shows, actors, and genres per platform. Even for the likes of Apple and Disney, their brand name alone won't be enough to convince people to sign up for a new or second subscription. Instead, they need to promote their content effectively and at scale to the right audiences. Automation and personalization are essential for this.

In recent years, there have been tremendous developments in automation across digital platforms, which has reduced the burden of manual labor when marketing large inventories like this one. A handful of successful tactics that have worked for Merkle are:

1. inventory management

The inventory management available in Search Ads 360 uses a product feed, ad templates, and rules to automatically build hundreds, if not thousands, of keywords, ad variations, and extensions for search campaigns. In a fraction of the time a manual build would take, you can have full coverage for every show and actor included in your inventory, which means you can run highly relevant ads for even the most detailed niche searches. After running inventory management campaigns for an SVOD client last year, we saw a 59% reduction in CPA within three months.

2. dynamic creativity

Dynamic creative is best known in retail for targeting users with specific products viewed on site. However, it can also be used for prospecting. Templates created in Google Studio can pull different ad components such as logos, ad names, etc. from a feed to create multiple ad variants. These different variants can be rotated and optimized over time to the best performers. Or you can overlay targeting to serve relevant ads to specific users without manual creation. For a sports streaming service, we used geo-targeting and audience segmentation to identify fans of specific football clubs and served them ads with their team logo and upcoming matches. This achieved a 22% reduction in cost per free trial compared to non-dynamic creative.

3. optimisation rules for social aspects

Facebook has been a little behind the other half of the duopoly in terms of automation, but last year they released automated rules within Ads Manager. These rules can monitor the performance of campaigns and ad sets and make automatic changes based on the parameters you set. For example, we created rules to increase bids for any ad sets that resulted in more than X conversions under our target CPA. This allows us to react to performance changes in real time without constant manual monitoring and get the best possible performance out of campaigns. This has been particularly useful on weekends when launching new content as there are naturally fewer people in the office, and overall we've seen a reduction in cost per free trial of 60 % through social use of these rules.

Retention strategies on a streaming service

So, your acquisition campaigns via a streaming service were a big success. You've hit your app download and free trial goals - what's next? Well, you're not even close to the finish line. It's important to have retention strategies in place from day one to ensure that acquisition translates into a lifetime of value.

Ninety percent of apps downloaded today are never reopened. To avoid ending up in the "scrappheap," create remarketing lists of users who downloaded the app but didn't launch their free trial, and target them with app engagement campaigns. You won't remember it's there on its own; you need to provide that reminder.

As for users who started their free trial, don't let them get away with it after 29 days. Make sure that when their free trial is about to end, they're reminded of some great content they haven't explored yet, or perhaps the opportunity to refer a friend for a month at a discounted price. All too easily, people jump from one free trial to another, so don't assume you'll keep them as customers without investment. Loyalty on a streaming service is the most important element for long-term success.

Closing words

Streaming has revolutionized the way we consume media, and the market is likely to become more manageable over the next few years. Users won't be willing to pay for an endless list of subscriptions, but there may be room in the market for a new service that appeals to the right audience with relevant USPs and strong marketing tactics. Which streaming service is your favorite? Let's discuss it or contact You us.

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