The rapid acceleration of streaming as a mainstream content delivery mechanism is redefining the relationship between brands and consumers. We’re currently witnessing one of the most significant recalibrations in the way content owners appeal to their fanbases and how advertisers look to reach their audiences. Over-the-top (OTT) delivery enables content owners and other rights-holders of all sizes and genres to reassess their options and embrace new opportunities to remain relevant and engaging to their subscribers.
Untapped Opportunities within D2C Delivery
The streaming wars, namely the rollout of new services from content owners, has dominated the media news agenda for the past few years, and consumer interest in these streaming services is enormous. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Global Entertainment & Media Outlook predicts global streaming video revenues to hit $94bn by 2025, up 60%.
However, there is a missed opportunity in how these streaming services are positioned, marketed, and leveraged in many instances. The current go-to-market strategy many service providers adopt does not reflect the value OTT direct-to-consumer (D2C) offers.
A habitual trend among content owners and operators is to brand their D2C service as a portable ‘extension’ of their traditional Pay TV package. Disney+, Discovery+, AppleTV+, Paramount+, and ESPN+ are just five high-profile examples in today’s market.
This conformed approach to D2C marketing is limiting brands and their consumers from the greater potential streaming services can offer. Streaming can serve as much more than just a supplementary delivery of VOD and live content.
OTT brings with it a far closer alignment with web-based technologies, opening up new horizons for brands to engage with their fans, better understand their drives and interests, and explore meaningful new entertainment experiences and monetisation opportunities. D2C streaming services offer the potential to act as a powerful tool for audience engagement and revenue.
That all-encompassing “+” can (and should) stand for more.
Accommodating Greater Fan Engagement
Unlike traditional content delivery methods, streaming opens up a two-way experience between the end-user and the content. This could be described as a ‘sit forward’ rather than a ‘lean back’ experience, whereby the viewer can select from multiple camera feeds, engage with bonus content features such as quizzes and player stats, and interact with other viewers. Internet-based delivery brings these types of rich possibilities to life, and content owners are increasingly looking for ways to leverage them.
MediaKind recently undertook an extensive survey of the OTT D2C market within sports, the MediaKind 2021 Sports D2C Forecast, which found that nearly all rights-holders surveyed consider having a direct relationship with their fanbase essential to their business model going forward. By deploying a D2C service, they open themselves up to a wide range of fan engagement tools, utilising the full capabilities of OTT.
MediaKind analysed 40 rights-holders in the forecast. Of these, 16 different fan engagement features are utilised alongside, or enhancing, the live sports feed. The most popular feature used is video-on-demand (VOD), creating a hub of highlights, replays, and archives. This was used by 88% of the 40 rights-holders. Personalisation was the second most popular feature, deployed by 50% of the rights-holders.
Personalisation features allow users to identify their favorite team or athlete, with relevant content being served up to the viewer ahead of all other content. For instance, fans can now eliminate the need to scroll through extensive programming guides and instead access live and on-demand games and news from their team immediately on their home page.
These features are all transferrable to other D2C platforms that sit outside the world of sports – whether it’s a trade show’s digital offering or a streaming service delivering live or on-demand entertainment content. They can also tap into other engagement features, including immersive audio, live graphics to enhance and explain the on-screen action, and virtual reality applications. This provides just the first evidence that the ‘+’ nomenclature can encompass so much more than simply another means to delivery traditional content.
Driving New Revenue Streams
OTT D2C services bring significant monetisation potential to content owners and operators beyond just the monthly subscription fee. Standalone D2C offerings rarely utilise additional monetisation features regardless of the device it’s delivered to. Once the content owner has decided upon the business model for its D2C OTT service, it could begin building additional revenue streams into the service. These revenues could include advertising, merchandising, ticketing, and betting.
These features naturally align with many OTT D2C platforms, particularly those of sports rights-holders. Despite this, only 8% of the 40 rights-holders MediaKind analysed used advertising while 5% of the D2C services provided merchandise sales. Moreover, none of them had an integrated betting service when we conducted the study.
A number of these tools are highly relevant to other entertainment D2C services yet remain underutilised. Some more prominent players are beginning to capitalise on internet delivery to expand their revenue streams.
Earlier this year, Netflix expanded its online retail and merchandising business by launching Netflix Store, featuring apparel, toys, games, and other lifestyle products. It’s also debuting its first-ever virtual global fan event for September 25, where some of its leading original content creators and producers will share insights into some of its most popular programming.
The limited use of these fan engagement features among other services may be because they’re still in their infancy, and content owners are prioritising delivering the best content experience and user interface. Nonetheless, the opportunities to prove the monetizable worth of ‘+’ services are ripe and bring real-life, tangible rewards.
A New Dawn for Media Experiences
As the growth and ubiquity of OTT D2C platforms continue to soar, content owners of all types and sizes have a real opportunity to leverage OTT technologies and do so much more than ‘just’ streaming. They can establish direct fan engagements, maximise recurring revenues, and increase secondary monetisation opportunities. By building services on robust platforms that are compatible with OTT’s rich menu of features, content owners can launch innovations with greater speed, control, and ease, unlocking the potential of ‘+.’