We are well and truly in the fourth age of OTT video. The first was about getting content on to as many platforms as possible and building an audience, then a case of enhancing the consumer experience to keep them on board. Monetising the services that delivered content came soon after. And now, while the industry strives to continually improve the experience for viewers, attention has turned to building the bottom line. For telcos, in particular, there has been a huge shift in this regard, and sports has been one of the biggest drivers.
Sports content has historically been a safe bet when it comes to attracting a loyal and dedicated audience for TV services and securing an effective ROI. But fierce competition has changed the game. It has caused the cost of even minor league programming to reach colossal heights. With digital transformation in sports taking place at the same time, this has put telcos in a position where they need to take a novel approach to stand out from the crowd and see a better return on their increasingly large upfront outlays into content rights. The most effective way to do that is with the wealth of data they already have at their disposal.
Next-gen consumer insights
Simply having access to sports rights is no longer enough. Enhancing the consumer experience and going beyond their expectations is key. This applies across the board for any form of media and entertainment but works particularly well with sports. Is a user a fan of football or tennis? How long do they spend on OTT applications versus regular browsing on the internet? Do they watch content on their smartphone or TV?
Uncovering, but crucially also understanding, the answers to these questions via real time, predictive analytics is the road telcos must travel down to improve and personalise their video experience efforts. And it is important telcos make that journey right now. They have a huge opportunity to claim a stronger foothold on the changing OTT video market. As carriers of the world’s internet traffic, telcos, in general, are already intimately involved in delivering video, and this will only become more pronounced as we edge towards 5G.
5G will usher in a wealth of new benefits when it comes to delivering live content. From AR to VR, and from traditional sports to its new digital sibling eSports, the high speeds and low latency connectivity offered by this next generation of mobile networking will create a wealth of opportunities. As gatekeepers to that technology, operators are the ones that stand to benefit the most.
Growing convergence in entertainment
5G will be a huge investment outlay for operators, much in the same way that sports rights are. So, while it’s clear that sports is important, it’s only the beginning. Getting a return on investment from these high value rights now represents much more than just encouraging new users to sign up to access that video service for the duration of live match fixtures. Sports is the carrot that operators can use to their advantage in attracting customers more broadly – with a new, comprehensive media offering that can deliver everything they want in a single platform.
The reason for this is clear. As the TV, sports, and entertainment industries continue to converge, consumers want an integrated way to access all that content via a single entertainment hub. And operators are ideally placed to deliver this, giving viewers their own premium content as well as a smart, highly personalised platform that aggregates other OTT services at the same time.
Sure, other companies could offer this. But few have the deep relationship telcos have with their customers, including the highly valuable goldmine about consumer likes, dislikes, content preferences, and more from their existing usage of an operator’s services. Data like this can inform the video experience. Equally, data obtained from consumer usage of an operator’s video platform can inform personalisation for other services too.
It is a win-win for operators, giving them a leg up with the agility needed for better advertising, churn prevention, and the insights that can be used as a revenue generation tool with other providers.
Getting the tech stack right
Data is the new currency in our modern world. Because of this, telcos more than any other business are in a unique position to meet, and exceed, user expectations in delivering a genuinely joined up multiscreen experience. The future of content is in delivering the best value in a single package. With the right approach to the technology that underpins a service like that, operators can not only create a video offering that attracts new customers but one that also keeps them engaged and grows ARPU across the board.
Not only will the right tech stack help to create an engaging cross-device user experience, it will provide the insights and data analysis necessary to better identify what a user is looking to watch next. More advanced content management systems can even introduce AI and machine learning as part of this, pulling actionable intelligence from an operator’s broader data sets - giving consumers what they want, when they want, and where they want - helping to adjust the viewing experience in real time based on consumer habits, catering for different types of viewer on a deeper level.
Personalisation like this is the key to a long-lasting OTT video service that can heavily contribute to revenue growth. The most successful operators already recognise where and how a well-executed OTT proposition can have a sustainable impact on the business’ overall bottom line. Offering the right combination of targeted content and features, priced competitively, can act as a crucial differentiator in what is becoming a very volatile market. And with 5G just around the corner, the time is now to make these investments into video, too, so that operators can see an immediate return.