Achieving optimal viewership through content discovery

By Kristan Bullet, joint managing director at Piksel
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The unprecedented growth in the number of companies offering content and television services hastened a drastic shift within the broadcast industry. Competition for viewers’ attention and wallets has never been fiercer. Excelling in this competition requires a symbiotic relationship between aggregators, (such as Sky and Netflix), and content owners. Aggregators must become the discovery agent of choice, while content owners must make their product available everywhere, without limits. Content discovery is key and the battle for consumer attention must be won at key decision moments, then again after 30 minutes, and then 60 minutes after that. However, achieving these ambitions while making a profit requires a generational upgrade to metadata and publishing workflows; this can look different depending on what camp an organisation falls in.

An aggregator’s approach

Becoming the content discovery agent of choice for consumers requires a concerted effort by aggregators. Viewers must find it consistently easy to reach the content they care about and keep returning to this destination to make their viewing choices.

In addition, relationships with content partners must be prioritised, as they face potential disruptions such as structural threats like content piracy and increased competition for advertising budgets (from the likes of Google, Facebook and most recently Amazon). Therefore, an engaged audience who find the content desirable is key. Aggregators can provide support by connecting these audiences with the content, as well as help move linear viewers into on-demand services. By making catch-up assets available quickly, and ensuring VOD back-catalogues can be easily accessed, helps remove the temptations of illegitimate streaming services, which feed off consumer frustration.

Speed and widespread availability are critical for content owners

A proactive approach will pay dividends and ensuring content is available wherever current and potential viewers can be found is critical. In addition, publishing content into post-broadcast viewing windows quickly will help prevent consumers from seeking access via illegal or legal rivals. Ultimately these views will count towards the audience total that advertisers pay for (using ‘live+Xdays’ as the currency).

With regards to distribution partners, it is beneficial for content owners to provide them with the metadata they need to surface content (including through advanced recommendation and universal search functions) and to make direct associations with other relevant programming. For example, when a viewer finishes ‘Episode One’ of the new linear series, they can be directed to the previous season’s box-set. The aim is to turn owned-and-operated apps into an example of content discovery best practice (across own channel and VOD portfolio).

Achieving these objectives using technology

For both aggregators and content owners, these business objectives prompt a number of technology requirements, such as:

  • The ability to make content more discoverable by improving the accuracy and consistency of metadata and by drawing upon rich new sources of metadata, while at the same time streamlining the metadata workflow so it is less labour-intensive and easier to scale.
  • The ability to prepare an ever-increasing number of variants for each piece of content, to deliver media to all meaningful endpoints quickly and cost effectively. Both the metadata and digital on-demand publishing workflows must be made more efficient, in part through automation. Scalability and cost issues can be addressed by harnessing the cloud and a SaaS operations model, which also introduces more OpEx-centric financing.
  • The ability to converge/rationalise what are currently separate and parallel processes for broadcast and digital, thus removing functional and process duplication to reduce cost.

The key to meeting these requirements lies with how metadata is managed, particularly where new technology advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) can be utilised. For example, the UK broadcaster Channel 4 announced a 2018 trial of AI to identify ‘contextual moments’ that provides positive sentiment around a product category, based on scene analysis. These are opportunities that can then be exploited by a relevant advertiser at the next available break.

At the heart of all content discovery lies metadata. In the age of data-driven insights, this is an often-neglected data process that underpins premium user experiences (including genuine content personalisation) and monetisation. There is a powerful and growing incentive for media companies to take a more metadata-centric view of life.

Using AI to enhance metadata augmentation will take content discovery to the next allowing, allowing for the sub-categorisation of content according to its mood or plot. For example, so-called ‘micro-genres’ such as ‘quirky thriller’ will help with search, and movie plots will be used to drive recommendations. Deeper insights will help AI systems cope with the non-structured requests that consumers make once they interact with their television services.

Television is now inherently multiscreen and to create a unified experience across multiple endpoints and audiences wherever they can be found cost-effectively requires a collaborative effort from aggregators and content owners. To achieve this, metadata and content workflows must be transformed. This transformation is also the basis for a generational upgrade in content discovery capabilities.

A metadata-centric approach brings handsome rewards in the form of an improved user experience and greater opportunities to monetise content directly and indirectly. The future of metadata and digital on-demand publishing exploits mega-trends that will underpin much of the digital and media transformation of the next five years: microservices-based, cloud-hosted, SaaS-driven, open and agile. This is the winning formula that is implemented by smart media companies to ensure content discovery is fully optimised but does not need to stop here. A diverse Metadata management implementation, including rights and schedule metadata, will also enable workflow automation and hence drive efficiencies and help yield smarter operational insights. Content owners can therefore optimise the value of every asset in their media library by focusing on consolidating, organising, and enhancing the quality of their metadata.

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