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How do broadcasters engage with viewers at a time of national importance?

By Ian Sharpe, CEO, Promethean

Last year, at NAB Show, I wrote in the IABM Members journal about getting “up close and personal” – meeting old colleagues, getting quality face time with new prospective partners, signing up new customers – and how the broadcast world is moving towards interactivity. However, in just a matter of weeks, that landscape has changed irrevocably. Social distancing, working from home and virtual congregations are the new norm. 

During this time, the world wants to stay connected, entertained and educated. A recent international study from The Global Web Index demonstrates this, with 95 per cent of consumers now spending more time on in-home media consumption activities. As a result, there is an unprecedented opportunity for broadcasters to create a lifeline to those at home. Content no longer has to be a one-way flow of information. With the touch of a screen, the audience should be able to engage with content and make watching active – it’s all about personalisation and interactive experiences.

Getting personal

There has never been a better time to harvest audience data, with most of us hunkering down with online content. Having given consumers the power to choose what they want to watch and when, broadcasters will have accumulated a valuable bank of first-party data from their audiences. They can also take it one step further by analysing how long the viewers watch for, what devices they use, where they are watching and what they watch next. These results will help to create a picture of viewing behaviours, tastes and attitudes to unlock better audience experiences. 

Another opportunity involves how broadcasters can make the most of this data and ensure they are sharing relevant content to the right person at the right time. With the power of revolutionary machine learning tools, they can now process more data, which in turn, will help to better understand consumers at an individual level and get more value from their video content. Machine learning tools are trained to find patterns from historical data, to predict the best outcome and what content the consumer wants to consume next. Gone are the days where broadcasters could spend what felt like months trawling through endless focus groups, heralding a welcome advancement in machine learning to help boost audience engagement in just a fraction of the time.

Taking action

Once data has been gathered and broadcasters have identified their audience’s viewing behaviour, they can look to create interactive content that is aligned with the individual’s interests and outlook. Instead of a passive user experience, this type of content requires the person watching to take action, such as answer a question, vote in a poll or even make a purchase. There are many benefits to interactive content, including longer viewing times and even further data capture, as well as helping to influence how the rest of the consumer’s viewing experience will unfold. More importantly for the bottom line, this information is perfect for targeted advertising campaigns, making sure the right partner brand message hits home with the right demographic. Creating a call to action for a key sponsor that leads to a direct sale rather than mere brand awareness is increasingly critical in delivering ROI in a world where content creation and delivery is far from cheap.

During this challenging period when consumers crave connections, it also enables broadcasters to boost engagement. A recent study reported that interactive content leads to an 87 per cent increase in engagement, as the tailored messages are speaking one-to-one rather than one-to-many. This type of content requires active interaction, prompting viewers to respond, share, comment or post their own experiences, which stimulates engagement and provokes a reaction.

Interactive content is also a great way to educate audiences, especially at a time of national importance. Broadcasters will be able to listen to the audience, give them the right information, and share knowledge. Research demonstrates that most people best learn through experiential learning, as they can try new things, test their knowledge and connect with others. Not only can interactive content provide this type of education, but it will also help broadcasters to add value to audiences during times of uncertainty.

Staying connected

Viewers don’t have to be a couch potato during the crisis, broadcasters can reach out and engage with them by making telecommunications a lean-in experience. They can go one better than simply understanding audiences: they can garner data to understand what their viewers want and need at specific points in time during this period of national importance. Machine learning can do the majority of the heavy lifting by leveraging data holistically to build a better understanding of individuals and their viewing behaviour. By understanding the specific context of the moments that matter, broadcasters can engage with audiences and provide them with interactive content. This content will ultimately help viewers stay connected, entertained and educated during this time of national importance – and brand partners returning to help foot the bill.