How Data Can Level the OTT Playing Field for Content Owners

09.06.2022 | Ray Gilmartin

OTT platforms have a front-row seat to all the rich data that viewers provide. Now, despite the data disparity, content owners can gain the same insights through smart tech investments and savvy data strategy.

OTT Data worker at this computer.

OTT platforms have a world of data at their fingertips. They’re leveraging user watchlists, transaction history, quality of experience, ad views, and more to make business decisions – from monetization (AVOD or SVOD?) to content (produce, license, or buy?) to product (prioritize mobile or smart TV UX?).

But for content owners licensing to OTT platforms, being one step removed from the audience creates unique challenges around data collection and management – both of which are critical to developing content, viewer, and revenue insight.

Luckily, content owners can adopt some best practices to bridge this insight gap. The key is knowing how to access, normalize, and interpret the relevant data sets to answer key business questions and achieve overarching goals.


An Example of Data in Action

The innovative distribution partnership that brought Netflix’s Narcos to Pluto TV exemplifies the value of OTT data in today’s complex licensing environment. The companies entered an agreement that made the series, previously a Netflix exclusive, available on Pluto TV’s English and Spanish language FAST channels.

While the terms of such agreements are never public, it’s clear that data is an asset when it comes to distribution deals.

Netflix has gained a reputation as the vanguard of data-driven strategy in media and entertainment. It isn’t difficult to speculate that the streaming giant realized the value of its data – not only in acquiring SVOD subscribers from Pluto TV’s FAST audience (26.6 million users at the time), but also in the data those new viewers would generate. As ad-supported models proliferate, Netflix can leverage data gathered from its Pluto TV play to improve its customer acquisition strategies and to better understand the role of ad revenue in its future business models.

Pluto TV also gained new viewers and new data streams from the deal, both of which are useful in evaluating market opportunities. Two months after the Narcos deal was announced, Jeff Schultz (who runs streaming at Pluto TV’s parent company ViacomCBS) told Forbes that “the interplay between AVOD and SVOD is where is where you can expect to see some action.” Then, Pluto TV announced plans to double its Spanish language content with the launch of Pluto TV en español – after the success of Narcos on its platform was well-established.

Companies that license and distribute content in the OTT space should pay attention to whether their own data practices facilitate such strategic decision-making.


Sledgehammers and Scalpels

Nada Arnot, senior vice president for marketing at BritBox, addressed how companies can get the most from their data and overcome discrepancies within that data during a StreamTV Show panel.

Arnot likened the topline data coming from syndication partners to a “sledgehammer,” compared to data from the company’s own streaming platform data, which she likened to a “scalpel.” It’s a perfect metaphor for the difficulty of deriving value from distributor versus direct-to-consumer data sources.

“In one part of the business, you have access to all this data…and then the other part of the business where you don’t. How do you build strategies in that world?” she asked. “You have to accept it and just learn to build workarounds.”

As Arnot’s comments show, content owners that license to other platforms don’t need to accept the sledgehammer; smart data operations yield detailed insight into distributor and content performance and audience behavior.


Filling the Gaps

OTT providers with direct access to platform data can measure performance at a granular level: market, audience segment, title and the like. Content owners then receive a sub-set of that data, typically as part of their revenue reporting and collection process. How could they improve decision-making if they had access to similar insights?

OTT data workers gather together

Without clearly defined agreement terms around data sharing, content owners’ ability to mine data for business intelligence is severely limited. Content owners and distributors alike should expect data transparency to be a major bargaining chip in deal negotiations going forward.

Compounding the challenge for content owners is the sheer volume of data they have to wrangle. Each distributor provides different amounts of data at different frequencies, using different indicators and data fields. This creates a lot of gaps in data. Smart content owners are attempting to fill in those data gaps by integrating third-party data sources like ComScore, Nielsen, vidIQ, or Antenna and social data into their data normalization strategy to create a single, comprehensive view that provides day-to-day administrative data and insights and trending that can help maximize licensing revenue strategies.

Normalizing data sets in a single system of record enables content owners to readily analyze it in real time. That means creating and maintaining standard formats for commonly recurring values – such as metadata, content IDs, subscriber counts, and ad views – that are rarely uniform in the wild. Once data is normalized, automating the ingest and processing of that data allows organizations to scale intelligence with far fewer limitations than manual workflows impose.

The combination of these data streams empowers content owners to do more than verify distributor payments. They can track their assets’ performances while accurately forecasting the value of content they are looking to acquire or license. They can gain a deeper understanding of how different genres, topics or actors perform on different platforms with different audiences.

the datasheetTo effectively monetize their OTT content, content owners can take this data and maximize pricing and distribution decisions for their licensing agreements, improve their ad revenues by scheduling high performing content assets that yield high CPMs and views and create original content with a higher degree of confidence of that content assets success.

There’s a saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” For content owners, strong data operations and the right technology deliver valuable insights that help level the OTT playing field. In other words, don’t bring a sledgehammer to a scalpel fight.


*This blog was updated and republished in September 2022.

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