Live sports events across the world have been put on hold for months during the coronavirus lockdown. But as of mid-June, the English Premier League returned to screens. Amazon Prime, one of the providers airing the final matches, is now showing Premier League football for free, available to all viewers, including those without a Prime subscription.
In a crowded marketplace, this is a great example of TV streaming platforms having to go the extra mile to provide a unique service to appeal to customers.
Despite worldwide success and an incredible demand for streaming platforms, with 77% of consumers now using a web-connected device to watch content on their TV sets, streaming services do continue to face challenges, leading to a need for continual adaptation and evolution.
Standing out in a highly saturated market
One of the biggest challenges for streaming platforms is ensuring they stand out in a highly saturated market. SVOD is firmly in the mainstream and according to findings in our latest DIMENSION study, which explores the advertising and media industry from the twin perspectives of consumers and industry experts, 73% of global consumers have access to a paid subscription service. Further insight from our TGI Global Quick View study of 25 markets worldwide shows that over half of connected consumers have used paid TV or video streaming services ‘in the last week’. 54% of connected adults have done so, with almost two-thirds of them (65%) watching two or more hours of this content daily.
The rising competition among both paid-for subscription services and ad-funded models is clear. Netflix remains the biggest global provider, attaining 15.77 million paid customers in the first quarter of 2020, a record for quarterly gains.
But there is a limit to the number of subscription services consumers are willing to pay for. Further TGI data shows that 44% of those who pay for an online streaming service have at least two subscriptions, 18% pay for three but this tails off with only 7% paying for four or more. With fierce competition and new entrants regularly coming into the space, streaming platforms need to ensure that their service provides something different, finding unique ways to evolve and offer audiences the features they are after, just as Amazon is trialling with the offer of free content on Prime.
Retaining a loyal customer base
Once new subscribers are attained, streaming platforms face the perennial challenge of retaining customers. Consumers today are increasingly conscious of where they spend their money. People spend time researching the products and services they buy to ensure they meet their needs – and if they don’t, they will often switch allegiance in a heartbeat. For SVOD platforms, understanding the behaviours and attitudes of their viewers is key.
Tailoring the offer in line with these behaviours and preferences is a fundamental next step. DIMENSION data shows that 74% of consumers use SVOD to access new content while 45% use them to watch repeats of favourite shows. Amazon has clearly identified that streaming live sports, free of charge, is a service they can offer to help attract and retain customers. New viewers exploring content on Prime for the first time, for example, may be encouraged to pay for complete service if the content offering meets consumer needs and preferences.
Creating a balance with advertisers
The sports industry is a market with high advertising revenues. But during challenging times, with opportunities for advertising curtailed as major sporting events drop off the calendar, it is particularly important for brands to continue to ensure their messaging remains relevant and engaging. Our DIMENSION study found that over half (54%) of connected consumers around the world are quickly switched off by advertising that is not relevant to them, or when they start to feel over-targeted. Brands and marketers have a fine balance to tread, to ensure that they are providing audiences with a useful and relevant message, without intruding on their privacy. Amazon will need to ensure that any advertising placed during or around the Premier League matches on the platform is relevant and of interest to viewers, or it risks putting them off returning.
When it comes to advertising on SVOD channels in particular, our latest TGI Global Quick View data suggests a considerable variation in preferences amongst age groups. Young audiences (18 to 34-year olds) have a preference for free online TV and video services without advertising, while older audiences (34+) are more willing to pay for subscriptions, suggesting they are circumventing the ads. Brands need to think carefully about target audiences and their individual preferences, aligning content with their interests to avoid alienating people.
To ensure growth and success in uncertain times, it’s vital for SVOD providers to understand the needs and preferences of both their existing audiences and the potential audiences they might attract. Amazon’s move to stream Premier League matches for free opens up the platform to give viewers a taste of their offer, in an incredibly crowded marketplace. Consumers are attracted to streaming platforms for a number of different reasons, but truly understanding the needs and preferences of those consumers - whether it’s new content or an ad-free service - is critical to maintaining market share.
Learn more about key trends in the SVOD market with our latest report.
This article first appeared in C21.