The Streaming Marketer’s Roadmap to Profitability

Covid-19 has pushed the streaming wars into new territory and made the competition for viewers’ attention even more intense.

Before Covid-19 Americans were willing to subscribe to an average of 3.6 streaming services, according to a November 2019 study by The Wall Street Journal and Harris Poll. Fast forward to April 2020, and the average number of TV service subscriptions per viewer had reached 4.8, according to a report by Hub Entertainment Research.

With the summer set to see the launch of HBOMax and Peacock, every major entertainment company will have at least one flagship streaming service and some will have as many as four.

While consumers’ lives will look different after lockdowns lift, many of the habits and lessons the streaming industry has learned during shelter in place will continue to have a long-term impact. Here are three strategies we recommend streaming marketers follow in the months ahead:

Adopt a test-and-learn approach

Navigating the largely uncharted territory of this new dynamic streaming universe requires a new generation of marketing strategies. Organizations looking to become digitally sophisticated need a mindset shift—one where marketers are willing to test, learn and even fail.

Marketers now have access to an increasing number of sophisticated data analysis tools, including multi-touch attribution, incrementality and machine learning measurement platforms. These provide an opportunity to gain unique insights that marketers can use to optimize performance towards business outcomes. The more discoveries your team can make from data and the more you test and evolve your marketing, the better you’ll understand which strategies work best.

Drive customer retention and lifetime value, not just acquisition

With so many streaming choices available—and with the lack of friction required to switch between them — the streaming consumer’s journey is far from linear. Consider adopting a lifecycle marketing approach that focuses not only on acquisition or one-off campaigns, but on ways to build your brand awareness and retain existing customers.

Successful streaming marketers know that customer engagement shouldn’t stop after they subscribe but be parlayed into an ongoing relationship that keeps them engaged for the long term.

Brand the service, not just the titles

Today’s audiences are not loyal to services as much as they are to hit shows that they love, according to a Facebook commissioned survey of streaming consumers. More often than not they hear about these shows from their social circles. According to the same survey, well over half (64%) of respondents said that they decide what show or movie to stream based on recommendations from friends and family.

However, for streaming companies, building loyalty to the service and not just individual titles is critical to retaining customers in the long run. Many services have adopted strategies that market collections of their tentpole franchises. Others have explored complete programming strategies that promote curated channels or genres like comedies, cooking shows, originals, horror, classics and many more. The most successful services then use audience marketing campaigns to attract viewers with specific interests to these curated channels.

That’s all a good start, but services may need to do even more to find their own competitive lane and differentiate themselves to retain viewers and sustain their brand. With so many premium services on the market, the challenge will be making your brand stand out.

Fortunately, helping customers discover your brand through their connections on social media provides ample opportunities to build awareness for your service as well as your titles. In fact, in another Facebook-commissioned study, 69% of 18-34-year-old streaming trialists in the U.S. said that recommendations from friends or family are influential when deciding whether to try a new streaming service.

By adopting a test-and-learn mindset, engaging in lifecycle marketing with each customer and promoting a service’s brand and not just hit titles, streaming marketers can find a path to profitability. Streaming services have already demonstrated that they can pivot quickly, now the key is sustaining that momentum and relationships with viewers in the years to come.