S3 Panelists See Progress with Broadcasters, Smart Content

Broadcasters, cable networks and pay-per-view providers who distribute their content primarily through cable and satellite TV services have long operated in the dark when comes to who, exactly, is watching their shows. Unlike pure over-the-top providers like Netflix, which knows in granular detail who their viewers are and exactly what they have watched, broadcasters for decades have had limited access to information on pay-TV subscribers or to the data collected by set-top boxes.

But that’s starting to change.

According to panelists at the 2nd Screen Summit, before the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Monday, broadcasters are increasingly using the data they get from viewers to not only retain viewers, but drive them to other programming. And they’re doing it before they make crucial decisions with their content in the digital environment.

“Everyone talks about data — here at CES people are wearing T-shirts that say ‘Big Data’ — and it’s great that everyone [wants to] understand consumer behavior,” Zane Vella CEO and founder of interactive content platform company Watchwith, said. “But what we’re seeing over the last year is a trend among major broadcasters and programmers to instrument their programming before it goes out in order to optimize the data they collect.”

“Data is important beyond that [initial] 30 minutes … ,” said Christy King, COO of Levels Beyond. “It’s not just about that 30 minutes, it’s not just about that season.” And if anyone has done big data well at the outset, it’s sports content companies, King said. They’ve worked to find out “who’s watching, how long are they watching, what are they doing when they’re watching.” And they use that information to not only sell merchandise, but to “understand, long term, in years, how things are changing.”

Keyvan Peymani, managing director of the digital strategy division for ICM Partners, said he thinks the easiest opportunity for content owners and creators to take advantage of consumer data is the world of competition-based reality shows — and game shows in general — people are already playing along at home. Those consumers are willing to share, in order to participate.

“It’s getting people to do the things you hope they’d do, incentivizing them in ways that you hope they’ll participate,” Peymani said.

Bob Ivins, SVP of business development for Rovi, noted that passively collected data is readily available to every content owner and distributor … but that data may not always be relevant to advertisers.

Still, Vella said content companies have evolved when it comes to using viewer data, and translating it into something positive.

“They’re [addressing] audience behavior, instead of just collecting the bits and trying to figure it out,” Vella said. “And I think we’re going to see more of that in the future.”