Acquisition, engagement and retention: Using marketing to take on streaming’s top challenges

Sponsored by Wurl

Streaming is having its moment in the spotlight. Last year, streaming surpassed cable viewing for the first time. Meanwhile, the number of adults accessing streaming video platforms has outpaced those with cable or satellite service.

With audiences continuing to flock to Internet-enabled viewing, the opportunity for streamers and content publishers has never been stronger. At the same time, streaming isn’t immune to the growing pains other industries have faced: a hyper-competitive market, rising customer expectations and turnover and an overall fragmented ecosystem. It’s an exceedingly difficult environment for streamers and publishers to deliver content audiences love and keep them interested.

As the streaming industry matures, marketing will play a critical role in helping platforms succeed. By understanding the challenges surrounding acquisition, engagement and retention, streamers and publishers can develop tailored marketing strategies to reach the right audiences and convert them to loyal viewers.

Amid the proliferation of services, acquisition relies on marketing to stand out

Viewer acquisition is a critical — if not the number-one — challenge for streamers and publishers. With an unprecedented number of streaming apps and channels available on the market, it is more difficult than ever to get noticed.

Currently, there are more than 200 streaming services in the United States alone. The global streaming market continues to add new subscription-based video-on-demand (SVOD) offerings, increasing the likelihood of consumers canceling services to switch to others that have the content they want to watch.

Heightening the competition for viewers is the fact that some free ad-supported TV (FAST) services now include more than 350 channels, leaving audiences drowning in a sea of options and less likely to stay engaged. In a recent survey, 58% of respondents agreed that ensuring content is visible and discoverable is one of the key hurdles in launching and monetizing a FAST channel.

With many reasons behind viewer churn, marketing strategies need to level up

As hundreds of connected TV (CTV) streaming apps become available, viewer churn on SVOD and advertising-based video-on-demand (AVOD) channels are reaching critically high levels — with most SVODs seeing monthly churn between 4%–7% of their global subscriber base. As of late 2022, combined subscription cancellations across the 10 leading SVOD services rose by 14%.

So, why do viewers churn? It’s essential to understand the many factors that can be in play. 

Often, consumers either can’t find the content that interests them or lose excitement for the content with which they’re already familiar. Others may be “rotational subscribers” who pay for a streaming service to access specific content at a particular moment, such as subscribing to ESPN+ only to stream the Masters Tournament and then canceling afterward. Or, this type of viewer may maintain a specific number of subscriptions and rotate one out from time to time to keep their access to content fresh. 

Other times, viewers simply subscribe to the platforms they do as a result of a good deal. For example, Amazon Prime users get Prime Video along with their membership.

As streamers and publishers have fought the competition, new challenges have emerged

In response to heightened viewing competition and churn, streamers and publishers have been throwing money at the problem, spending ever-increasing amounts on exclusive content and marketing. Reaching their subscriber and viewership goals is a two-part challenge of attracting millions of new subscribers while reducing churn to a more manageable level — or, more simply, finding new and existing viewers who will love the content and continue to subscribe.

However, marketing efforts on CTV have traditionally been challenged by the fragmentation of the ecosystem, the need for standardized measurement practices and cross-channel attribution. The only way publishers, who possess most of the CTV inventory, can get consumer data is by owning or syndicating the distribution channel.

Meanwhile, until 2021, there wasn’t a way to attribute CTV campaigns to app installs and down-funnel events. The advent of CTV app attribution made it possible to determine accurate performance-based metrics like cost per install (CPI), return on ad spend (ROAS) and average user lifetime value (LTV). This attribution data also opened the door for in-app event tracking that allows streaming app publishers to track user engagement and map out user flows, which can be used to improve app experiences and thus support acquisition and retention efforts.

Recognizing streaming’s key challenges will help teams establish impactful marketing strategies

As the world’s TV viewing continues to move to streaming, there is a prime opportunity to reach global audiences. By recognizing the industry’s key challenges — discoverability, rising churn and a fragmented ecosystem — these platforms can better understand how to prioritize their marketing strategies to find the most impactful viewers.

And while such challenges create obstacles for the streaming industry, they are also paving the way for innovative solutions that truly deliver by attracting, engaging and retaining viewers at a massive scale. 

“The future of streaming will require sophisticated tools to help solve the discovery challenge,” said Ron Gutman, CEO at Wurl. “Streamers and publishers should be able to spend their advertising budgets on high-value users that will actually convert and continue to engage with their content.”

The streamers and publishers that embrace these new performance-based marketing and measurement capabilities will be able to rise above the rest and prove successful in this nascent space. Ultimately, viewers get the content they love, while streamers and publishers build loyal audiences — everybody wins.

Sponsored by Wurl

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