Video streaming is one of the 21st century’s greatest growth industries, but it’s becoming harder to impress an increasingly discerning global audience that has so much content to choose from. To help new entrants succeed in this maturing marketplace, we have compiled a list of ten golden rules every new streaming service should follow – along with practical advice on how to meet these objectives…
#1. Offer something different.
It’s fair to say that Netflix, Hulu and the like are well-established and unlikely to cede much market share. So change the game. Innovate with specialist content or create a business model that will appeal to large audiences.
Solution: Create a USP or sales model the industry big-hitters don’t offer. One idea might be unencrypting the first five minutes of flagship content (or the first episode in a new series) to get unsubscribed customers watching – and signing up for more.
#2. Generate original content.
There’s no point offering reams of content that’s available elsewhere and expecting people to cancel their Amazon Prime subscriptions. Content is king, and content exclusive to your platform is the best way to grow audience share.
Solution: It takes deep pockets, but try to secure exclusivity deals with content producers. We live in a golden age of original television, but think outside the box and look at growth industries like esports and user-generated content as well.
#3. Curate recommendations.
Once upon a time, people bought a TV guide or scanned their EPG for content. Databases of pre-loaded video content are very different, and new customers might not know where to look for content they may enjoy.
Solution: Ask new customers to outline personal preferences when registering. Interrogate content databases to make instant suggestions, and then curate future recommendations based on their viewing history. A ratings system is useful, too.
#4. Consider all revenue options.
Streaming services presently offer variations on two main income models – subscriptions and advertising. Ads are great for publicly-visible content, whereas subscriptions should provide unlimited ad-free viewing.
Solution: Consider the best way to (a) hook new viewers and (b) keep them watching. Innovations like the teasers discussed in point 1 above can help, as can limiting free content without registration or encouraging paid upgrades to remove advertising.
#5. Cater for every mass platform.
We live in a fragmented culture of iPhones and Pixels, desktops and phablets. Don’t just target Android customers, or Windows users. Many people have incompatible devices but they’ll expect account access from all of them.
Solution: Direct startup funds to developing a platform compatible with as many OS and proprietary systems as possible, rather than a phased roll-out. Rigorously beta-test each one for stability, and ensure a unified interface on every platform for ease of use.
#6. Utilize variable bit rates.
Protocols like MPEG-DASH and RTMP are designed to adapt to fluctuations in an end-user’s connection speed, but each format has different pros and cons. However, it’s vital to minimize occurrences of buffering and freezing.
Solution: Compare and contrast the characteristics of the leading protocols. Also, make it clear to consumers what sort of connection speed they require. Don’t claim to be mobile-friendly if a high-speed 4G connection is required for SD content.
#7. Anticipate peak usage periods.
Using UTC/GMT as a starting point, try to plot when audiences are most (and least) likely to be watching. As European audiences turn off, Asian audiences are tuning in – factor this into your business model from the outset.
Solution: Employ a hosting partner with data centers on different continents and check that they have sufficient bandwidth to handle large-scale output. Streaming is a global service, so there’ll be a level of demand at every point in each 24-hour cycle.
#8. Never go offline.
Few things will kill streaming services faster than social media stories about customers unable to connect. Some of the big streaming services are better than others, but titans like YouTube are always accessible from anywhere.
Solution: Look for 99.99% service level agreements from the company providing the hosting for your streaming services. Ensure your hosting partner understands streaming’s unique nature, and the volatile nature of fluctuations in demand.
Video streaming is cost-effective, requiring relatively few overheads to provide round-the-clock entertainment. A high percentage of projected expenditure can be dedicated to increasing subscribers, without whom the business will fail.
Solution: Ask advertising experts where your ad spend should be directed, and concentrate entirely on promoting flagship content. Remember Netflix and Amazon only ever advertise new series, rather than pricing models, hardware, etc.
#10. Learn from YouTube.
Its name has already cropped up in this article, reflecting YouTube’s omnipotence as the standard-bearer of video streaming. The ad-funded free registration model, variable screen sizes and audience engagement are elements any new entrant to the streaming services sector should consider adopting themselves.