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How can TV ride the big data wave?

Better use of viewer data could transform how broadcasters and advertisers reach consumers. But where do you begin?


I recently wrote about how the TV industry should mine bigger data to stay connected with the digital audiences. Whilst online networks like YouTube and Netflix dominate the digital market, big data insights will help media companies transition into the new frontier, in light of a lack of growth for the traditional channels.

TV must pioneer new avenues for the entertainment industry. Young viewers are watching less TV and have been flocking to online video services by the millions. Behind those, powerful next-generation data technologies generate deeper understanding by cross-referencing terabytes of consumption data in real-time.

But finding new avenues is a potentially complex process. Here are four key approaches to make data work for you:

1. Comprehensive data collection:Every minute gone is another minute you could have learnt something important about your content and what your customers truly think. Every video stream, every “like” shared across social networks, every upload to Youtube – these are all data points worth knowing. Add to this the tracking of more traditional influences such as the competitors, news and the weather. Quantity does matter.

In TV, data volumes are massive. The BBC iPlayer commands 7m online requests every day.

Youtube and Netflix together dominate nearly 40% of UK internet traffic during prime time. Each video viewed contains hundreds of different data attributes that may uncover monetisable insights later, so the structure and capability to collect should not be a hindrance in harnessing this abundant data.

2. Mining richer behavioural insights:Analysing data in the right context is not trivial. Organisations often face analysis paralysis not knowing how best to leverage the data. Ultimately, we are asking the same old question about “who is watching and why?”, but with more precision. Having “attributed” data services will be crucial during this step if anything is to become actionable. Too often you end up with unattributed data that just states a fact.

The BBC’s David Grossman advocates a move away from “lowest common denominator” scheduling, giving power to the writers for great storytelling to particular audience segments. Netflix grows its business by best predicting the likeability of their user experience and content by mining segments for every user.

YouView validates Facebook and Twitter’s influence, saying that 24% of 18- to 24-year-olds now get their TV recommendations from social media.

It is crucial that decision-makers digest such relevant evidence from their audiences to unravel the multitude of trends and demands, in turn feeding editorial and marketing strategies who can immediately action the insights to sharpen their competitive edge.

3. Adopting an open data culture: Data is not just a science, it is a culture. Sufficient cases prove data-driven companies yield higher performances over its traditional competitors. But this also means executing a fully aligned top-down plan as Skype did to gradually get rid of the organisational silos and investing in people who are able to materialise this new vision. Coordinated open cultures working with the same data set leads to better creativity.

So media companies have a lot of tools with which to kick-start a next generation economy for TV but it is a case of risk and reward. For those moving forward it is a question of defining what is the business model, what is the right data and, most importantly who are the right people to ensure the company’s actions are linked to what viewers are telling you.

4. Embracing the right technologies: Automation is key for data-driven digital services in TV. The direction and choice of technologies will influence your eventual success. Database architectures, machine learning and real-time visualisation will give competitive edge. As audiences diversify, you will need to rely on automated editorial, marketing and advertising processes driven by audience insights.

Already in the UK, the market for online video advertising has grown by 62% to £325m, far outperforming the total UK digital ad spend growth of 15% to £6.3bn, with the share of programmatic advertising growing every day.

TV is not dead, in fact it is more alive than ever. Far from the digital era ushering in the demise of TV, people are watching more shows than ever before. In the US, the digital video market is set to top the $2bn (£1.2bn) mark this year. The appreciation and value for all kinds of content will keep on increasing, whether that is prime-time drama, live sports or long-tail webisodes. Competition now comes from a far wider set of services including the web, compelling TV companies to become ever more agile to cease this opportunity built on its greatest assets – its content, audience (data) and creative culture.

Aki Tsuchiya is the founder and managing director of Streamhub.

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