OTT has democratized video distribution and created the opportunity for smaller content owners and creators to launch their own direct-to-consumer video business. This also means that it’s more difficult than ever to capture and keep viewers attention. Acquiring subscribers is costly in today’s saturated market, which would be one thing if customers stuck around for the long haul, but that isn’t always the case.
The video industry average for subscription length is 21 months —high churn rates are challenging for subscription video businesses across the board, even for the biggest players in OTT. Although customer acquisition is a vital piece of the puzzle, it’s retention that is the game changer— it’s four times cheaper for subscription businesses to keep existing subscribers versus acquiring new ones.
When it’s so easy for customers to sign up… and cancel, how can content owners combat churn and retain their customers for longer? Here are a few strategies out of the leading OTT services’ playbooks.
Incentivize Customers to Commit to Longer Subscriptions
The longer your customers stay subscribed, the less likely they are to churn. Many of the major OTT services are packaging their subscriptions to make it more attractive for customers to commit to longer subscriptions upfront. For example, SlingTV and DirectTVNow offer new subscribers a free set-top device if they pre-pay for the first few months of their subscription.
Smaller services may not have the budget for freebies, but there are other creative ways to incentivize new subscribers to commit to a longer subscription period, whether it’s offering a discount, free merchandise or access to exclusive content. This not only makes revenue more predictable, it also gives content owners a longer period of time to encourage repeat viewing. The more new subscribers engage with your content, the more likely it is they’ll stick around.
Always Give Your Subscribers Something They Can’t Get Anywhere Else
If your subscribers have watched everything in your library, what’s the reason for them to stay? The key to customer retention is to have a regular supply of new options that keep your subscribers engaged and gives them a compelling reason to stay.
Netflix’s content strategy has been instrumental in their success and it’s very simple—always have content subscribers can’t find anywhere else. Although Netflix’s library of exclusively licensed content has always worked well for them, it’s their pivot to a steady stream of original content that’s making them the leader of the pack, and services like Hulu and Amazon have followed suit. Their subscribers don’t cancel because they fear missing out on the next ‘13 Reasons Why’ or the next season of ‘Narcos’, it’s why they have the best retention rates in the business.
Leverage Viewer Data
Leveraging viewer data to continually optimize and improve your OTT service for subscribers is vital to retention. In an industry that’s always evolving, remaining stagnant isn’t an option. The best OTT services constantly experiment and test new things, from content to new user-experiences, and then use that data to refine what it and isn’t working.
Amazing original content isn’t the only thing that sets Netflix apart, they are also the pros at using viewer data to improve their subscribers' overall experience. They pay close attention to their engagement metrics, introducing features to automatically play the next episode and the option to skip an intro that improves their user’s engagement.The easier and more engaging a subscriber’s experience is, the more likely they are to keep the service long-term.
Personalize User Experience
One of the reasons that people prefer their OTT service over cable is because it offers content recommendations. The more personalized your subscriber's experience is, the easier it is for them to find something to watch, the more time they spend with your service and the less likely they are to cancel. All the major OTT services, including Netflix and Hulu, prioritize content discovery because it is essential to subscriber retention.
Focus on Your Active Subscribers
Churn is inevitable, so instead of putting all your efforts into acquisition take a step back and focus on the entire lifetime value of a subscriber. If you're focused on keeping your current customers happy, you’ll naturally build a service that attracts new subscribers, in addition to keeping your current subscribers. Use your active churn as a learning opportunity to gain insight into what your users want and take action to make improvements.
Ultimately, customer retention comes down to providing an exceptional user experience and having the data to gain the insights needed to improve and refine. Video distribution platforms, like Zype, help content owners run their subscription video business like the pros with extensive analytics and superior content delivery across devices.