OTT TV services are increasingly seen as the ideal way for operators to reach specific populations around the world.
But several factors need to be considered to ensure a successful deployment. Populations have always moved around the world, but what is unique in the recent era is that global communications networks allow people to maintain the links to their originating countries in realtime. The growth of IP has also allowed content to move more cheaply and at a much higher quality than before, transforming the user experience. As global broadband availability increases, video is increasingly becoming a large part of this complex and deepening picture of global flows. Diaspora populations are eager for content that reminds them culturally, and often linguistically, of ‘home’, that are now available at lower costs.
But what factors do operators need to consider when it comes to targeting the many diaspora populations that exist around the world? What are the specific complications of reaching a population that may be geographically remote but, thanks in part to the growth of OTT TV services, can be culturally close-knitted?
Increasingly International OTT Providers
One of the relentless narratives of the past few decades has been that globalisation leads to cultural homogenisation: that a global media dominated by a few huge multinationals will mean that we all end up watching the same, bland content. It might be dubbed or subtitled into a local language, but on the whole we watch the same thing.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that. Of course, we do have global media providers and we do have plenty of individual shows that have become global phenomena, as this video of five days of bittorrenting of Episode 1 of the last season of Game of Thrones shows. But the global picture has become a lot more nuanced than that, as diaspora populations around the world clamour for their own, localized content.
Historically, this was made possible by the advent of satellite broadcasting and specialized — often more powerful — domestic equipment. More recently though, diaspora viewing has been powered increasingly by OTT providers.
The potential audiences here are massive. UN figures from 2017 state that the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, reaching 258 million in 2017, up from 220 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000. Currently, over 60% of all international migrants live in Asia (80 million) or Europe (78 million). Northern America hosted the third largest number of international migrants (58 million), followed by Africa (25 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (10 million) and Oceania (8 million).
Add in the enormous historical diasporas and established communities which culturally identify with a distant homeland and the extent of the opportunities starts to come into even sharper focus.
All this is fuelling a compelling business model for specialised services targeting diasporas, while also providing a valuable additional revenue stream for broadcasters looking to set up OTT services to chase after migrating audiences across borders.
But what are the key ingredients for success? What makes a successful OTT diaspora solution? We have identified the following factors.
OTT Streaming to Diasporas: The Factors for Success
1. Be data-driven
Obviously, anyone looking to launch an OTT Streaming service targeting diaspora populations needs a good, scaleable TV management platform with the key functionalities in place that the current market demands. But, from our experience, the decisive factors are below:
The use of effective TV Business Analytics methods is crucial from the very start and is key to establishing a truly differentiated offering. It underpins the business plan and provides direction on monetization strategies, gives OTT providers an effective way of understanding how their audience engages with their content, and allows them to plan a roadmap of future developments. These can cover anything from rolling out new services to identifying new customer segments.
Essentially, being data-driven it informs every part of the business and therefore needs to be one of the primary considerations in setting up any new OTT service. One corollary here is that the business needs to be set up to be agile in turn and able to respond to any new information that the data analysis brings it. Flexibility in corporate culture allows you to have your eyes open to new opportunity in a constantly shifting market.
2. Concentrate on relevant content
Targeting is important. The most effective content is one that satisfies the specific needs of the diaspora in question. Often this means language-specific content, but relevant back catalogue — especially ‘nostalgia’ television for displaced populations — can be effective as well. Consider the catalogue of an outfit like BritBox, a joint venture between two competing national broadcasters in the UK, that offers a mix of ‘hard-to-find gems and national treasures’ among its more contemporary content to Anglophile audiences in North America. [Update: as of Feb 2020 Britbox has over 1m subscribers in North America and is planning an Australian launch.]
Again, effective Big Data analysis is an important plank of the strategy in identifying the correct cost-effective content for acquisition. And it goes without saying that any OTT service needs to have a top-range recommendation engine at its core to provide the user with precisely what they want. Recommendations that are targeted to the viewer’s preferences and viewing habits are more likely to encourage engagement, while advanced personalization can also speed up purchasing decisions. Netflix’s recommendation-heavy home page has set the standard. Any new OTT service really needs to be exhibiting this degree of functionality for success.
3. Value the User Experience
While broadcast has always been a competitive market, the OTT segment seems to be operating at an order above what we have seen before. Take the SVOD giants of Netflix and Amazon out of the equation, and OTT churn rates have now passed 50% in the North American market.
But while the risks are high, so are the opportunities. The same Parks Associates research that generated those figures also uncovered the data that more than 50% of US broadband households that use OTT services subscribe to multiple OTT video services. This has risen significantly from 20% in 2014.
The point is though that services tend not to be seen by the consumer in isolation. If one OTT provider offers a significant feature, for example the ability to pause content seamlessly on multiple devices, then the chances are that the customer will expect to see that same feature in a rival service. As a result, OTT offerings need to be as up to date as possible to match the continually evolving consumer expectation.
4. Maximize business agility
Any discussion about business agility inevitably leads us to the cloud. The importance of using either as-a-Service models here for companies that want to focus solely on their TV business, or cloud-hosted ones for those that would like to maintain some infrastructure control, cannot be understated.
We’ve written at length about the multiple advantages deploying Cloud TV solutions brings, so in this context we’ll simply stick to the relevant key takeaway of maximized agility and the fact that it enables OTT streaming providers to swiftly change their offers, offer new devices and services to keep up with rapidly changing consumer demand as detailed above, and deploy to new markets. This latter is particularly relevant for OTT service providers looking to target actively migrating populations.
5. Lower barriers to entry
As Tom Mohler, CEO of Oympusat, wrote in MultiChannel at the launch of the Hispanic-language (and VO-powered) US service Vemox.
“Millions of Spanish-language-dominant homes are rejected due to lack of sufficient credit. Many operators will reject customers without established credit because of the hundreds or thousands of dollars in capital they have to invest in set-top boxes and general installation.”
An OTT service is one of the ways of bridging the credit gap, but operators need to be able to take it on a stage further and make it easy. Providers need to use multiple monetization models and provide different payment capabilities that reflect the way that diasporas want to consume. The barriers to entry need to be as low as possible to encourage diaspora populations, which may be facing relative economic hardship, to sign on.
The downside of not locking customers into contracts, of course, are the inflated churn figures we saw earlier. But offering a range of payment options — subscription, à la carte, pre-paid vouchers, even advertising-funded — is an effective way of at least making sure that you have sufficient subscriber numbers in the first place.
6. Employ Multi-DRM
None of this investment is worthwhile — indeed, a lot of it is not even possible due to content owner requirements — unless the content is then protected. Targeted content piracy can haemorrhage subscribers and income from your business, so it is important to deploy as effective a deterrent as possible. The agile, software-based nature of the modern Multi-DRM solution, with its ability to protect content on multiple platforms and in multiple ways, makes its deployment almost a pre-requeiste for launching any new OTT service.
7. Plan for the Future
Launching a service is just the start. Operators, especially those that do not necessarily have access to premium content, can compete against those that do by continuously adding new capabilities, devices, and even types of content to their offering. The rise of the skinny bundles in the US market has highlighted the role that Live TV can play in the OTT space, and this is an idea that could gain particular traction in the diaspora market.
Flexibility is the key here. Bringing together many of the factors we have already talked about, effective planning for the future and having the ability to cope with changing consumer demand requires a combination of analytics for identifying the opportunity in the first place and a cloud-based system for being able to deliver swiftly on that opportunity.
OTT Streaming to Diaspora Populations: Making it Happen
In recent years, telcos have been able to leverage their offerings adroitly to target diaspora populations. With dedicated advertising campaigns in place promising cheaper — and latterly IP-based — back and forth to originating countries, offering an OTT video service alongside the established business model has been a relatively easy play.
Broadcasters and dedicated OTT natives have had a slightly harder time since they have a single product to offer: video. However, the flip side of that is that they are also able to leverage their expertise in the field to present an offering that excels in terms of customer experience and delivers premium content. And whereas once this was purely VOD, an increasing amount of live traffic, sports in particular, is being seen amongst the leading OTT players.
Inevitably, offering such a solution is a complex process and one that encompasses many different video components as well as rapid technology changes. However, much of that can be mitigated by choosing the right technology partner with expertise in the field. At VO, for example, we have both out-of-the-box solutions with a degree of customization possible in the shape of our TVaaS solution, or can offer a cloud-hosted TV platform for a fully customizable TV platform.
Launching OTT TV Services targeted specifically at diasporas is not an easy undertaking. Under the right circumstances, and leveraging the advantages of cloud deployment in particular coupled with the effective use of data and analytics, it can be a profitable one.