4 Ways Streaming Services Can Lock In Housebound Viewers for the Long Term

More people are watching than ever, but that won’t always be the case

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Get the right tools to keep the viewer engaged. Getty Images
Headshot of Kathleen Barrett

We’re all finding ways to adapt our behaviors as we social distance: keeping our kids busy at home, streaming our workouts, tuning in to live services. It’s presented content creators and streamers with boundless opportunities to capture new global audiences with relevant content. From major media companies to smaller niche players, the SVOD market is seeing explosive growth as we all go virtual to keep connected, entertained and active.

But what happens next? Subscription fatigue and churn present real challenges for streamers and their networks, especially as we look ahead at getting our lives back to normal. Audiences dictate how, when and where to interact with video, and their expectations continue to rise. Content creators need to equip themselves with the right insights and tools to keep their audiences tuned in and, ultimately, subscribed.

The right economics

The cost of your subscription service is critical. More than half of people who canceled a streaming subscription in 2019 said that price was the reason for their cancellation, and that’s likely to be higher as the economic impact hits consumer spending.

How do you know you’ve hit the right balance of cost and value? It’s two-fold.

Content creators need to equip themselves with the right insights and tools to keep their audiences tuned in and, ultimately, subscribed.

First, viewers are willing to pay more for quality programming. We asked hundreds of our OTT clients and found that, in general, the more distinct the content offering, the higher the lifetime value and the lower the churn rate, two key indicators of a subscription network’s long-term success. Subscribers will spend on things they feel connected to, which is not easily substituted.

Next, think about the long term. Make the choice for your subscribers to stay a no-brainer. If you’re in the entertainment industry, what you’re able to charge will always be dictated by the bigger players. If you’re a fitness instructor streaming your workouts, you can charge more since your substitute might be an expensive in-person gym class. But once we’re able to go to the gym, you don’t want your users to have to choose between your service and their gym membership. Your service should complement their in-person routines and budgets, so they can—and will—pay for both.

Be where your audience is

Figure out where your audience wants to watch so that you can become a natural part of their day. Viewing habits of audiences change significantly depending on genre and even by individual channel. Consumers tend to watch sports content directly on their smart TVs, faith viewers consume more content on their mobile devices and news viewers watch on the web way more than other genres.

You need to know where they’re watching and add apps on the devices that your audience likes to use. Or best yet, attempt to be everywhere.

Make smarter content

You don’t need thousands of videos anymore; Netflix has proven that by reducing the size of its library. This is not to say content isn’t a priority. Churn rates are 30% per year across all OTT platforms, which makes attrition the biggest lever for almost every channel out there, and content cadence is a key driver in keeping audiences happy. It’s about making more of what your audience wants, having a thoughtful content release strategy and creating value in your offering by making it feel fresh and timely.

Try out different durations, formats and release strategies, then make more of what drives engagement. We’ve seen customers create the same type of excitement with limited releases, specialized curation or with live content that can’t be found anywhere else. Invite collaborators and special guests to join for a one-time-only event, or feature a director’s cut with live commentary. Live content works well because it gives audiences a sense of timeliness, in-person connection and community.

Ultimately knowing insights like what your viewers are watching now and how often is paramount. This information will help drive your creation, curation and promotion so you can be most effective with your time and spend.

Flawless tech

User experience can make or break a service. Audiences have come to expect quality programming coupled with reliable, intuitive technology and a best-in-class viewing experience no matter where they are in the world, and they will abandon services with poor usability. So many failed SVOD services have gone under for this very reason. The best solution is to focus all your efforts on content while offloading the tech to a third-party provider.

If you’re a streamer with your own subscription network or the current reality has you accelerating your online strategy, I encourage you to harness the opportunity of the moment. Stay nimble, experiment with new methods, partner with the right tech provider and listen to your users. After all, a happy audience is a subscribed audience.


Kathleen Barrett is svp, Enterprise and customer success at Vimeo.
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