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What Broadcasters Can Learn From Netflix
Netflix may still rule the over-the-top world, but broadcasters can succeed with their own VOD services by both learning from Netflix and playing to their own strengths.

The face of traditional broadcast has irreversibly changed, spurred on by an influx of wireless technologies that offer consumers more choice over how, where, and when they consume content. Whether it's watching a live programme on their TV, catching up on a show via their laptop, or streaming a new series through their tablet, the demands of the want-it-now millennial generation have given rise to a new wave of video consumption habits. As a result, the last few years have seen a surge in video-on-demand services battling it out for consumer attention.

Sitting on the throne of this new over-the-top world of video is Netflix. This King of Content may have seen its share price plunge 15 percent recently after announcing it had missed second-quarter expectations, but the fact remains that Netflix still holds the crown as leader of the video streaming world. According to Nielsen, around 56.2 million American households were subscribed to Netflix in May 2016. By comparison, the second to most popular streaming service, Amazon Prime, is available in 25.2 million U.S. homes.

Despite the growing popularity of VoD services, this doesn't mean traditional players have lost their place in the consumer's heart. Contrary to popular belief, rather than killing TV, Netflix and similar services are merely acting as a catalyst for change, pointing the opportunities away from linear scheduling, and encouraging traditional players to adapt for the modern day video consumer.

Playing to Existing Strengths

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a VoD service, and broadcasters are well aware that simply adopting a platform akin to Netflix won't cut it in helping them to stay relevant. At a time when the average viewer is comfortable using—and paying—for discrete content services, it is crucial that broadcasters instead play to the strengths which made them so popular in the first place. Working with a digital product and VoD specialist will help broadcasters to adapt their traditional strengths for the modern day consumer.

Strength #1: Scheduling

While Netflix has a large international content library, local broadcasters have insights into the culture, appreciation of the people, and knowledge of what's needed to succeed within the region. It's a level of understanding that global streaming players like Netflix cannot easily compete with. Broadcasters know the local channels and how to effectively curate content for users (skills honed during the age of linear programming which can be extrapolated for the launch of new VoD platforms). They also have an inherent appreciation for, and expertise in, scheduling.

These lessons in scheduling are ones which non-traditional players should take note of. Scheduling goes far beyond merely arranging and promoting content for a given day or week. Other factors such as time of day and calendar events, like Christmas, the European Championships, or a General Election should be taken into account as well. Even if a broadcaster or VoD provider doesn't own the rights to a sporting competition, there's nothing stopping them riding on the bandwagon and presenting other sports-focused content to satiate consumers' appetites.

Strength #2: The Human Touch

When creating a VoD service, it is important for broadcasters to adopt technology that is aware of a wide range of content types, whether it's a trailer, a bite-sized video, or a series, in order to present and sell content to individual viewers in a way they can easily understand. Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix have a vast budget for machine-driven recommendation engines for this purpose, but there's no need for broadcasters to even try and compete in this manner, especially given that any automated approach will experience glitches on occasion. A human editorial approach, where a team of people contribute to the conversation of what to watch and when, will help broadcasters to build a positive relationship between the viewer and VoD service.

Strength #3: Unique Personalities

The majority of 'white label' services on the market today may seem appealing on the surface, because they are quick and easy to put in place, but they aren't future-proofed and often let down users in their design. Broadcasters would be much wiser buckling down on their own unique attributes, instead of relying on generic designs or even throwing new features into the mix for the sake of it. Each traditional player is unique with its own content, tone of voice, approach, and technical set up—these 'personalities' are ones which audiences already know and love, thanks to years of investing in content and TLC.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Video-on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player have long existed as platforms for catching up on content which has already aired. Netflix's success has merely shifted the focus of these services away from purely catch-up to offering new content, available to consumers to binge on anytime, anywhere. Anyone watching closely enough will have noticed the BBC and ITV platforms shift their strategy over the last couple of years to offer first plays of content, be it a bite-sized video, or a full series.

As we enter a new era of video consumption, now is the time for broadcasters to take ownership of their content market, while there is still time to push their own natural advantages. The most time-efficient way to achieving this is by teaming up with a VoD delivery expert who can work one-on-one with the broadcaster to develop a VoD platform which encompasses the broadcaster's tone and style—in a way that appeals to its unique audience—as well as integrating the necessary technological requirements to flourish in today's on-demand economy.

[Streaming Media accepts contributed articles from vendors in the online video space based solely on their value to our readers.]

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