For all but the largest SVOD services, being found by viewers is the biggest challenge. Services like Amazon Channels, VRV, and Roku cross-service search are helping. But look for big guns like Comcast, Google, and Apple to step into the fray in 2017.
Top two SVOD services dominate attention
In the U.S., the top four SVOD services are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO Now. However, it is almost deceptive to describe them as the “top four”. Netflix has 5 times the penetration of Hulu, and 10 times the penetration of HBO Now. In reality, it comes down to two providers: Netflix and Amazon
With more than a hundred services available in the U.S., the struggle to be found has never been fiercer. Unfortunately, consumers lack even the most basic tools to stand a chance of finding a service that might be a good fit for them.
There are several approaches that are seeking to help the smaller providers get found by interested consumers.
The only substantial player in this space today is Amazon. It’s Channels program has signed up over 100 services. The company provides SVOD companies with marketing assistance, billing services, and streaming services through its AWS cloud computing platform.
Audience reach is very important for general aggregators of SVOD services. Amazon is one of the few vendors in the U.S. that can make it work. Not only can Amazon market to prime video users, it can leverage consumers that have never watched video through Prime. Search on the Starz show Black Sails and an Amazon shopper is offered the chance to watch immediately on Amazon Video by subscribing to Starz for $8.99 a month.
Expect to see companies like Comcast and DirecTV increasingly step into this role in the 2017.
Some services are seeking to reach a specific group of consumers with a more targeted set of content. For example, VRV, a new service from Ellation media, is seeking to appeal to young consumers with a related set of content from genre’s like anime, eSports, and horror. It is working with SVOD providers like Crunchyroll, Machinima, and Shudder to build out a set of free ad-supported content to draw consumers in. It will then provide multiple opportunities to up-sell users to premium subscriptions.
Although it is early days for this approach, expect to see more services try it in the coming year.
Any product or service used by large numbers of consumers can help SVOD services find an audience. Some, like Roku and Xbox, provide cross-service search functionality. If a user wants to find a show or movie, they simply use the devices search function. A list of services with the desired show is returned and the user selects the service from the list to watch.
The biggest drawback to this approach from the SVOD provider’s perspective is that each platform implements the search function differently. That means to be included requires custom work. Since many platforms are adding cross-service search, and all implement it differently, this can get very expensive for providers. Hence, many of them opt not to be included in device cross-service search functions.
No one approach wins
Though these approaches should help boost the number of subscribers to the smaller SVOD services, no single approach will be sufficient. This creates opportunities for other companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple to help with this discoverability issue. Watch for media stores like Google Play and Apple iTunes to extend reach into the SVOD market. Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and OK Google will also start to support SVOD content search.
Why it matters
Small SVOD services are struggling to be found by interested consumers.
Aggregation and cross-service search functions are beginning to help with the problem.
Look for much more to happen in this space in 2017, including the entrance of companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple.