Gaining Value from Big Data

Stock image futurist - Big Data

By Tim Jobling, CTO, Imagen

Broadcasters are dealing with big data on a constant basis, primarily in the form of video content which is naturally larger as a data source than other forms. The advent of the internet and the resulting volume of data that needs to be managed, stored and analysed has led to the emergence of modern-day big data technologies.

However, in broadcast, although over-the-top (OTT) and streaming have been around for a while now, the boom of upcoming OTT services, such as Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max, means that the volume of content the consumer now has access to is far beyond anything broadcasters were previously equipped for. In addition, broadcasters are now handling more information on their audiences than ever before. Subsequently, broadcasters need to find a way to store and manage this big data in a suitable way, not only so it’s easily accessed, but also so they can gain value from it.

Data analytics

The volume of data owned by broadcasters continues to increase as they create more content and generate more data on customers. With the rise of streaming platforms, broadcasters are gaining increasing amounts of data on their audiences. Historically, broadcasters were unable to access this information and instead were reliant on third parties, such as Nielsen, or surveys to provide the insights they needed to understand viewing habits. But, as broadcasters are now able to capture data on viewers (and most want to gain as much as possible), they are also required to store and manage this big data, – particularly if they want to maximise its value to inform business models and to drive engagement. This is even more prevalent for the likes of Netflix or YouTube which use algorithms to continue to engage users in their content; by using big data to recommend other things they might like to watch, they are able to retain the consumer’s attention and ensure they stay on the platform.

In this scenario, Netflix is using big data to great effect with its recommendation system reported to influence 80% of the content watched on the platform. The streaming service is also using big data to inform which shows to commission and for how many seasons. For instance, Netflix used big data to form its decision to commission House of Cards for 26 episodes despite not having seen the pilot, basing it on information such as the subject matter, the fact that there was an existing fan base due to the original British series, and the appeal of the actors and director attached to the project. It has continued to use this model with the film ‘Bird Box’ which seems to have paid off with the film being watched by more than 45 million accounts during its first seven days. Big data, therefore, plays a valuable role in the decision-making process within broadcasters.

Tim Jobling portrait, Imagen CTO
Tim Jobling, CTO, Imagen

Historic vs current data

As Disney+ prepares to launch, the sheer scale of data it has at its disposal could be seen as an advantage. After all, the first Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released in 1938 – almost 60 years before the launch of Netflix and 68 years before Amazon Prime Video. During this time, Walt Disney Pictures will have gained huge amounts of data about which films and programmes are the most successful, which themes resonate the most, and which demographics they should aim at. All of this data will have been extremely valuable to the organisation when making decisions regarding new films to commission or which films should have a sequel, for example.

However, despite this, the data owned by Disney may not be as advantageous and useful when it comes to its new platform, owing to the fact it will have aged substantially. In this situation, Netflix and Amazon will have the upper hand as the data they possess is based on current users so they’re able to utilise this information to personalise the platform for each individual user. With data on audiences spanning the past 81 years, Disney+ will be unable to do this – at least not immediately. Consequently, in some ways, Disney+ will have to start afresh when it comes to capturing data on its viewers and build up this information over months and years. That’s not to say its existing data will go unused, instead, it will have to be combined with new and up-to-date information to provide any real value.

Gaining value from big data

By 2022, it is predicted that there will be 777 million SVoD (subscription video on demand) subscribers globally, rising from 474 million in 2018. This increase will lead to broadcasters creating even more content to cater to the differing tastes and viewing habits of such a vast audience. Additionally, the amount of data captured on viewers will increase exponentially as viewer numbers increase. As a result, it’s vital that broadcasters are able to store and manage this data effectively in order to derive as much value from it as possible. As competition increases, this will be vital in enabling broadcasters to get ahead and gain a larger proportion of the SVoD market.

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