Data Is The Key To The Future Of Video

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As more and more new platforms emerge, the importance of user data grows in guiding programming and advertising strategies.
By: Michael Depp
TVNewsCheck,

As new video platforms keep emerging, user data is becoming a key differentiator from their older competitors.

That was clear from a discussion of such platforms at the NAB Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday, where Roku, PlayStation Vue and Mashable all affirmed data’s role in helping them get above the pack.

“Data is huge,” said Pete Cashmore, Mashable’s founder and CEO. “We index everything — articles, videos.”

To illustrate, Cashmore cited one home-built tool, Velocity Kilogram, that indexes all sharing that comes from Mashable and creates audience segments that the company can use when it wants to take something viral.

For PlayStation Vue, a channel-based service that carries content largely targeted to millennials, data helps guide programming decisions. Dwayne Benefield, VP and head of PlayStation Vue for Sony Interactive Entertainment America, said that his consumers’ love of e-sports, for instance, led to its inclusion of ESL, a European-based channel dedicated to the subject.

Benefield added that data is also affecting the overall product itself. “We use that data to inform the evolution of the product,” he said, referencing the recent addition of a three-screen multi-view functionality as an example.

Roku’s Steve Shannon, GM and SVP of content and services, said user data is crucial for building audience and for advertising. On the latter front, such data is used “to make sure we’re not wasting ad inventory on you for shows you don’t want to see,” he said.

As ad loads on the service are typically lower than on regular television, that data also helps make more money per ad because of greater relevancy.

If data is helping give the companies a leg up, they still have their enemies to square up against every day. For PlayStation Vue, the biggest adversary is time.

Benefield says the average users now watch five hours of TV a day, but their consumption of other media erodes that time.

For Roku, “we wake up every day competing against Apple, Google and Amazon,” Shannon said. Changing consumer behavior is another dynamic it combats, especially in the “lazy medium” of television.

Mashable, meanwhile, sees its biggest competitor as user-generated content, Cashmore says.

One disruptive force that none are too preoccupied with is virtual reality, where Cashmore says distribution limitations will keep growth at bay.

“Most people aren’t going to have a headset,” he said, noting that the likelier hardware will be smartphones that don’t cocoon their users and create a social impediment in doing so.

Looking ahead, Shannon said, “For us, the next big project is about our UI” (user interface). There, maintaining Roku’s current simplicity is key, but Shannon said there’s a tremendous amount of experimentation going on behind the scenes with new technologies like voice.

“It’s pretty basic stuff that’s never been done,” he said.

Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2017 news here.