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Taking stock: How to optimise the streaming experience while increasing the value of content in 2024

By Shaun Lim

In part one of Taking Stock report by APB+ last week, we spoke with NPW, Imagine Communications and Amagi on key content monetisation to deploy in an increasingly saturated marketplace. This week, the conversation continues with a look at the rapid rise of FAST TV and the outlook as broadcasters and media operators look to maximise revenue across multiple platforms in 2024.

As broadcasters look to monetise their content while increasing their reach to capture more eyeballs, Free Advertising Supported Television (FAST) has emerged as an increasingly popular TV streaming format. And while the US remains the leading growth market for FAST, expect this trend to change in the not-so-distant future, says Jay Ganesan, SVP, Asia-Pacific, Amagi.

Describing FAST as having the potential to “revolutionise not only how broadcasters can maximise their content, but how they can reach a broader audience,” he told APB+, “FAST opens up a new revenue channel, allowing content providers to capitalise on ad exposure across diverse genres, from news and sports to movies and TV shows, thereby attracting a wider audience and enhancing viewer engagement. 

“The brands that are shifting their ad dollars from broadcast to digital progressively see FAST as a high engagement brand-safe environment to promote their brands and, hence, typically pay a premium for this inventory.”

According to the seventh edition of Amagi’s Global FAST report, there is a significant appetite for free content in Asia, thus leading to an exponential rise of FAST services in countries such as India, Japan and South Korea. India’s Connected TV (CTV) market, in particular, which accounted for 20-22 million households in 2022, is expected to double by this year. 

This, according to Ganesan, presents a “compelling opportunity” for major players to enter the FAST market. 

“Crucially, FAST also empowers content creators with control over how their content is programmed, distributed, and monetised,” he added. “The lower barrier of entry into FAST provides broadcasters with opportunities to engage more viewers and expand their reach without compromising control.”

As the FAST ecosystem matures, he also predicts a shift towards sophisticated monetisation and audience targeting strategies. Targeting viewers based on behaviours rather than demographics will allow for a more nuanced understanding of the audience, enhancing the effectiveness of ad delivery, Ganesan suggested.

The rise of free, ad-supported models like FAST is being driven by many reasons, not least streaming providers’ desire to generate more revenue, and consumers’ lack of both money and time to spend on multiple streaming services.

While highlighting that it may not be wholly possible to predict the future, Till Sudworth, Head of BU Video and Member of the Management Board, NPAW, highlighted, “In 2023, virtually all leading streaming services either raised prices or added ads to find the winning formula that maintains the rate of revenue growth without causing users to churn.”

Like Amagi, NPW is optimistic that FAST models will grow to become a bigger part of the Asian streaming industry in 2024. He added, “However, broadcasters have traditionally used ads as part of their business model. So, the advent of new ad-supported streaming options will not necessarily mean a big shift in how these players monetise their content. 

“Nevertheless, the rise in FAST channels might make it easier to introduce new free ad-based offerings, with consumers being more open to these models and the return of ads in general. That will probably be done in conjunction with subscriptions, leading to a surge in hybrid monetisation models that combine ads and a premium, subscription-based tier.”

The future will continue to be shaped by who can truly crack the code when it comes to audience monetisation; for FAST to be sustainable and profitable in the long run, there is more work to be done, cautioned Steve Reynolds, President, Imagine Communications.

He described how the early entrants in the CTV space were mainly subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services, leading to a lack of CTV inventory, with no demand for and no systems to manage this inventory. The acquisition of new subscribers largely drove revenue and growth, until they no longer did.

Reynolds explained, “Emerging CTV platforms realised that the media business has always profited from two key revenue streams — sell the content and sell the audience watching that content.

“The SVoD model only enables one stream and therefore was always going to be incomplete.  So, in 2022 we started to see a pivot towards advertising as a new source of growth and revenue for CTV. FAST started to shine on the media stage, but certainly seemed to go too far, too quickly.”

Today, Reynolds sees the accumulation of too much CTV ad inventory with low quality and sinking cost per mile (CPMs), although he expects this to be remediated as the CTV segment adopts business practices that build value into linear TV inventory and as buyers begin to trust the delivery systems that power that CTV inventory.

“Over time, as the true benefits of addressable advertising begin to mesh seamlessly with the long-proven value of branding and mass marketing through linear-like campaigns, we will see an improvement in sustainable and profitable operations for those media companies that take the right steps to consolidate their audience, curate their ad offerings, and build real value in their ecosystems,” he concluded.

Maximising revenue: Top tips to drive success in 2024

When it comes to further maximising revenue across multiple platforms in 2024, the key may lie more in practicality than ingenuity. The best place to start looking, offered Reynolds, is what other operators have done successfully. 

He maintained, “In many cases, you are likely to hear that the best place to start is to ensure that your core inventory management and traffic systems are ready for the challenge. Is the system modern, scalable, and extensible? If not, you may need to start by modernising the core of your ad operations.

“One key decision criteria here should be the openness of the system, including support for APIs and integration of the various data sources that will drive your business in the decades to come.”

Once the core system is in place, operators can then consider how the markets they serve are changing to enable the buying of converged audiences. Supporting a set of business rules that build value and establish premium pricing for all inventory types should be the goal, rather than plunging quickly into digital-like selling models that erode value, drive down CPMs, and result in negative imbalance between supply and demand.  

Reynolds added, “The final tip is to pay attention to your linear inventory and profits.  For most media businesses, linear is still the core source of revenue and the most valuable inventory.  There are tools available to preserve and even grow that business, so leverage these as you build towards your cross-platform future.”

At the heart of any discourse about maximising revenue must be user growth and retention, said NPW’s Sudworth. “How can broadcasters offer the content and streaming experiences that their target audiences want? How can they compete with streaming behemoths and differentiate themselves?”

The answer, he revealed, lies in data, and particularly the real-time end-user insights collected from digital services using advanced analytics tools.

By leveraging deep insights into end-user behaviour, broadcasters can tailor content creation and sourcing to audience preferences, even at the local level where they have traditionally been strong. Additionally, by understanding how viewers navigate their digital platforms, broadcasters can optimise the user interface and experience to alleviate pain points and promote engagement.

Utilising end-user data, Sudworth added, can further enhance app and video playback performance. Addressing issues such as buffering or in-app crashes that negatively affect the quality of experience can reduce dissatisfaction and churn, keeping users engaged with content for longer periods.

Then, it is about catering to user needs, as he highlighted, “Knowing what drives users to the platform also informs strategic decisions for acquiring new users and retaining existing ones. Targeted offers can be crafted to prevent user churn. Properly leveraging end-user data can refine advertising strategies, ensuring ads are relevant to user interests and placed where they are most likely to be well-received, thus boosting engagement and revenue.”

These processes, said Sudworth, will be driven by artificial intelligence (AI), which will help uncover hidden patterns and successful strategies within the vast amounts of data collected. “New AI-powered data analysis tools are now available, enabling decision-makers to tap into deep, actionable insights, regardless of their expertise with data, and unlocking new operational efficiencies and avenues for improvement.”

Beyond AI, or perhaps in collaboration with AI, broadcasters and content owners may also want to consider embracing a cloud-based unified broadcast workflow, as they prepare for a diversified media supply chain where content monetisation happens across broadcast, advertising-based video-on-demand (AVoD), SVoD, FAST, social media and podcasts, advised Amagi’s Ganesan. 

He elaborated, “

This preparedness involves integrating all aspects of the broadcast process, from content creation to distribution and monetisation, within a single, cohesive system. Not only does a unified workflow help streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve efficiency, but it also enables broadcasters to access viewer analytics instantaneously and within the same interface. 

“This includes understanding what content resonates with viewers, when they are most likely to watch, and what types of ads they respond to, all of which can be used to optimise content and advertising strategies for improved monetisation.”

As viewer expectations continue to evolve, the traditional ad experience must also adapt to capture and retain viewer attention. For more traditional broadcasters, Ganesan offered another tip to drive further success in 2024 – enhancing their ad pod tactics and embracing innovative ad formats. 

“By adopting strategic ad pod tactics, such as dividing longer ad pods into shorter ones or breaking the pod into multiple-tiered requests to pragmatic partners, broadcasters can minimise latency in delivering ads while ensuring higher fill rates.

“Additionally, integrating unobtrusive ad formats such as graphics overlays, L-bands, and interactive ads can lead to better ad impressions and viewer conversions,” Ganesan concluded.

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