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User engagement: How to reverse viewers in Asia spending less time on streaming content platforms

By Shaun Lim

From traditional linear TV programming to streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, not to mention short-form content platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, the deluge of content options available to viewers today are all fighting for that most valuable of commodity – time, and it would appear that many are falling short.

Particularly in Asia, user engagement per streaming service was the lowest in 2022, when compared to other regions in the world. Till Sudworth, CMO, NPAW, described, “Consumers in Asia watched on average 30 minutes of video-on-demand (VoD) content and 23 minutes of linear TV on each streaming platform per day. This is considerably less than the global average of 48 minutes for VoD and 37 minutes for linear TV.

“The average number of titles the average consumer in Asia watched on each streaming service per day was also the lowest of all regions – 2.08 VoD titles versus a global average of 2.76 and 1.3 linear TV titles versus a global average of 1.6.”

NPAW, a video analytics company, had earlier this year, released its 2022 Video Streaming Industry Report, which highlighted how user engagement per streaming service globally continues to decline as content options multiply.

While it would appear that the appetite for content remains strong, the saturation of content choices has apparently left viewers struggling to catch up. 

Speaking with APB+, Sudworth added, “As is the case for the rest of the world, daily consumption per user and service decreased in 2022 compared with 2021.

“In Asia, the time each consumer spent watching content on each streaming service decreased year-over-year by 11% for VoD and 22% for Linear TV. Meanwhile, the average number of daily titles dropped by 6% for VoD and 5% for linear.

“These drops show the effects of increased market saturation and content options. With more options available, consumers are spending less and less time on each platform.”

Yet, there is one genre of content that is beginning to draw more viewers to the screen, with NPAW’s report identifying an increase in the average watching time for regional-specific streaming services.

Sudworth noted, “Our cross-regional customers in Asia don’t perform as well as country-specific customers, mainly due to the localised video content. This shows the high value of local content.

“We are seeing increased interest in country-specific programming, as with services featuring such content escaping the downward trend.”

He also disagreed that viewer fatigue is potentially driving the industry to hit a plateau when it comes to consumption of content. On the contrary, the total amount of plays and playtime across streaming services increased in 2022, demonstrating a continued demand for online video content. 

What operators need to concern themselves with, is the decreasing amount of time viewers are spending on online video entertainment everyday as more content platforms and options emerge. 

Sudworth maintained, “That doesn’t necessarily mean that services are losing users as a result of market saturation. But they are certainly losing valuable daily engagement, which can affect advertising revenues and eventually lead to users losing interest in the platform and churn.”

AVoD key to linear TV content streaming

According to the NPAW report, the quality of linear TV content has continued to improve on streaming services, with providers implementing longer time lags to allow for higher-quality video to load in order to avoid mid-stream buffering.

Yet, daily linear TV playtime per user and service declined by 23% year-on-year, while users watched 11% fewer titles per day. However, Sudworth was quick to emphasise that the total number of plays and playtime across services for linear TV content is increasing year after year.

“It is not an issue of a decrease in demand for linear TV content streaming, but of the increasing amount of services resulting in less daily engagement per user and service.”

For broadcasters looking to introduce new over-the-top (OTT) services, he recommended them to design a superior navigation and streaming experience that, paired with top-quality content, can retain users, and maximise user engagement.

Besides localised content, sports and news have proven to be high-engagement programming that can attract eyeballs, according to Sudworth.

Next, broadcasters need to think of strategies to monetise their content and they might do well to take a leaf out of the book of both Netflix and Disney+. 

A recent NPAW survey revealed that 76% of subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services are planning to introduce ads by 2025, driven by the need to increase monetisation in the face of falling engagement numbers.

Sudworth said, “With the over abundance of services and the current economic situation, consumers are reaching a plateau when it comes to the monthly spending they can devote to streaming. Broadcasters will need to decide if they want to include ads to maintain and increase revenues and, if so, implement a data-driven ad strategy that maximises value while not impacting the viewing experience.”

Provide flawless user experience & be data-driven

While the NPAW report does not examine the amount of time viewers are spending on the likes of TikTok and YouTube, Sudworth acknowledges the increasing popularity and appeal of short-form content platforms.

However, he is adamant that these do not create direct conflict with the consumption of linear TV content. “We know that consumers tend to watch short-form content videos on small-screen devices like smartphones, while our data shows that they prefer bigger screens such as smart TVs and set-top boxes to watch linear TV content. 

“In fact, the share of total linear TV plays captured by big screens grew in 2022 compared to the previous year, while that captured by smartphones decreased. Furthermore, it is not rare for consumers to watch content on their phones while watching TV, which means the two types of content can coexist more easily.”

Regardless of the growing number of content options available to viewers in a constantly changing media landscape, linear broadcasters can continue to stay relevant if they can provide both the content their viewers need as well as a flawless user and viewing experience that promotes engagement, said Sudworth.

Reiterating that local-specific content, sports, musical concerts or even live e-commerce can be major drivers of viewer engagement, he also highlighted the importance of paying attention to data.

“Implementing a data-driven approach to content and user experience optimisation is what will ultimately ensure that the platform reacts to the needs and preferences of the audience and maximises value for both consumers and broadcasters,” Sudworth concluded.

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