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The REVisionists: For Peerlogix, OTT Viewership Data Is The Key To Developing a Content Acquisition Strategy

Peerlogix CEO William Gorfein explained his company’s “Moneyball” approach to video content acquisition. “We’ve spent the last five years collecting streaming viewership data from close to 200 million households worldwide and we use that data to identify trends and patterns in consumption. We call this approach a ’Moneyball strategy’ because, analogously to the famous Oakland A’s story,  it relies on using data to identify the content that will perform the best for the least amount of investment.” Gorfein sat down with TV[R]EV’s Alan Wolk to discuss why having the right content acquisition strategy was so important for the FASTs. 

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Alan Wolk: When you say you are working with a FAST to find the best content for them, how are you defining “best”?

William Gorfein: When I say we help them find the “best” content, I mean the content that will best help that FAST meet its specific goals, in other words, obtaining and retaining viewers that meet their target audience persona(s) in the most cost effective manner possible. To do this, we help them identify those movies and shows that are synergistic with their vision for their platform but that are, for one reason or another, undervalued and thus represent the smartest choice for them. 

AW: Is the content acquisition decision making process different depending on whether you want to focus on VOD versus linear streams?

WG: The decision-making process is identical. What a FAST is looking to do (or should be looking to do) is get the best value per dollar spent on the content in their library. So, for example, we like seeing FASTs spending very little money to get TV shows that may be a little lower profile but still have hundreds of episodes available and a sizable fan base. Those are the kinds of cheap pickups that can allow them to really build out their content library pool.

And whether you’re talking about a curated feed or a video on demand scenario, what you want to look at is how does each individual title stack up, on a value per dollar basis, against other titles you’re potentially looking at. That’s your key decision.

AW: A growing trend among FASTs is the use of a ‘ratchet up’ strategy, designed to move viewers up the value chain, from ‘free’ to ‘premium’ pricing models. Can Peerlogix data help with that kind of strategy?

WG: Absolutely. Our data library is ultimately flexible—really a vast pool of collected data points waiting to be combined and leveraged in any way you can imagine. 

So, for example, to help in this kind of ‘ratchet up’ strategy we might look for series where intra-season episode streaming numbers were constant, or even increased. This would indicate viewers maintained a strong interest in the show, that viewership did not drop off. This would be an indication that this series would be a good value-chain ladder—a show where the viewer would not be satisfied watching just a few episodes. For these kinds of series, we’d recommend that the FAST offer the first few episodes within a ‘free’ model and put the remaining episodes behind a ‘premium’ wall.

AW: Let’s talk about some of the other types of categories and strategies that you look to identify, starting with “niche attractors”

WG: Niche attractors are titles that either currently have strong momentum or did so when they were originally released, but for whatever reason, have not yet bubbled up onto the mainstream radar.  Regardless, they remain very popular with specific audiences—to the point where those viewers will engage a particular service simply because it carries those titles. 

Not all niche attractor series are library series either. Some are still in production and may well be on a path to become full blown streaming hits (we saw this happen in real-time for ‘Vikings’ and ‘The 100’), or they may never truly make that jump. Those that do not make the jump become excellent value-adds to an aggressive content acquisition strategy.

Classic niche attractors are often older series that most people never realized had a rabid fan base (think “Firefly” or “Samurai Jack”). These titles always make strong investments as they can be acquired at reasonable rates even though our underlying data shows their ability to bring in a dedicated fan base. 

AW:  Another category you’ve identified is “churn reducers” —what are they and what is their value?

WG: “Churn reducer” TV series are classic syndicated shows that were very popular in their day, tend to have hundreds of episodes available and have instant name recognition. The reason they are so valuable is that they get people watching as quickly as possible without having to think about it. Meaning that when a viewer first experiences a FAST or a stream in a FAST, if they see one of these series, they will immediately start watching. 

This is more critical than many people may realize because it means that you’ve got the viewer right away, they’re not scrolling around your app, trying to find something to watch, maybe even moving on to another service. They see a show like “Scrubs” or “Futurama” that they’ve always liked, and they know immediately what it is and that your service is where they can watch it.

That’s why it’s important to make churn reducers a key part of your content acquisition strategy, because if you can get viewers coming back to watch those series, you can start to introduce them to the rest of your library and they’re unlikely to start looking elsewhere. One of the key attractions of the FASTs is that they’re easy, you don’t need to think about them much, it’s that “lean back” experience versus a “lean in” one. So having churn reducers in your line-up just makes it that much easier for viewers to make you their go-to service.

AW: Final piece on this is what you call “audience targeting.” Why is that so important?

WG: The audience targeting component is important because, when a FAST is creating a content strategy, they need to ask themselves, “What are the various viewer personas that make up my audience?” and they need to curate a deep library of content that will appeal to those personas.  Often, a content acquisition team is already in touch with these targeted personas, but when they are not, our data library can be helpful in conducting a valuable content audit to understand their base of viewers. 

Once we see those titles that are driving their highest viewership, we can help develop an acquisition wish list by identifying those lower profile movies and shows that exhibit high levels of viewer correlation with their current high performers—meaning we can identify less expensive titles that will appeal to the same audiences as their higher profile “showcase titles,” creating a deep bench of ‘second tier’ content for each persona.

This is especially necessary for FASTs that offer curated linear streams and therefore need to maintain an enormous pool of content with thousands of titles to pull from. The more they can refine what is in those massive libraries to appeal to a specific persona or set of personas, the stronger their position will be. Our audience targeting offering can really help with that.