From Service to Media Providers: Big Data, Fragmented Audiences, and a New Revenue Stream

January 9, 2017 - Openet

Just two years ago if you spoke to someone who worked for a major service provider like AT&T, Vodafone, or Verizon, and asked them what their company did, you would be able to predict the answer. Most would say their companies were telecom operators or communications service providers.

In 2014 AT&T described itself as a “a premier communications holding company”. Now in 2016 it “helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, mobile, high-speed Internet, and voice services.” Entertainment has come from not being mentioned two years ago to getting top billing today. Voice is mentioned last, giving an interesting insight into AT&T’s priorities. 

AT&T has since announced it will pay $85 billion for Time Warner in a media mega-deal, thus sealing the operator’s intent to become a major content powerhouse. Additionally, AT&T recently launched its internet TV streaming service DirecTV Now, perhaps justifying a further claim in AT&T’s descriptor: “We’re the world’s largest provider of pay TV.”

The AT&T/Time Warner deal is one of several in the increasing evolution of service providers to media providers. For many customers of these multi-play actors, the combination of engaging content choice and convenient multi-channel access will deliver major differentiation and service upsell potential. But one main component that contributes to a successful transformation is how these media providers will develop, market, and make money from the new services that digital enables. And one challenge ahead for many multi-play operators is the fragmented TV audience.

Splitting Hairs

The rise of multi-screening, Netflix, internet TV bundles, and streaming services means the days of relying on Nielsen's traditional TV ratings to measure audience sizes are now all but over. It’s more difficult than ever to accurately count how many people view TV content thanks to the steadily growing fragmentation of the viewing audience. This creates a significant challenge in the eyes of the brand marketers that the operators will target to recoup the multi-billion dollar investments being made in the content. Being unable to understand exactly what customers are watching means that pay TV providers and other network operators are unable to perform the key functions required for making money in the shifting video/content landscape.

Big Data, Big Problem

Ultimately, CSPs are facing a big data problem. The sheer volume of data pouring in from set-top boxes, mobile devices, and other sources as a result of this audience fragmentation makes collecting all of it into a data lake or warehouse is a gigantic task. Furthermore, with different types of data from disparate sources often stored and managed in separate siloes, it can be tough for providers to access all the audience information they have collected. Even if they have the necessary analytics platform at hand, providers may still have trouble ensuring the quality, comprehensiveness and richness of the data that's fed to those platforms.

Every Viewer Counts

The ambitious plans of many telcos to become media providers is in danger of faltering if they can't find better ways to collect viewing data from all the video devices they now serve, manage that data effectively and analyze it in real-time. Without such critical video data usage analytics at their fingertips, pay TV providers will still not be able to tell who is watching what, and crucially will be unable to personalize their video offerings for viewers and monetize those offerings with targeted, addressable advertising.

Gaining this understanding will inform better customer segmentation, and facilitate the delivery of highly targeted, contextually relevant, and personalized offers and advertising. This audience measurement data can be used to inform programming, ad inventory and placement decisions, and help operators as they negotiate carriage fees with content providers.

What Can Be Done?

TV and other video service providers can improve their collection of viewing data, organize, and manage that data more effectively, develop, and deploy better video usage analytics tools, and act on that data in real time. But first they must acknowledge two home truths. They're not collecting the available viewing data as effectively as they could right now. And most of them are not organizing, managing, and analyzing the viewing data at their fingertips as effectively as they could.

Upon acknowledging these two critical points, service providers can start pivoting away from their old and often obsolete data collection systems. Rather than trying to retool legacy data systems, they can start building the robust new data management systems needed to extract key insights and business intelligence from complete, accurate, and valid data sets. That will enable them to make better business decisions with meaningful and timely information from diverse internal and external data sources.


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