Are OTTs Missing a Trick?

The world of data has seen unprecedented scrutiny in recent times with the advent of GDPR in the EU, CCPA in California and all-round tighter regulation of how businesses collect, store, process and share consumer data globally. For many, this meant significant business change and focus on customer data. And rightly so. The focus has switched from collecting any data a business could get it hands on to a model where transparency, acceptability and accountability are central to customer data processing.

But with all the scrutiny and fears over the use of customer data, it appears that businesses are missing out on first-party data collection from customers that would actually help them deliver a more personalised experience for users. Whether through fear or misunderstanding of what is possible, this is clearly evident in the lack of first-party data collection in the OTT space.

Now it’s not like OTTs are not thinking about first-party data, far from it. Indeed, many OTTs are using data collection to establish a rapport with consumers right from the outset. Whether it’s iPlayer asking you who’s watching based on a user’s profile or Netflix asking what content you like to watch at the beginning of your subscription, OTTs are capturing first-party data at the beginning of a user’s journey or at the very least, when they switch on the service. Now this makes sense, it allows you to establish an instant connection and deliver content to individuals that they are most likely to watch. But then it stops. Nothing ever again.

This seems strange; if consumers are happy to answer these questions at the beginning of their journey, then surely, they would do so once engaged with your brand? Indeed, it is likely that consumers would be happy to make a value exchange with businesses for improved relevance and personalisation as it delivers them an experience tailored to their mood, mode and context. Why rely solely on user history or user signals such as search terms to determine someones mood, mode and context? Just ask! The data collected is reasonable, it does not compromise a user’s trust and will ultimately be used to improve their experience.

Netflix realises this and has been running recent email campaigns to do exactly that. Using a simple thumbs up or thumbs down response, they can get empirical data as to whether someone likes or dislikes content. Very useful for algorithms and a very powerful data set for personalisation and predictions. All they had to do was ask in a simple and effective way.

We can see that the BBC have thought about feedback from their recommendation emails, but does their approach actually help personalisation? Thumbs up ‘keep sending me emails’ or thumbs down ‘stop sending me emails’ doesn’t help anyone but the CRM team to know who and who not to send emails too. Could they be braver here and ask what recommendations a user wants more of?

So why don’t more OTTs collect first-party data? Is it fear of asking? Is it fear of data collection and storage? Do they not have the ability to utilise the data? Or is it just a mindset that hasn’t been considered? But for me the industry is missing a big trick. What better way to improve personalisation than to get empirical signal data on what people have enjoyed, what has thrilled them, what has disappointed them or what are they in the mood for today. And I am not talking about feedback surveys, I mean instant data capture that captures the mood and context of an individual so you can let them discover the very best content you have that meets their needs.

As a company with personalisation at its core, I can’t think of a more useful dataset to have access to which can be used in conjunction with user history feeds and matched up to that moment when people consuming content. And why our focus in the months to come is helping our clients start to think about first-party data collection…