A Quick Guide to Preparing to Go D2C

The history of OTT product strategy and development in different countries is a story of overlapping waves. 

The UK’s national broadcasters, for example, all went immediately direct-to-consumer and started their own VOD services. 

Channel 4’s 4oD was the first terrestrial broadcaster in the world to make its entire archive of shows available for on-demand viewing in 2006; BBC iPlayer famously went live on Christmas Day 2007 (to an almost literally captive audience), and ITV Player followed the next year. 

In the USA, the major networks quickly got together in 2006 to create an aggregated streamer, Hulu. 

In one territory was divergence; in the other, convergence. 

Since then, the US players have come to market with individual offerings like NBC Universal’s Peacock and HBO’s HBO Max. By contrast, BritBox, the UK’s equivalent of Hulu, with content from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, eventually launched after ten years of regulatory struggles in 2018. 

The outlook flipped to convergence – divergence. 

At Skylark, we see this cycle of approaches coming in and out of vogue continuing for some time. 

Aggregation now isn’t only about broadcasters banding together. Operators and telcos like Sky, Virgin Media and Verizon, rightly, want to provide a gateway to the multitude of OTT services to their millions of loyal customers. Set-top box platforms like Google’s Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku are appealing to cord-cutters and cord-nevers. 

Going D2C, however, is still hugely attractive because it means that broadcasters can - in the face of increasing competition and the decreasing importance of EPGs – retain brand relationships with their viewers, collect information about them to help make digital (addressable) advertising more relevant, and increase ARPU. 

So, if you’re planning to go D2C, how should you do it? Here’s our quick guide encompassing four major areas – commercial, product, strategic and technical. 

1. Commercial

When thinking about launching D2C services, the most significant mind shift for most broadcasters is the idea that their audiences are about to become customers. From being a company that specialises in making and airing great content, the broadcaster now has to consider practicalities like:

  • Pricing their D2C service
  • Methods of communicating with prospects and new paying users
  • Handling inbound queries (customer services helplines and email support)
  • Setting up analytics so that they can see who’s watching what (which may help to reduce churn)
  • The amount of content (in terms of titles and hours) that they can make available – subject to their existing licensing agreements – on their new platforms

A good CRM (customer relationship management) tool is, we think, essential to achieving some of these goals. 

2. Product

Ultimately, broadcasters will go where the audience is so your D2C product may need to be available on all of the five big OTT device families: Smart TVs (LG, Samsung, Sony etc.), smartphones (iOS / Android), tablets, set-top boxes (including Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku) and games consoles. 

You’ll then need to address questions like:

  • What does our user interface look like? 
  • Should it be consistent across all platforms?
  • How to incorporate SSO (single sign-on) so that viewers can watch and manage their accounts from multiple locations
  • How to handle DRM (digital rights management) so that users are authenticated and shown the right content
  • And how to schedule content to appear and then be automatically removed when licences expire

As with any product development, you broadly have three approaches to solving these challenges: build it yourself, use specialist suppliers for individual elements or deploy a true end-to-end video platform to manage the entire process. We’ll talk more about this in section #4 below. 

3. Strategic

Whilst your audience (customers) may be spread across multiple territories, demographics and devices, you may only have a limited budget to get your marketing messages and content in front of them. Your strategy is therefore going to be all-important and will likely cover things like:

  • Who are our biggest audiences (by age, location, spending power)?
  • Which devices do they use/are they most comfortable with? 
  • Do we have international viewers? Where are they based?
  • Should we aim for one big-bang launch or go for a more phased approach?
  • And if so, what are goals and timelines for Phases 1, 2, 3 etc.?

Ask us about this! At Skylark, we’ve worked with broadcasters like ITV, Channel 4, NBC Universal and Fox since 2006 and we’ve seen first-hand how OTT products and strategies have evolved over time. We can point you to case studies to learn from, discuss best practice models and help future-proof your plans. 

4. Technical

Whether you already come with existing (legacy) technologies – that may have been used for earlier iterations of your OTT products – or are starting from a clean slate, going D2C will require the deployment of some core solutions. These include:

  • A storage solution, either on-premises or in the cloud (or both), that holds all of your video assets
  • A Digital or Media Asset Management system (DAM / MAM) which, as the names suggest, help you log, track and manage your assets
  • A CMS – content management system – which you’ll use to add editorial and technical metadata to your content (so that it appears on your user interfaces) and govern where and when it appears on different devices
  • A payment solution so that you can take monthly payments from your SVOD users
  • And, as we suggested in section #1 above, a CRM

Going D2C can be a complex job, but it doesn’t have to be. An end-to-end video platform like Skylark, which incorporates best-of-breed partner solutions, can help manage the day-to-day running of your OTT services across multiple platforms. Leaving you to do what you're best at: creating brilliant content.

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