Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Whenever a new streaming service launches, there’s typically a significant emphasis on and investment in acquiring new subscribers. If all goes to plan, there will be a surge of subscribers in the first months or even years, but eventually there comes a point where growth begins to plateau and even stagnate.
What do you do now? When you’ve potentially saturated your audience, what’s the next step? How can revenues still climb as growth slows down?
Traditional subscriber acquisition tactics
Even companies that invest millions in marketing and subscriber acquisition see growth taper off at some point. To offset this, brands need to analyze and optimize their users’ experience, invest in customer relationship management, and put compelling campaigns in place for both new and existing customers. Beyond that, providing additional products and more granularity around service offerings and content bundles will help keep your viewers connected to a service they love and see value in. Netflix always tops every chart in the streaming space, but they are far from complacent. Just last month they started testing yet another new plan and price point, and also launched a revamped user interface to better meet their user’s needs.
There are many tried and true promotions geared at subscriber acquisition. But how can you use these and maximize your marketing budget?
Offers & Incentives
One of the international leaders in OTT is Sky’s NOW TV. They have always been innovative and forward thinking in their efforts around customer acquisition and retention. Sky utilizes a combination of everything from low start offers, free trials, % discounts, box-proposition, partner programs, group discounts and more.
- Low start offers attract prospective customers with a reduced price for a limited period, for example, 50% off for the first three months. These work quite well in acquiring new subscribers and ensure that new customers are still generating a proportion of revenue for your service, even if they aren’t paying full price.
- Free trials that require the user to input their payment details are also popular and can be greatly successful. Once the user submits payment information, they are granted free access to your content for a limited time before being automatically enrolled in a recurring paid plan. Companies often fear that subscribers acquired by this method will simply cancel their contract shortly before their free trial ends, however we haven’t found that to be the case — most users actually stay subscribed for many months beyond the trial period.
- Promo codes of course enable discounts or free trials when redeemed. They can easily be distributed by email to your database or online through your social channels. They can also also be shared offline in magazines or even on a billboard if you so choose. Promo codes specific to a marketing channel enable you to track their success and then use the data to optimize your marketing strategy to maximize conversion rates.
Partner referrals & partnerships
Partnerships are a great way to get subscribers through the door. By analyzing your audience data, you can tap into the interests of your target demographic and offer third-party promotions to incentivize subscriptions to your service. Partner with a popcorn company and have them include a free pass to your service in each box sold. Align yourself with a hotel chain that is willing to offer a free trial of your service to guests for the duration of their stay. If you have sports content, perhaps work with a local sports team to have them print a promo code for a free month of streaming on the back of their ticket stubs.
Promoting OTT subscription offers on the packaging of physical products gets viewers interested in your service early on. In the world of streaming, the most logical fit is with TV or device manufacturers. For example, Sky partnered with LG to drive NOW TV growth by offering free 3 month Sky Movies Pass and 7 Sky Sports Day Passes to everyone who purchased an LG Smart TV.
New and emerging subscriber acquisition methods
Subscriber acquisition success is not exclusively measured through offers, incentives and promotions: it’s also through good user experience. Let’s look at a few of the ways you can improve UX to increase acquisition.
Optimize your sign-up and registration process for mobile customers. Consumers signing-up to an OTT streaming service via mobile want to access content easily and conveniently. If your sign-up process is anything but logical and efficient, what are you communicating about the quality of your service to your customers? With the increasing proportion of customers choosing to sign-up to OTT services via mobile or tablet, it would be foolish not to prioritize making your subscription acquisition strategy mobile-first. This means ensuring the registration process remains smooth and consistent across multiple devices with minimal barriers to purchase. Optimizing the UX for the customer will lead to more subscribers through the door.
Single / Social Sign On
Speed up the registration process by offering consumers the option of signing-up via single/social sign-on. Have one account for all areas of your business to reduce consumer headaches in remembering separate payment and login information for multiple accounts. This works particularly well for sports streaming services that may also want to upsell merchandise and tickets to fans at the same time.
Widely adopted in the publishing industry, content metering has helped publishers balance the debate as to what is more valuable: subscription revenues through paid content, or maximizing visitor traffic to keep advertising revenues high? Freemium business models can attract visitors with access to free content upfront, which in turn entices them to convert to a paid or registered service once access is no longer granted. This could theoretically be after X number of videos are played, or after X number of minutes/hours of viewing have been fulfilled in a given time period. Broadcasters can meter access based on many variables such as a user’s IP, time of day, asset or article counts or by content type. This could be a particularly useful approach for broadcasters that have historically been free-to-air and are trying to persuade users to convert to paid or registered services.
While saturation of new subscribers may seem inevitable, revenues can still grow. If you know your audience’s behaviors and content interests you can create targeted offers to increase your pool of subscribers. Reduce barriers to purchase at every opportunity for a smooth and simple user journey and consider experimenting with innovative business models. If you can put your customer at the heart of your subscription strategy and respond to consumer demand in the market with flexibility and agility, your streaming service will be able to thrive and your recurring revenue stream will continue to grow.