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EP #35: Crafting Personalized OTT User Experiences Like India’s SonyLIV

About this Podcast

The global OTT streaming market is expected to grow from $104.11 billion in 2019 to $161.37 billion in 2020. This exponential growth is largely being fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic that has nudged more users to seek entertainment online.Owing to this content consumption surge, it has become inevitable for OTT industry players to use cutting edge technology like AI, predictive analytics, and personalization to deliver relevant 1:1 content. To understand how an industry leader like SonyLIV is combating user retention challenges, we caught up with Manish Dhanwani, Senior Marketing Manager at SonyLIV. Launched in 2013, SonyLIV is owned by Sony Pictures Networks – India. With a rich library comprising content across a plethora of genres, it is one of the top 5 OTT services in India. Manish highlights the following:

  • The positive impact of COVID-19 on the OTT industry
  • The short-term and long-term changes in consumer consumption trends due to this pandemic
  • The need to create impactful cross-channel engagement to drive app stickiness
  • The retention challenges and important KPIs that matter in the OTT industry
  • The importance of 1:1 content recommendations to increase user retention and app loyalty

Tune in to learn from an industry leader like SonyLIV on how new-age technology like AI and personalization is helping them deliver unique user experiences at scale!

Episode Transcripts

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Hi guys, Welcome to another insightful episode of the “Martechno Beat”  a specially curated podcast series powered by “Netcore Smartech” keen cutting-edge insights from leading Marketers, Product champions, and Matic influencers on all things, User Growth, Engagement, Retention, and Personalization. I’m your host “Pradyut Hande”, and I also have with me  my Co-host today “Rahul Bohora”, Rahul”

Rahul Bohora(Co-host):  “Hi, Hello everyone, Welcome to this “Martechno beat” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “And today we are joined by a very special guest we have with us. Mr. “Manish Dhanvani” senior “Marketing Manager” at “Sonyliv” with over 11 years of experience across leading consumer Tech Brands, like “Book My Show” and “Times of money”  “Manish” has a wealth of experience in diverse marketing functions such as Consumer-analytics, Customer-engagement, Loyalty, Retention, ASO and SEO, Welcome “Manish”, We are so delighted to have you on this particular episode of the “Martechno beat” 

Manish: “Thank you for such a warm welcome felt special” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right, So, you know “Rahul” and I were discussing internally the other day how “Covid-19” has shaped and reshaped consumer behavior across multiple Industries, And one of the industries that we got talking on about was “OTT” specifically and you know, so that actually leads me to my very first question where I want to pick your thoughts on how the “OTT” industry, In particular, has evolved during these last Two-Three months while the covid-19 pandemic has been at its peak”

Manish:  “Interesting question,  I there are these two categories which come to my mind, which is “Pharmaceutical’s”  and “Entertainment”, You know, which is kind of shown rapid growth purely because of Two reasons purely because of Covid and also another reason the being because Covid has kept people home, Consumers have now become “Digitally Savvy” and are wanting to adopt more digital mediums, So this is kind of you know, got a boom in terms of the business and especially more in the “OTT” sector because the consumer because of “Live TV” not being there and you know “Live sports” are coming to halt, There are “OTT” platforms like us who have you know, kind of come into the foray and deliver the deficit of entertainment to our consumers, right? So what we have seen in the last few months is an exceptional growth of path for ourselves in terms of the various “KPIs” in terms of you know, which could relate to a user watching free content, Paying and watching content and a freemium user eventually turning to a premium user. So these are most sorted of things that we’ve seen in the last few months because of Covid”

 Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay, okay, and you know, even before the covid-19 crisis struck, we’ve been following the “OTT” industry closely and all suggestions and speculation and estimations actually suggested that you know, the “OTT” industry would grow at a “CAGR” of 22 percent over the next four years and I suppose this particular period has actually come as a blessing in disguise as you mentioned how consumption of content has continued to increase and you know platforms such as “Sonyliv” are catering to that entertainment deficit but it’s also thrown up some consumer behavior trends that can be categorized as both short-term and long-term,  So how do you foresee some of these consumption trends lasting maybe over the next three months or do you see some of them going even further and becoming more permanent trends? How do you see that”?

Manish: “So honestly, we “OTT” as you would have heard that “OTT” has just begun its home in India, right,  Because of unfortunately the Covid-19 situation then we were all forced to stay back home and consume more of entertainment, apart from so we haven’t seen an exponential dive or exponential growth in that case for a user to pay, right”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Manish:  “Because there were no Market contents and everything, right, But at least the users have got onto the habit of sampling content on the “OTT” platform”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Manish: “That is what has given exposure to a lot of you know, content side growth on the “OTT” platforms, Having said that there is another avenue for interactivity when you’re sitting at home and you know, you probably are, you know hooked onto your mobile devices you would just want to play a game may be, right, You may just want to interact you need to looking for interactivity option, So we recently launched our you know, gaming platforms and we’ve added more gaming the options into it”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Manish: “So it could be “Ludo” with “Kapil Sharma”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Oh Nice”

Manish: “And there are various IP shows that we’ve come up with which we’ve integrated seamlessly into the gaming scenario, So in that ways, you know, these generations of “OTT” consumers whom we can probably term as or rather more prominently term as “Cord cutters”, have become more and more addicted towards interactivity as well, So yep having said that the trends here are to stay and in fact show or not, You would have heard about you know movies going on to “OTT” platforms” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct”

Manish: “Because unfortunately, the situation in the near future doesn’t seem to be getting back to normal, Hence “OTT” then becomes an option as the new normal to be adopted? So, you know a lot of big-screen movies are cheaper to go “OTT” specific” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Manish: “As they have already been gone as well, So for us, it’s a new opportunity for us, It’s a new exploration of you know, content opportunities that we can have on “OTT” and this will just keep on growing till you know, we kind of reach new skills and new heights with regards to be “OTT” business” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Two very interesting points that you made about building greater interactivity on to these “OTT” platforms and some of the initiatives that you’ve taken, you know, this just going they will contribute to getting you to know, sort of embedding a greater degree of stickiness to your platforms, you know, creating that hook and bringing users back to your platform so that definitely helps and the second point that you mentioned of how you know, to it’s going to disrupt the movie industry to a large extent especially with a lot of these Hindi releases that are going to bypass the traditional theater Avenue and get the premier directly on “OTT” platforms, So that, again becomes another Avenue of customer acquisition, engagement, and retention. So that’s an interesting point”

Manish: “Right”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Rahul you are up next”

Rahul(Co-host): “Yes, So as “Manish” mentioned, I had a very quick question to have a quick answer and his take on the same, So now that he’s mentioned that this is a lot of emphasis on the engagement, So beat up gross engagement with the help of games for with the help of content “Manish” what have been the engagement and retention challenges that you might have paste or that you actually foresee and what would be the key “KPI’s”  is that could really matter, You know in the “OTT” space where you would see that there’s a lot of emphases that need to be put away across to ensure that you know to bring your customer and you install the customer remains with you forever”

Manish: “So, you know, the it’s a very interesting Insight that I would want to put across in terms of there are two (C’s) which rule the entertainment, you know vertical so to say the two (C’s) are, “Consumer” and “Content” right, the consumer growth will only keep happening if the content is good and if the consumer is a fine to content and content when only seemed to resonate with the consumer if you know if it’s a well researched and thought through content which will be designed for a particular target segment of audiences to interact and to enjoy the content, Right, That is what that’s how we evolved in the “OTT” scenario has been show the content on certain platforms having said that the key retention challenge, is it becomes difficult for a user to get stuck to one platform because you know because of lack of content, So if you don’t have seamless content coming up frequently and if you have just you know, it can’t be a game that I can expect a 70-80 percent retention of consumer pattern to be observed on my side if I don’t have any good content, right? So it has to be more on content that will help us solve that problem of retention and the entire customer lifecycle Journey that we intend the consumer to follow. Having said that our new Focus has been originals and you know international content is less romantic, which should bring content to the consumers as well, Right? So because we know that the consumer these days is a find to that kind of content pieces, So it’s important to deliver what the consumers are asking for and the consumers just asking for good quality content, So that becomes one solve for that very recent Covid or a very recent Covid finding that we saw on our website is during the initial phases when unfortunately we went in a lockdown phase, Right, So or the consumers did start watching content and you know, they started to consume more of content and catch up content on our platforms, But after a point in time during the consumers who have tasted the Content frequently and the consumers who have you know, kind of taken a sense of the content and they would have consumed a lot more of content pieces on our platforms suddenly started to you know, show a southwards trends because it really didn’t make any sense for Consumer to go to any “OTT” platforms because there was no primary content available, We were very renowned for the shows that you make however because of the scenario it it came to a stand-still,  So the people who had missed out on live TV shows came to our platform to do a lot of catch-up content for a lot of our key shows, but eventually they consume content a lot quicker and they moved out,  What we also saw as a retention challenge was the fact that the relevancy or recommendation or you know “Machine Learning” said it was something what we would like to you know, What i would like to highlight as a key challenge and ensure for Consumer to taste content, right?

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish:  “So say, for example, you’re on my platform and you’re consuming a “Kapil Sharma” show, I all of a sudden cannot recommend you “Crime Petrol”, Right”

Rahul(Co-host): “Correct”

Manish:  “In that case, it’s becomes so linear and cross recommendations in these scenarios were needed to be studied with evolved patterns of the consumer movement, Right, You may or may not be the consumer who has seen a “Kapil Sharma” show and the “Crime Petrol show, Right,  You will definitely be needed to be studied in-depth and that’s how a prominent recommendation can be thrown to you, So cross-selling of content via recommendation channels is a very Prime input that one needs to have“

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “And for a consumer, it becomes important that relevancy is being added to his content consumption pattern and that’s how we come across to be a platform, So these are the two key challenges that we face today in the “OTT” scenario,  Right”

Rahul(Co-host):  “Very aptly described “Manish” and that actually leads me to my next question, You know, you mentioned how content recommendations need to be relevant and contextual and we have encountered that through many of our conversations with Brands across Industries primarily in “OTT” where solid recommendation engine is so critical to success in this entire space you mentioned how to cross recommendations are critical,  Could you share a few more insights on how you know, “OTT”  players can increase stickiness can increase content consumption and average time spent during each session through the use of these one to one content recommendations” 

Manish: “Right, So there are two ways to do this, Right, So Say for example, if you have gone on an “OTT” platform and if you can, you know, if you consume content for you know, an hour-long episode if you just consumed 5% which is a 20 minute of it, then it is important or it becomes important for all “OTT” platform to communicate to you saying that you left of your and you know” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “You kind of Drive come back and consume the entire recipes of shows”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “What we fail to realize is there is “The Art of Storytelling” in a format that you know, you launch teasers, you launch the revealers, You communicate the launching that the episodes are launched and then you kind of complete “The Art of Storytelling” by via throwing in reviews”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “Reviews which sound genuine in nature, Reviews which are you know, are something that a consumer believes and we all are these days very informative. Thanks to “Google” search engines and the various content reviews that go up on social media” 

Rahul(Co-host): “True”

Manish: “It becomes critical for us to complete “The Art of Storytelling” it just cannot be that the episode has been released and you know, you are communicating with your users to go out there and consume a particular piece of content”

Rahul(Co-host): “True”

Manish: “It just doesn’t work like this, You may just you know, Observe a short-term trend spike but in the long run this definitely do not you know, don’t fit in the scheme of things. It has to be perfectly told the consumer definitely has to be followed” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Correct”

Manish: “When in my earlier experience at “Book my show” there was this we should complete “The Art of Storytelling” in a manner that if a user was watching a particular a trailer release or a trailer brake which is happened on the on the portal then and eventually has, you know, kind of clicked on want to see the icon and you know, the plans have opened along with that, We used to send him used to contact him at various intervals right saying that since you expressed or want to see since you expressed your interest by clicking on want to see the plans have the open book first, then we used to get into the study pattern that is your weekend or a weekday consumer, Right”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “So if you want to probably a consumer who’s going to be watching movies, or you will see most of his consumption habits over the weekdays, we wouldn’t have bothered you on the weekend” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “And and alternatively if the movie reviews are out and you know you if you’re a weekend consumer or you still haven’t caught up with that piece of content or with that movie, We used to send out a communication to you saying that, Hey the reviews are out and they look more popular along with an offer which is which would probably entice you to book a ticket with us, And for the weekday consumer if you’re on Monday or Tuesday consumer and you still haven’t watched that particular movie and the movie is genuinely could be then used to mold our reviews in a way on the art of telling the review to a consumer in a way that he gets excited towards making a particular transaction on our platform, Right, So this is the way retention as an activity needs to happen or with a lot of Brands and platforms because they will come at a particular time and you know Branch would get done with  acquisition budget”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “And they would be very limited scope out in acquiring consumers, but there’s definitely, you know merits in merits and retaining consumers via the organic perspective because you already acquired them”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “The hard work of making that user believe or value the brand in his life. Right? 

Rahul(Co-host): “Absolutely”

Manish: “So you have already done the hard work of making him install the app. You’ve already done the hard work of making sure to serve content on your app stroke website. All you need to do is just keep talking to him. It’s just like it has to be a kind of informal communication. Right,  So you will be talking to him you keep talking to the consumer and telling him about how good a particular movie but at the same point in time one needs to be really cautious of not overdoing this exercise”

Rahul(Co-host): “Correct”

Manish:  “There is a whole, you know, that there are consumers who cannot take a lot of chitter-chatter with that is why you see, you know, they will be unsubscribed and uninstalls and be these are the negative KPI’s, Right, 

Rahul(Co-host): “Correct”

Manish: “While you may be while you may be spending a good amount of strategy and information or research to ensure that a particular brand is getting his the particular KPI’s like  monthly active users like a transacting user, negative KPI,s which is correlated to it”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “And if those metrics are not taken into consideration and uninstalls and the unsubscribes are happening to a greater extent then it really doesn’t dilute because there is a very marginal dent in a negative or a positive manner that you’ve been able to bring to the pan” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Correct”

Manish:  “So while doing retention, what a lot of folks do is just pause it, Just concentrate on getting the business up, There is a negative KPIs  which is you know, which is also hindering that particular business because you over talking to the consumer” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Right”

Manish: “And consumers just don’t appreciate that, Right, So personalization recommendation these all are facets of what you say, These are these all facets of consumer retention and loyalty”

Rahul(Co-host): “True”

Manish: “That’s how consumers will get attracted towards Brands and retention would be in a happy space”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Truly makes a lot of sense and it’s so critical for a brand to follow that infinite Loop, right, You acquire customers you understand their behaviors and interactions on your platform with your marketing campaigns over a period of time and you feed that intelligence back into the way you sort of interact with them again, whether it is through personalized recommendations, whether it is through you know prebuild one-to-one customer Journeys, so it’s an infinite loop and you know, I really appreciate the point that you made about how Brands need to focus more on customer retention because at the end of the day everyone’s trying to find that trade-off between your customer acquisition costs and your CALVes and if you reach a stage where your CAGR is much higher than you see on CLDV, then you know for a fact that retention is a huge issue for you. So that makes a lot of sense, “Rahul” anything that you might want to add to this” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Sure-Sure, That actually gives me to the last part of this conversation where “Manish” has already given a lot of insights on what exactly is the setup as of today, but ‘Manish’ I would also like to have some of your some of your brains into an understanding of what will be the future of “Mobile Marketing” on the front of app analytics and how AIML would ideally be far more active or far more important in the near future to ensure that we have got a better Predictive Analytics and ensure that the re-engagement or the personalization or the reaching out to the customer would be done in the best possible manner” 

Manish: “Right, Also, the future is definitely bright. I wouldn’t want you to know, so I am a very optimistic person that way so I would always want to believe that the future is bright. But however, there are certain indicators measures that indicate that you know that drive us towards believing that the future out there is good for us because a lot of consumers these days believe in the power of paying so no longer and they are becoming more quality conscious, Right, It just kind you woo them with some silly pieces of what do you say silly product or silly content out there trying to tell them to pay for the content. It’s never going to happen”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right” 

Manish: “So because the consumers are growing and going to believe more or towards quality and that is what drives them to pay for particular things in life. Right” 

Rahul(Co-host): “True” 

Manish: “So having said that AI, ML and you know the recommendation Pieces of things they definitely are the future because you know Predictive Analytics if I can put it right if these are all Predictive Analytics that is a bill because India is a place where a brands  operating and adopting such measures will only have to will do so because they have scale because they have better volumes, You cannot reach out to a particular consumer,  Unfortunately, like the offline Manner and treat than that, which you have to cluster them and to cluster them you will have to definitely take support of ML, AI  and Predictive Analytics in a nutshell but having said that data needs to be seamless Right,  So data storing, data passing and more so though the tools that you adopt towards more custom customer engagement and retention they need to you know, be really robust in nature to be to ensure that these are that these tools are adapted to handle volumes else these things will just sound more of a jargon and they will never fly off”

Rahul(Co-host): “Right, I think that makes a lot of sense, you know, while some of that futuristic technology has already come into play, you know your points on how he AI, ML will continue to play a more prominent role in the future, especially with the volumes and the Quantum of you know, customers coming onto platform such as “OTT,” I think that has been really helpful. And again, it just comes back to that entire data flywheel right you have data in place you have Insights that you generate from that you have intelligence that comes into place and then you have actions that a brand takes. So I think that flywheel will continue to gain greater credence and importance as well moving forward and that actually brings us to the end of this particular episode. Thank you so much “Manish” for your time and for sharing your insights. It’s been a pleasure hosting you”

Manish: “Thank you so much guys, Thank you “Pradyut and Rahul” for being such good hosts and enabling this session. I am just hoping that I’ve been able to share as much knowledge in my little bit of work-ex that I have in life. Literally looking forward to joining you folks on other “Martechno Beats”

Pradyut Hande(Host):  “No, absolutely, Thank you so much” 

Manish: “Thank you”

 Pradyut Hande(Host): “We have no doubt there are audiences across geographies and industries who will benefit from this. Thank you so much for making the time once again and to all our listeners out there stay tuned for more such exciting content. Thank you guys” 

Rahul(Co-host): “Thankyou”

Manish: “Thank you.”

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