Over 100 million viewers streamed 3.5 billion minutes of NBC’s Rio coverage on web, mobile, and other connected devices. By all objective measures, NBC delivered the largest digital event in history. From NBC’s support of TV Everywhere and connected TVs to dynamic ad insertion on live events that crossed millions of users, NBC’s robust technology delivered the content that viewers craved, when and how they wanted it, without getting in the way.
Media companies once controlled how, when, and where audiences consumed their content. Remember “Must See TV”? Now, consumers expect content to be anywhere and whenever they are. And of course, this applies to publishing, newspapers, and radio, too. Why wade through the static of FM stations when you can easily dial up iHeartRadio or Pandora?
But as the NBC Olympics example shows, media brands that evolve to meet these challenges reap great rewards: more consumers, younger demographics, and more ways to earn advertising and subscriber revenue. While not everyone has a tentpole event like the Olympics, all must satisfy customers through a personalized and continuous customer experience. The only way to guarantee viewers an amazing experience like the Rio Olympics is to do as NBC did — build a digital marketing foundation that is powerful, unified, and flexible.
As NBC’s success shows, the media and entertainment industry is at an inflection point. While over 500 million people watched the 2016 Olympics on live TV, digital-only fans grew by a whopping 29 percent from the 2012 London games to a total of 100 million unique viewers. Based on these trends, media companies that delay or deprioritize a unified digital foundation will have an existential crisis on their hands.
Today, most media companies have implemented digital technology. For instance, you won’t find many brands that aren’t acquiring audiences or delivering content across mobile or supporting an OTT service. But because media and entertainment moved to digital so quickly, it now faces new challenges. Those technologies born out of former needs and urgency are simply not optimally integrated. In fact, only one in four media executives in a recent Econsultancy survey was confident that they have the technology to capitalize on digital opportunities.
This lack of integration introduces complexity, delays production, and makes security and scalability more challenging. It also means that customer experiences can be jagged, which can prove fatal to incumbents who are now competing with nimble startups without the technical or organizational debt to tame.
“For us, the experience on digital should be broadcast quality,” says Eric Black, chief technology officer of NBC Sports Group Digital. “No matter what platform viewers are on, we’re trying to drive growth in engagement. Part of engagement is the content itself, and part is the technology never getting in the way of the content. It needs to be about the game or event, not the technology.”
“Part of viewer engagement is the content itself and part is the technology never getting in the way of the content. It needs to be about the game, not the technology.”
CTO, NBC Sports
The media industry has moved
Company-controlled, proprietary networks
Open IP-based networks that are lower cost yet also secure and more complex to support.
Company-created, standardized content and time frames
Personalized and dynamic content created and distributed more rapidly
Limited channels for distribution or audience acquisition
Multiple distribution and acquisition channels that companies must understand and prioritize to optimize their revenue mix
These changes demand a centralized digital foundation that can do the following:
- Automate content delivery across devices to lower costs and increase speed.
- Personalize the experience for the customer, wherever they are on their journey.
- Integrate online and offline data sources in a unified data language that can drive cross-company KPIs.
- Stabilize uneven demand and performance through a scalable and secure foundation.
Here are six steps to set the right foundation for your content and your business.
1: Dig deep with data.
According to a recent study from Econsultancy, customer experience is regarded as the primary way for organizations to differentiate themselves from competitors in 2017, but data capabilities — the very bedrock of all digital experiences — aren’t developing fast enough.
Companies must have a data definition that powers a unified data language across the organization. Many businesses spend huge amounts of resources cobbling together different digital marketing tools instead of running campaigns. Start with your digital foundation first, so you can focus on using data to generate revenue instead of simply integrating and normalizing it.
Fairfax Media New Zealand publishes more than 25 different magazines and dozens of newspapers, regularly reaching 85 percent of New Zealanders with their content. They began by unifying their analytics to see where audiences were coming from and how they were engaging, but they soon amped up their audience management capabilities to take it a step further. They integrated more sources of customer data into their marketing suite, including membership and clickstream data to increase advertising options and boost revenue. The results have been compelling.
“One insurance advertiser leveraged a combination of data segments and retargeting to increase response by almost 300 percent compared to untargeted campaigns,” says Fei Bian Goh, senior product manager of news at Fairfax. This unified platform and deep data unification enabled Fairfax to offer these types of successful programs to other advertisers as well.
Unified data metrics can also unite your company across organizational silos so everyone is shooting for the same targets.
“The same questions and goals have to be posed across the company. Ad ops can’t only think about ‘their’ KPI that may contradict the subscriber goals. The KPIs have to agree,” says Jennifer Cooper, director of media and entertainment strategy at Adobe. A digital marketing foundation can often provide the catalyst and framework to power this internal change.
What you need.
Data tracking across the entire customer journey, not just interactions with one system or device.
Cross-organizational views of data and KPIs so that your company can speak the same data language.
2. Get connected.
With a solid digital foundation in place, you can seamlessly build and deliver great experiences across every touchpoint. For instance, Rio was the first Olympic Games that provided streaming coverage to connected TVs including Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.
When individual point solutions are implemented, however, a single user too often appears as a separate customer when they switch devices. This makes personalization impossible and prevents accurate audience intelligence or advertising support.
Centralized content authoring is key for driving cross-device engagement. The goal is to build once; deploy and access everywhere. Consumers don’t want to be forced to log into your website to sign up for a newsletter or pay their bill — they expect everything to work on their phone, on their tablet, or in your app. Only an integrated digital foundation makes this possible without needing to hire an army of additional marketing, editorial, or IT staff.
What you need.
Centralized content authoring that can be deployed across devices so that the experience is consistent and continuous.
Audience measurement across devices but per user.
Support for major consumer platforms with a track record of continual additions.
3: Get personal.
Although companies today focus on multi-device, contextual experiences, 61 percent lack the resources to support these experiences, according to Forrester Research. This is troubling, given that 70 percent of U.S. adults are unsatisfied with generic offers. Consumers want businesses — especially media and entertainment businesses — toknow them. A unified digital foundation powers content personalization in the authoring interface, which means all types of content for customers, employees, and partners can be personalized efficiently
NBC Sports and the Olympics, for instance, replaced broadcast TV commercials with targeted ads using data points like device, type, audience behavior characteristics, Nielsen segments, and even psychographic data to give audiences more relevant ads. This ultimately meant more engagement and higher rates paid by the advertiser.
But personalization isn’t just about advertising. Campaign management technology can help you engage readers or viewers with content. For instance, one audience segment may engage consistently with on-demand or exclusive content, while another may be drawn to free previews. With a unified marketing platform built on a strong data foundation, you can segment audiences by what motivates them and then make personal recommendations for future consumption, increasing engagement and ultimately revenue.
What you need.
Campaign management functionality that captures mobile, social, customer support, or marketing interactions.
Audience segments based on behavior, platform, demographic, and other information that can then drive campaigns, recommendations, or advertising support.
Personalization done at the personal level, not just by mass segment groupings.
4: Get faster.
With a digital foundation, you can create, manage, and deliver digital experiences at a faster rate. NBC Sports streamed 3.5 billion total minutes to over 100 million unique users. While most media brands couldn’t dream of delivering so much content for one event, all are experiencing the pressures of creating more content. For example, if your content teams are relying on IT to give them access to assets, you can forget about keeping pace with the competition. Without a unified platform, the costs of coordination and dissemination are just too high.
Take rapidly growing cable and satellite television network TVOne. Today’s viewers want to extend their fandom to other screens, devouring behind-the-scenes features, performer blogs, quizzes, or articles on their favorite shows. Through an integrated marketing platform, TVOne was able to speed up content updates from what once took a full day down to five minutes.
Once their digital foundation was deployed, TVOne’s small staff of six content contributors could post editorial and video content in real time, offering the network a competitive advantage in providing relevant experiences to fans when they are most interested.
What you need.
A centralized asset repository that speeds time to production.
Flexible workflows that can be adapted to your specific company.
Content publishing to multiple platforms without IT help.
5: Get future-proof.
Technology is always evolving. Augmented reality looks to be a driving force of content consumption. New CRM systems may become crucial for advertising-supported content, though no one knows for sure. That’s one reason why in-house technology platforms cobbled together from legacy solutions are an impediment to delivering holistic customer experiences. The cost to stay current is too much for one organization to bear.
Given consumer expectations and habits around content consumption, media and entertainment companies are usually on the leading edge. Augmented reality, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality represent exciting prospects for the future of media and entertainment. In the 2016 Olympics, for example, NBC provided virtual reality coverage for Samsung Galaxy smartphones and the Gear Virtual Reality platform, marking the first time Olympics programming was available in virtual reality.
In this rapidly shifting technology landscape, media companies can’t do it alone. A unified digital foundation — built with open standards and APIs — will always be improved, so the latest and most profitable platforms are supported, including those that haven’t even been invented yet.
What you need.
Open standards and open API support.
A track record of releases that enhance the platform.
Integration with leading-edge platforms and tools that are key for your company’s future.
6. Get Scalable.
NBC couldn’t have supported the demands and spikes of its vast audience on their own infrastructure, with only their own technical staff. No budget would allow for that much elasticity. The cloud provided the redundancy to deliver a bulletproof experience.
Being scalable doesn’t just mean running on the cloud so you can respond when demand shifts. It also means having a partner that can handle the technical coordination. According to a recent Forrester survey, only 16 percent of companies now work without the help of service providers. After all, technical know-how is often more critical than the computing power.
A unified digital foundation also delivers better security, since IT teams aren’t trying to integrate and secure vastly different systems, log-ins, and data storage. Accenture recently surveyed media and entertainment executives and found that more than half of participants said security concerns are one of their biggest challenges in digital technology implementations.
What you need.
Cloud support from a leading infrastructure supplier that can handle peak demands.
Managed service provider options for the outsourcing of technical staff when needed.
Support for security mandates and standards for your industry.
Implementing a powerful and unified digital foundation is the only way for media and entertainment companies to deliver the personalized, multi-device experiences that consumers demand. Media and entertainment is in the content business. Your technology platform should unleash your content and enable internal teams to attract, grow, and engage the right audiences. And as NBC’s success with the Olympics has shown us, it’s about the game, not the technology — when you build the right digital foundation.
Anjali Yakkundi, “Market Overview: Digital Experience Delivery Service Providers, 2015,” Forrester, April 24, 2015.
“Bringing a personal touch to millions,” Adobe case study, January 2014.
“Building a brand across channels,” Adobe case study, October 2012.
Econsultancy, “2017 Digital Trends,” February 2017.
Econsultancy, “Trends and Priorities in the Media and Entertainment Sector,” July 2016.
Eric Black in “Transforming digital content and advertising experiences across all channels,” Adobe Summit, March 23, 2017.
“Here’s how Adobe helped NBC personalize ads during the Olympics,” The Drum, September 2016.
Personal interview with Jennifer Cooper, director of media and entertainment strategy at Adobe, April 2017.
“Market Overview: Digital Experience Delivery Service Providers, 2015,” Forrester Research, April 24, 2015.
“NBC’s Rio Olympics is the most successful media event in history,” NBC Sports press release, August 22, 2016.
“The New Security Challenge. Are Media & Entertainment Companies Ready?” Accenture, 2016.