From Viewer to Subscriber: How OTT Channels can Attract and Convert Customers

Whether you’re a big brand expanding your digital video strategy or a small team looking to launch a subscription-based OTT channel, you need subscribers to succeed.

And, if you’re like most subscription video on demand (SVOD) providers, you have a leaky bucket where users will sign up for a free trial or even the first month, but soon cancel their accounts and kill your chance at a positive customer lifetime value or CLV. How do you fix this leaky bucket and make users want to keep paying for your OTT channel?

Let’s start with you how you acquire downloads in the first place — because each channel comes with its costs and benefits.

Acquiring New OTT Channel Downloads

Digital video is all the rage…but how do you attract viewers to your channel? When competing with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and now Disney, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal, you have to be strategic in your acquisition efforts.

There are really two types of user acquisition: organic or paid.

If you have an existing brand, such as a digital publisher looking to launch an OTT channel or have exclusive sports content, then organic is where you should focus. You already have an audience, now you need to convert them to watching your OTT channel.

Now, if you’re looking to launch a brand new OTT channel with original content or licensed content, but you don’t yet have an audience, you’re likely going to need some paid efforts to attract attention and gain downloads.

Paid user acquisition channels for OTT Downloads include:

  • PR – Strategic press releases to targeted outlets can provide an initial uptick in subscribers and is good for SEO.
  • Display Ads – Looking to reach large digital audiences for the lowest cost? Programmatic display ads could be your answer. They work especially well if your content has a broad audience.
  • Social Ads – Looking to go a bit more targeted on your ads? Facebook (and Instagram) allow you to refine your targeting and messaging…but at a slightly premium price. Having a retention campaign built out is critical before launching any sort of paid advertising to optimize your likely CLV.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads – People are constantly googling for videos to solve their problems or entertain them. By investing in PPC ads you can advertise your OTT channel…but deep links to Connected TV platforms isn’t quite here yet. So make sure you make it clear they need to download an OTT channel to view the video content (or link to your onsite content but advertise your OTT channel there).
  • Partnerships – Partnering up with content creators to be the exclusive home to content is a great way to get them to co-invest in advertising opportunities and bring their existing audience over.

But, before you invest a single dollar in paid user acquisition for an OTT channel, you have a few other things to focus on.

Focus on the Sign-Up Flow

Have you ever installed a mobile app and been immediately bombarded by messages asking you to accept push notifications, location data, and other intrusive things with no forewarning?

Chances are you choose not to opt-in, unless required to…and, sometimes if you’re required to…you simply uninstall.

You don’t want to create the same experiences with your OTT channels. This first user experience is critical to the formation of how someone thinks about your brand. If you ask for too much or unnecessary data, don’t optimize for specific screen sizes, or have random bugs, it’s going to be hard to regain your viewers’ trust.

An easy trick for optimizing sign-up flows for OTT channels is to look at what industry leaders are doing. How has Netflix optimized their sign-up flow? NBCUniversal? People have inherent expectations in how digital experiences should operate and if you disregard them, you’re likely to lose viewers.

Now that users are in and using your OTT application, it’s all about keeping that quality user experience going.

Creating Quality User Experiences

No one will pay for something that doesn’t add value.

In the world of digital video, that means entertainment.

And, even if you can squeeze a couple of extra bucks through forgotten subscriptions, the long-term value of users will be non-existent.

Extracting dollars starts with providing value through your content and overall user experience.

The good news is that it’s not too hard to create these quality experiences because there are a set of best practices you can follow.

Best Practices for User Experiences in OTT Channels include:

  • Free Trial – One of the best ways to increase downloads of an OTT channel is by offering a free trial. You can personally decide to collect credit card information at sign up, at paywall, or after the trial is over. There are advantages to each option.
  • Playlists / Content Shelves – This is the way content is organized. Some playlists might be “recently added “ or “top comedy shows”.
  • Continuous Play – Thanks to Netflix and Youtube, users expect the next episode to play automatically. To combat resources, you can add in a “still watching?” button after a few episodes.
  • Native Search – Regardless of the type of content on your OTT channel, users will want to be able to search for what they’re looking for. Search is one reason why video metadata management is such a critical piece to digital video.
  • Content Recommendations – Whether you choose to implement recommendations based on the interests of similar users, viewing history, or trends based on genre or metadata elements, content personalization can help significantly improve engagement and retention.

Companies like Zype have optimized OTT app templates that follow these best practices to help you get to market faster.

Following best practices and creating quality user experiences builds trust with your viewers. If you overrun someone with ads, pop-ups asking them to pay, or make it hard for them to cancel their accounts, you’re burning potential subscribers and even advocates for a channel.

Nurture Users Through Other Channels

As a subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) OTT channel, your free trial time period is the most critical part of a user journey. If you don’t convince them to keep paying in 14-30 days, they’re going to churn and your revenue opportunities go down the drain.

So how do you convince them to keep subscribing?

Through strategic nurture campaigns.

Nurture Channels can include:

  • Email – The most used channel for nurturing, you should focus on setting up a sequence that adds value to the user journey on their way to subscribing. More on this in a second.
  • Display retargeting – Shoot them some display ads across sites on different content on your OTT channel. This is where content recommendation engines come in super handy.
  • Social ads – Targeting some Facebook ads at users likely to churn out can entice them back. If you’re targeting a younger demographic, look at Instagram. Retargeting ads are often way less expensive than acquisition ads.
  • Text – This new channel should be used very cautiously and only in positive user-centric ways. Offer them an extension on the free trial or a discount if they subscribe.

Alright, let’s dive into the biggest channel for nurturing your OTT viewers into subscribers: email.

You can pretty much use any email provider to set up a nurture sequence to get users on the path to subscriber and advocate.

Here’s an example email sequence for an OTT channel:

Send Day: D0

  • Subject: Thanks [NAME] for Downloading [CHANNEL NAME]

Send Day: D2

  • Subject: Discover More [THEME TAG] Content on [CHANNEL NAME]

Send Day: D5

  • Subject: Exclusive Content is Waiting to be Watched

Send Day: D10 (if watched less than three times)

  • Subject: What do you want to watch? (user survey or interactive quiz)

Send Day: D12

  • Subject: Extend your Free Trial Before It’s Too Late

Many overlook metadata management. But if you’re willing to put in the time, it can be a critical component of your nurture campaign strategy.

Each email in this sequence adds a little value to the viewer’s life by showing you’ve put thought into their experience


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