How Streaming Services Like Showtime and Hulu Combat Subscriber Churn

They lead with data

Streaming networks are trying to keep customers subscribed for the long run. Hulu, Showtime
Headshot of Molly St. Louis

If there’s one truth we collectively realized by watching the Emmys this year, it’s that streaming networks are dominating the entertainment industry and pretty much mopping the floor with traditional networks when it comes to cranking out the most popular content.

Whatever did we do before the days of Netflix and chill? It’s hard to remember, but it was only a few short years ago that we were all buying cable packages.

Yes, television has changed dramatically in the last five years and the demands of audiences have kept entertainment executives on their toes.

Donald Buckley, CMO of Showtime, vividly remembers what it was like to launch the network’s OTT product and the substantial changes it ignited. “It was exciting. We had a lot to learn and we have learned a lot,” he said.

This recent evolution of television has given birth to the golden era of streaming.

Users have access to entertainment like never before, but the challenge is keeping them from cancelling their subscriptions after their favorite shows have finished. It’s called “churn” and it’s always top of mind for entertainment marketers.

Old veterans, like Showtime and Hulu, are always developing new ways to keep their subscribers coming back, year after year.

Here’s what they’re doing now:

Delivering outstanding content

The folks at Hulu believe in personalizing the user experience from the first touch point by engaging users with their favorite shows. Then based on preferences, a tailored experience is created.

It’s a no-brainer. Give the audience what they want and make it easy to access. Showtime echoes this sentiment.

“Programming is the first thing to attracting and retaining subscribers,” said Buckley. “And the propensity to continue a subscription with Showtime is the volume of programming a subscriber watches. The more they watch, the more likely they are to stick around.”

Being almost everywhere

Watching television is no longer an event relegated to Thursday nights at 8 p.m.—it is integrated into our daily lives.  Therefore, access is everything.

After having the best content, the single most powerful tool to combat subscriber churn is being virtually everywhere. For example, if you turn on your Amazon, Apple TV, Xbox One, Roku, or Hulu on any number devices, you’ll find Showtime.

Leading with data

With online streaming comes a tremendous amount of data, which informs the content strategy. Because the sophistication of marketing has changed so dramatically in the last five years, new tools and information allow networks to segment their audiences with more precision than ever.

“Entertainment marketing is akin to a political campaign,” Buckley pointed out. “People are voting every day with their remotes.”

With this data, the networks can most accurately assess which demographics are responding to which shows. Often, the data prompts new strategies and initiatives to get the most engagement out of what’s already working.

For example, Hulu launched a live sports service over a year ago, which annihilated live TV tune in records. Since then, it has created a personalized sports experience that allows users to add their favorite teams to their profile and access games more quickly.

Using social media wisely

There are few things more satisfying than talking about your favorite show on social media and passionately discussing its finer points. The byproduct? Increased awareness and more viewers for the network.

As Buckley will tell you, conversations around television programming are powerful and social media has only heightened their velocity—but Showtime believes in being sensitive to fan communities and doesn’t consider them a marketing tool to promote new shows.

“These are communities with very powerful points of view,” he said. “We respect and regard them.”

Showtime does, however, engage with fans about their favorite shows and works with social influencers to help drive deeper conversations. This ultimately grows the conversation and fan community.

All marketers can learn a thing or two from streaming strategies, whether you’re in the entertainment business or not. Design content that matters to your audience, give them easy access to it, listen to their feedback,and continue to fine-tune your strategy based on relevant data.

If you can nail these points, you are well on your way to producing an Emmy-worthy campaign.


@MollStLouis Molly St. Louis is a freelance writer for Adweek.
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