Bhavesh Vaghela, CEO, Paywizard | Why so Many Free Trials?

As one of the speakers at the panel ‘Why so many free trials?’, can you tell us how important it is to offer free trials for customers?

Free trials are a valuable tool to drive both customer acquisition and customer retention. However, it is important to first understand customer behaviour, using all available data to take the most appropriate action at the point in the customer journey where a free trial offer is provided – ensuring the right subscription or package is offered based on analysis of all the data such as demographic, viewing and behavioural information.

It is more crucial now than ever for pay-TV and OTT operators to start using analytics – employing new techniques such as machine learning and AI to accurately determine how each customer should be engaged so operators can identify the ‘next best action’ and execute this action in real time before, during and at the end of trial period.

Having sophisticated analytics means that operators can identify segments of customers – for example ‘serial churners’ who regularly sign up for free trials and then cancel their subscriptions at the end of the trial period before paying anything. In this instance, data insight may recommend not to take any action at all, as there is still a cost to the operator to manage these customers however there is no return on investment in the long-term.

What are some of the new trends regarding consumer retention some companies are using at the moment and that seem to work well?

In a recent study commissioned by Paywizard, we conducted in-depth interviews with c-level executives from leading pay-TV organisations, Telcos, Broadcasters and OTT providers in Europe to discuss how operators today are truly using data insight and analytics in improve customer retention; along with maximizing customer acquisition and growing revenue.

When discussing retention specifically, operators revealed that they believe the weakest part of their current analytics capability lies in predicting churn and winning back lost subscribers. They also uniformly think that the application of analytics to this stage of the customer journey would have one of the most positive impacts on their overall business performance metrics.

Therefore, having the ability to identify churners using predictive models or drive proactive engagement – such as highly targeted offers and precisely-timed communications – is critical to build brand value and long-term loyalty. Unfortunately, most of operators we interviewed are still unable to do that. There is a large gap between where operators are and where they want to be.

Last year Paywizard launched Paywizard Singula, a standalone platform that enables pay-TV operators and OTT providers a more intelligent way to approach their customers. Is AI the future of customer retention?

AI promises to open new frontiers for businesses in the broadcast and media world. For pay-TV and OTT service providers who are concerned with stemming churn and retaining customers; finding ways to radically improve the customer experience is critical – and AI offers quicker and more precise consumer targeting that can and will enhance customer experience.

Our new platform Paywizard Singula uses artificial intelligence to give both OTT and traditional cable/satellite/IPTV operators the opportunity to better engage customers in real-time to retain customers, whilst winning new subscribers and increasing revenue. We have successfully tested Singula with a number of leading broadcasters as part of a beta trial, including eir Sport, Racing TV and ITV Box Office – with one result being a doubling of conversions for a customer acquisition campaign.

What makes Paywizard Singula so unique and powerful is that it not only leverages data to predict how likely a subscriber is to churn or to purchase a particular package, but it allows operators to harness insights via AI to accurately identify the ‘next best action’ to take in real time. For most pay-as-you-go OTT operators the challenge is to keep subscriptions rolling over each month, while for many traditional pay-TV providers preventing cord-cutting is where the battle lies, so being able to leverage AI to determine what interaction will keep each customer on-board and positive about their experience and what might entice new subscribers to join can provide a critical competitive advantage.

One of this year’s NEM panels will focus on the new generations and their way of consuming TV content. What do you think about what should OTT and pay-TV focus on when it comes to millennials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha?

TV is changing and the way we consume entertainment has changed too. We live in a golden age of consumer choice when it comes to television and consumers of every age have access to move visual entertainment options than ever before. Today’s modern, digitally savvy consumers want state-of-art services that custom fit their habits and needs.

Pay-TV and OTT operators today need to fully appreciate the crucial importance of creating a holistic view of an individual and household through accurate profiling, segmentation and predictive modelling – taking full advantage of AI technology to meet the need for a more tailored, relevant and personalised customer experience from the young to old; no matter how they choose to engage with a service.

To provide a consistent and positive customer experience, operators need to have a full picture of subscriber patterns of behaviour, needs and preferences so they can adapt to different age groups like millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. That means they need subscriber intelligence and the tools to connect with customers easily and in an informed way at each point in the customer journey.

This year Paywizard handled a BT Sports PPV event. Is this the future of viewing sports events? Do you think some other type of content will also fit into this format soon?

Paywizard actually ran its very first pay-per-view event way back in 2000 and over that time we have built a deep understanding of what it takes to manage high volume events where the majority of the buys come in during the last few hours.

As we all know, sporting events remain incredibly popular with consumers and as all operators seek to secure new revenue streams and increase customer loyalty, pay-per-view is increasingly becoming a viable option. Traditionally the remit of pay-per-view had been exclusively for the dominant operator with the largest subscriber base. However, free-to-air broadcasters are increasingly bidding and securing sporting rights to drive paid revenue streams as advertising revenues continue to shrink.

With sports now being delivered via OTT continuing to captivate global audiences, the purchasing of sporting rights by heavy weights such as Amazon and the rise in social media coverage of sports and highlights; competition is bigger than ever before. Operators of all types must therefore maximize their sporting content, generating as much revenue as possible by distributing wider across devices and platforms. This is why pay-per-view is a proven addition to any existing subscription or ad-funded model and is on the rise.