Content Personalization: A Secret Driver of the Over-The-Top Revolution

It’s no secret that over-the-top content (OTT) services, the delivery of audio, video and other media over the Internet are on the rise. Netflix’s stock price has more than doubled since January of this year, CBS All Access has been available since October 2014 for just $5.99 a month with no cable subscription necessary, and HBO has followed suit by launching a standalone service on April 7.

One of the obvious influencers in this trend is the increasing connectivity of TVs through devices such as Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, and connected gaming systems. These devices allow for long-form video OTT providers, such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, to publish their content in an easily viewed and more traditional manner on your TV. Another important underlying force in this ‘cut the cable’ generation is the improvement in content personalization engines implemented by OTT providers.

With vast libraries of videos, content personalization is an important part of providing users with a positive and engaging experience, rather than an overload of videos that leave users taking nearly as much time to sort through as to watch.



Content personalization engines manage this feat by leveraging big data in order to find out what data points best predict a user’s content preferences. They then collect these data points on all users and use it to offer content suggestions personalized at an individual user level.

By personalizing the content experience, OTT providers are cutting down the time users spend searching and in turn increasing time spent actually watching. This effect leads to improved user retention and higher engagement, which enables providers to extract more value from their content.

While these factors have been in place since the creation of the first content personalization engines, there are two key trends that are helping to make content personalization better than ever and more essential to a company’s success.

Big data keeps getting bigger

While big data has always been at the core of any sophisticated content personalization software, it’s going to play an increasingly important role as time goes on. One of the caveats of big data that tends to serve as a double-edged sword is, IT’S BIG! Per Hadoop, analyst consensus estimates enterprise data growth of 50x year over year through 2020.

And while this growth in data collection is happening, the market is falling behind in talent who can properly analyze it; according to a 2014 Accenture survey, 41% of its clients cite a lack of talent as a chief obstacle in hiring talent able to make sense of big data.

But for those with the skills to make sense of it, the possibilities are only growing. Some 95% of data within organizations remains untapped, per Columbia’s Business School. This is the data that will be driving the future of content personalization engines by making them more sophisticated than ever before.

Screen space is at a premium

Another factor shaping the future of content personalization is the consumer’s increasing use of small screens, i.e. smartphones and tablets. According to Cisco Systems annual look at mobile traffic, mobile video represents 69% of all mobile traffic. Already, according to YouTube, 40% of their traffic is coming from mobile.

With so many users accessing content from mobile phones and tablets, looking through an endless maze of video thumbnails becomes an increasingly cumbersome task. For this reason, a sophisticated personalization strategy becomes not only a valuable feature for OTT providers but a necessity for those wishing to serve the growing mobile market.

Looking forward, as video, big data and mobile usage continue to take over the Internet, content personalization will continue to improve and play an increasingly large factor in an OTT provider’s market strategy.  We are heading into the era of micro personalization. The ability of catering to specific viewing patterns and preferences that gets consumers exactly the content they want, without having to search for it.

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