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Personalization for Video: What This Means for Broadcasters and OTT Content Providers

Aliaksandr Baradyntsau

Head of Media & Entertainment, Europe
  • Media, Entertainment & Telecom

Competition for viewer “eyeballs”, to use the industry term, has never been more intense. Part of this is due to the proliferation of viewing channels and distribution mechanisms, as well as increasing pressure on the entire economic model for content creation, distribution and monetization.

On the other side of the coin, viewers expect high quality in creation, output and delivery. They want that content delivered whenever and wherever they want, and they want to minimize how much they pay for it. Simply put, viewers’ expectations are at an all-time high, at a time when they have a staggering amount of choices.

From a viewer’s perspective, a personalized experience is ideal, but it’s not new. For several years, brands from the entertainment industry to high street retailers have been trying to “know” their customers better in order to target offers, loyalty programs and trends, and in return better shape their offers to their audience. With this focus on personalization came the need for legislation, such as GDPR and similar regulations around the world, to ensure that consumer confidentiality and privacy are protected.

In the world of content, personalization can be a very important tool in a suite of new approaches to make content more relevant, attractive and consumable, while driving new revenue and cutting costs. By truly understanding the viewer and targeting ads to specific audiences, personalized content can unlock the fabled long tail advertising revenue, where media and entertainment companies can derive additional revenue from downstream customer purchases on consumer goods, cars, travel expenses, etc. Additionally, personalization can re-introduce channel or brand loyalty, which has diminished over the years due to an overwhelming number of content choices, putting programs before channels.

What’s clear is that not knowing your viewers is no longer an option. So, what does a content provider have to consider in order to get the most from driving a personalization strategy? 

1. Pay Attention to Micro-Moments

Spend time thinking about existing consumer habits, like which app a user looks at first thing in the morning and what a user watches over morning coffee or while using public transport. Consider the device and physical context of users when determining how to present your video content. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Is the viewer at home or on the move?
  • How much time does the viewer have right now – do they want to watch something short and easily digestible or do they have time for a full movie?
  • Who does the user usually watch videos with? If the answer is with someone else, can you cross-reference the preferences of the two individuals?
  • Can a social theme be identified for viewers, such as scary movies for Halloween?

These micro-moments should be top-of-mind, as they present excellent opportunities to deliver personalized interactions.

2. Make Sure to Structure Your Content

According to a recent survey, 62% of customers expect companies to adapt to their actions and behavior, but only 47% feel that companies actually do this. For the media and entertainment industry, this requires various practical steps like creating a unique profile for each user, enhancing the quality of metadata associated with each asset in the catalogue, and building the right logic to connect the profile and metadata in a meaningful way.

Focus on making content easy to find for consumers that have grown to expect a personalized viewing experience. This could mean ensuring that the platform generates timestamps for a goal in football or providing sub-categories for content genres, such as ‘critically acclaimed independent dramas’ rather than just ‘drama’ or ‘independent drama,’ even if the categories are hidden from viewers. Content libraries should then be structured in a way that makes them actionable, so users are exposed to the most relevant and timely content.

3. Respond to Your Customers Individually

Transparency must be a priority for the media industry. As entertainment businesses start demonstrating data-driven value at an early stage, they must also build consumer trust. To achieve this goal, CX and marketing teams need to coordinate more closely with data science teams on a communications strategy, developing an evolving dialogue with individual customers to demonstrate that you’re applying their feedback from every previous interaction to make relevant changes.

4. Don’t Forget the Power of Social

How do you provide personalized experiences at an individual level when, at the heart of it, humans are social beings who want to connect and share experiences? The solution is building virtual social relationships around content, including fan communities where people can generate their own buzz around a series and provide organic, human sources for recommendations. Social proofing satisfies the need to be ‘in the know’ about popular content, something that drives the decision-making process for what to watch next. These social proofing mechanisms need to be built into the platform early in the development stage.

Presenting users with information, such as filming locations for a movie or series, and even integrating Airbnb options in the location, increases engagement with the film or series while going one step deeper within the travel purchase funnel. For example, Game of Thrones took this approach by generating user interest in traveling to destinations like Northern Ireland. Other examples include media companies generating the soundtrack to a show or movie as a Spotify playlist or making it possible to add an actor’s wardrobe to someone’s online shopping basket. Imagine watching a healthy cooking show and then being able to add the ingredients to a shopping cart for a grocery delivery service and finally receiving the recipe instructions via text on your mobile device!

5. Address Your KPIs

To really dive into your personalization goals, KPIs must go beyond traditional measures, such as churn or overall engagement time per user, and draw from business practices like that of Netflix. For instance, determine your share of viewing time with a user and then cross-reference it against the shows they watch. If there are heavy users who only watch a single series, this indicates that the show is of high value to the service. Measuring time-to-player (how long it takes a user to start watching something) can offer valuable insight into the effectiveness of algorithms or the messaging around content.


It’s right within grasp for media and entertainment companies to truly know their customers and create digital experiences that meet their needs, eliminate their pain points and create a more human touch in the digital world. When considering how to implement personalization into your business strategy, keep these five tips in mind and read our latest whitepaper to learn how to put these points into action.

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