Philo, Starz execs weigh in on navigating consumers' changing needs

DENVER — Media executives at a StreamTV Show panel this week were optimistic about the ever-changing state of the distribution landscape. But they emphasized fulfilling a consumer’s changing needs remains a continuous work in progress.

Adam Salmons, VP of content acquisition at Philo, thinks the biggest challenge distributors have is “cutting through the noise” of the crowded streaming industry. Meaning distributors should have a sense of what their product is, so they can add value for consumers.

Salmons referred to Philo’s partnership with T-Mobile, where eligible T-Mobile subscribers can get a $10 coupon off the Philo base subscription, and that deal, he said, has the advantage of providing a “single bill” option to consumers. Philo also used a promotion to offer customers a TVision Hub, after T-Mobile shut down its short-lived live TV service.

Churn is a key concern from a streamer’s standpoint as services try to stand out in the market, said Stefanie Meyers, SVP of distribution at Starz. The company​ has positioned itself as an add-on app within other ecosystems, she said, giving its customers more flexibility and choice.

“We’re not building a walled-garden and trying to tell customers to behave a certain way,” Meyers said. “We’ve embraced, really from the beginning, trying to be wherever the customer is.”

One benefit to that strategy, she continued, is that Starz can add value to its platform partners. Whether that’s helping other streaming services increase their base subscribers or building out the Starz app to make it more compatible for OTT devices. In addition to having a cable subscription offering, Starz is available on connected TV devices as well as an add-on via services like Hulu and YouTube TV.

Data matters

Panelists also touched upon the relationship between consumer behavior and data. Mark Moeder, CEO of Symphony MediaAI, thinks data visibility and transparency is a key challenge in the distribution landscape. A lack of data transparency, he said, hinders consumer insight as well as business-serving investments.

“In some cases, you’re managing tens if not hundreds of millions of data records – that truly is the consumer speaking to you,” Moeder said. “They’re telling you what they want, what they don’t want and what they’re going to do about it.”

He added data transparency is important especially when companies work with third-party distributors, in which case the scope of user data is widened.

Regarding data, there’s also the question of how to manage it. Natalie Martin, VP of growth and development at Premiere Digital, said what her company aims to do is help distributors organize their content in a centralized location, so that content can get to the market as quickly as possible.

“We have a lot of content partners who rely on us, because they want to make sure they get their channels delivered in a clean way,” Martin said. “We’re always trying to cut back on the manual processes, making sure whether you’re a content partner or a platform, that we can create automation and implement your systems to ensure everything’s where it’s supposed to be.”

Advice for tackling the distribution landscape

The panel closed with executives offering advice on how to navigate the evolving market.

“Prepare to be agile,” said Moeder. “The consumer, they’re making their own changes, their socio-economic situation changes. Be prepared to meet them where they’re at in their lifecycle.”

Martin also stressed the importance of agility when meeting consumer needs.

“From a consumer’s perspective, there seems to be a constant battle between quality of platform, quality of curation and quantity,” she said. “My advice would be try to plan ahead, have a vast and intimate knowledge of your content…so you can have everything in one place and monetize in the best way possible.”

Salmons encouraged distributors to think about the value and purpose they’re bringing to their customers. “If your product is not really for them, they can easily go somewhere else and they will,” he stated.

Meyers echoed those thoughts, saying, “The customer’s going to move on without you if you don’t solve their problems and serve them what they want.”