October 25, 2019

Penthera’s Dan Hurwitz on Consumers in Control


NYC TV Week’s Streaming TV panel “Consumers in Control (Or Are They?)” examines the current state of viewing habits in the streaming space, with a nod to behaviors, attitudes and preferences. Dan Hurwitz, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Penthera, the mobile video software company, weighs in here on what it’s going to take to give consumers added control over their viewing choices. To engage with the full panel, register today for NYC TV Week!


Your panel is about ‘Consumers in Control’ when it comes to making choices for TV viewing. How much ‘content overload’ do you think there is in the marketplace?


We’re already in a state of extreme content overload. When you add Apple TV+, Disney+, Peacock and Warner to the mix, overload will surge even further. And, at this early stage, we don’t know how much viewers can handle. In order to compete for viewership, OTT’s need to help the viewer find content. We search for what we know. We browse to find what we don’t know. That said, offering your viewers seamless discoverability is really important. If you don’t master that effort, they’ll watch someone else’s content. Data and technology play a large roll in that equation, and the industry has a long way to go. 


How can smaller players effectively compete with the titans of streaming, especially when you add Disney and Apple to that list?


As an OTT provider of any size, you’re constantly competing for viewers’ available time and must recognize you aren’t just competing with other OTT’s. At any given moment, there are a number of media experiences available. Choices include playing games, reading news, exploring their feeds and so on. The way I see it, in order to compete, every OTT needs to deliver an overall great experience, better and more convenient than those mentioned choices. In my opinion, the four components to a great experience are:

  1. Great programming: without it, you have nothing to offer. 

  2. A friction-free viewing experience: This includes eliminating frustrating connectivity issues that cause startup latency and buffering, tech issues related to the complexity of stitching ads into the video and high monthly data bills from watching video over cellular networks (streaming eats up a lot of data).

  3. Convenience: You must make sure the viewer can access your programming on whatever screen happens to be most convenient at any given time. More often than not, and especially with younger audiences, that screen is a phone.

  4. Discovery of content: Make sure the viewer knows what you have to watch. If you don’t market the heck out of your content and provide ease of discovery to your viewer, they’ll watch someone else’s content. “I’ll never watch what I don’t know you have!”


All this said, the big players do not necessarily do a good job on all four of these components. Most of them have solid programming, sure. Some, but not all, do a decent job at offering a friction-free experience. But nobody is doing a really good job at discovery, at least not yet, in my opinion. These gaps certainly create room for smaller, challenger players to get in on the opportunity and win a share of viewer engagement.


From the viewer standpoint, what do you think will be the deciding factor when they have to choose which streaming services they want access to and which to overlook?


The answer here is ALWAYS about value. There is no doubt that people will pay for “perceived value.” We’ve heard the saying, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.” While one viewer might say, “I like this content so much, I’ll sacrifice a good viewing experience just to get it,” others will say, “I don’t care how good the programming is, I can’t enjoy myself waiting for the spinning wheel to stop.” Ultimately, because content is relative in this way, it’s not about just one factor. The deciding equation is the totality of all the things I mentioned above. This is not an either/or situation. You’ve got to do all four components not only well, but markedly better than your competition.


What does the future look like, in your opinion?


The Streaming Wars are going to be bloody, but they’re also about to get a lot more creative. What we’re seeing is a quest to take over the space once occupied by cable. With cable, we had a single service coming into the house providing us access to all the networks and their programming with a nice user interface for a high monthly fee. In the future, I believe the cable box will be no more. Instead, you’ll subscribe to an aggregator service (like Apple TV+, where you’ll choose from an a-la-carte menu of offerings like Showtime, HBO, A&E) and pay Apple a monthly fee automatically. 


So, where things start to look like cable is with the engagement model that’s emerging. Here’s Apple TV+ coming in and saying, “just pay us, and we’ll create access to a huge universe of programming, and we’ll give you the beautiful experience you’ve come to expect.” This is a powerful proposition and hard to compete with. 


With this shift, we’re about to see is a whole new level of creativity in the battle for the wallet. I see an obvious approach by the big players who can start bundling their other offerings to entice subscribers. “Buy an Apple device and get a free year of Apple TV +.” Or even, “Come to a Disney theme park, book a Disney Cruise and get X months of Disney + for free.”


AI will have to deliver on its promise. The first to really crack the code on using AI to accurately predict what programming someone might enjoy will be a clear winner. 


So far, the players with hardcore tech versus media roots -- such as Netflix -- are already ahead in the game, as they’re better poised to innovate and activate.