Viewer-Testing Content Key To Surviving Crowded Streaming Market

It is no secret that the Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) market is currently undergoing significant change. What has for a long time been a relatively uncrowded market is becoming increasingly congested as more big players in media and entertainm...

It is no secret that the Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) market is currently undergoing significant change. What has for a long time been a relatively uncrowded market is becoming increasingly congested as more big players in media and entertainment (i.e., Disney, Apple, HBO, NBCUniversal and more) enter with their own proprietary platforms. The ramifications of this have already been felt as providers like NBC Universal, Disney and HBO have pulled existing licensed content from platforms and now are promoting their own fresh content in advance of, and in conjunction with, their platform introductions.

But how do viewers feel about this influx of new streaming choices?  A recent article sheds some light on viewers’ first thoughts as these streaming wars get underway. 

As the article posits, viewers are already feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of streaming choices available to them (one-third of consumers find managing video subscriptions problematic) and these frustrations are poised to continue (34% do not plan to add another streaming service.)

We know that SVOD providers do their diligence and understand the competition, but that doesn’t fully mitigate the apprehension that comes with entering a market at a time when it’s being flooded. Viewers are already feeling overwhelmed and only Disney+ and Apple TV+ have just recently launched.  Though to be fair, subscriptions for Disney+ did start rolling in months ago, both Disney and Apple TV+ have been running ads for programming on the regular across channels, and the announced future loss of popular content such as Friends and The Office from Netflix already has these viewers prepping for the new market entrants. 

Providers, both existing and new, need to put the viewer at the forefront of their strategy and meet their needs head-on if they are to survive and rise above the increased noise in the market. 

The importance of original programming

Earlier this year, I published a blog post following Netflix’s Q2 results which stressed how important original content is to SVOD viewers.  This was based on data from a study I ran in 2018, which showed that over two-thirds of viewers say it would be important for a streaming on-demand provider to offer original content, as you can see in Figure 1 based on data from that study.

Figure 1 – How important would it be for a streaming on-demand provider to offer original programming? (n=90)

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But it’s worth mentioning again, especially as we move further into this market shake-up and in light of current viewer sentiment. 

It truly is critical for SVOD providers to make sure the original programming they provide is the original programming viewers want. With the multitude of choices available, viewers will move on if the value they expect for their dollar is not present (see my original blog post here for more info on viewer value equations.)

In order to develop and introduce appealing content, providers have to talk to their viewers

You’ve most likely already guessed where I was going with this, but research is going to be key.  Without research, there is a loss of value to viewers and a loss of dollars spent in developing untested content. I have always believed that solid research is neither qualitative nor quantitative but a mix of both, and this remains true for program testing. 

A mix of both is more easily achieved in today’s technologically-advanced environment. Both traditional and streaming have shifted away from in-person testing and towards online testing, since it provides speed, efficiency, access to a diverse sample and a more native environment in which to view content (viewers can watch where they would normally watch.)

Additionally, no matter the subject of the research, to truly understand the full picture one must combine both qualitative and quantitative lines of questioning.  While quantitative can tell you the “what” by understanding key measures and broad reactions (correlation), qualitative can get you the “why” behind it all to really understand why numbers are coming in and understand areas of success and needed optimization (causation.)


Understanding the “why” is important for programming research as well. Invoke Studio is used widely by television networks, studios, and global brands to test long and short form video content. Beyond typical quant and qual, programming also has a third method that enables studios and networks to understand what is working or not working within their shows – dial testing. Dial testing uses a scaled slider to enable respondents to indicate moments of positivity and negativity as they are watching a video. An established piece of video testing, dials should continue to be a part of program research, alongside quantitative and qualitative lines of questioning. 

  • Post-View closed-end (quantitative) lines of questioning – Quantitative lines of questioning asked post-view that capture key measures, such as Future Intent, Overall Appeal. Appeal of Characters/Storylines/Cast Members, etc. build the story out more and coupled with dial data can help providers both understand from a broad perspective, how the show is performing and hone in on specific areas of success and concern.
  • Post-View Open-end (qualitative) questioning – Open-end questions capture actual viewer sentiment and feedback in their own words. Through this type of data, providers can once again look broadly to understand what viewers like and don’t like about the show and also narrow their focus by combining this data with both quantitative data and dial charts to understand the drivers behind that data. This really helps to complete the story by identifying underlying causes and helps with developing actionable insights related to programming.
  • FutureView© viewership norms – One important metric is the future intent to view the program. We include this viewership metric in the crosstab report that is delivered immediately at the end of each episode test. We can also compare it to our FutureView© database of viewership averages across episodes we’ve tested for all our clients over time.

Numerous considerations go into developing content, but SVODs that incorporate the Invoke tool box as part of their overall approach to research, realize the benefits of discovering insights needed for confident decisions, making the best use of their development budgets and demonstrating their commitment to viewer-first (customer-first) values. 

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