EES 2021: Whip Media Stresses the Importance of Data and Thinking Globally

As Netflix and other major companies expand their streaming platforms and their footprints in global markets, the need to create and find content that attracts and retains audiences around the world has become more important than ever before, according to Carol Hanley, president of Whip Media Group.

But for platforms to compete in today’s market, a new wave of data is also urgently needed, she said July 21, during the session “Think Globally, Act Locally: Building the Borderless Streaming Service with Regional Intelligence,” at the Entertainment Evolution Symposium.

The year 2007 represented a “significant turning point in the lives of those of us who are in the entertainment industry and for consumers around the globe,” she noted.

That was the year in which Netflix decided to start streaming a small selection of titles to U.S. subscribers. Until then, Netflix subscribers had to go to its website and select DVDs they wanted to view and had to wait for those discs to arrive in the mail, she pointed out. With streaming, however, they could watch titles instantly and that, “for obvious reasons, changed everything,” said Hanley.

“In a very short period of time – three years – Netflix began [its] global footprint expansion by starting in Canada and, 190 markets later, Netflix has certainly set the bar for global expansion for many streaming services,” she said.

Now, it makes sense that if you have a global streaming service, a company is going to want to have global content, she noted.

Even if you are not a global service, however, you will still want to find content to bring into your market from around the world because “content and consumers’ desire for content internationally is growing and, if you’re not there to keep up with it, you really are at a disadvantage,” she warned.

Some titles tend to do better in different markets than others and sometimes certain titles even perform better in markets outside the country that created the content, she noted, pointing as an example to the U.K. TV show Peaky Blinders.

“It’s not always just common sense” that determines what show will do best, but “there are layers of information” available within data that can be used to get a better idea of how a programme will perform, she said.

Digital Globe[/caption] When it went global, in 2009, Netflix ran a contest in which it offered $1 million to the person who could come up with an algorithm at least 10% better than the company’s own, she recalled. Netflix understood that it was “not just about getting the global footprint – it’s about having the data to understand what consumers want, to understand the nuances of the local markets and, ultimately, be able to pull all of it together to be able to predict” what they want, she said.

After all, “content is really expensive and good content is harder and harder to find for a lot of platforms today, so if you’re going to invest in it, you need to have high probabilities of confidence that it’s going to be a success,” she noted.

Now, there are many companies competing with Netflix for content, she pointed out.

So, even if you are not a global streaming service but “just want to be competitive… you are probably looking for those super titles that are just starting to pop,” she said. What she frequently hears is that people in the industry don’t always know where to find such titles and, when they do find them, they’re usually the “second one to find them,” after a larger company, she noted.

Therefore, “the secret here is: find the title, evaluate the title and license the title as quickly as you possibly can – and that is all about data,” she said.

Whip Media teamed with Latin American company Business Bureau (BB), which has a directory of all the 1,750 streaming platforms in 155 countries, she noted. Those platforms offer 446,000 movie titles and 184,00 TV titles now, and “this year alone, just in 2021, 17,000 brand new titles have been released,” she said.

Companies have a lot of choices when selecting content and making the right choice is easier when selecting the right kind of data, she added. Whip Media’s predictive analytics and first-party insights provide companies with a competitive advantage to organisations, according to the company.

She pointed to a case study that Whip Media did for HBO Max. As part of the study, there was a search for titles in the Middle East Northern Africa (MENA) region that are local but have not yet been licensed out of that region.

Rashash turned out to be the top show that met its criteria, she said, noting it is in Arabic with Saudi dialect and features an all-Saudi cast. The eight-part mini-series drama only recently started streaming in that region.

What Whip Media set out to learn was whether the show had a strong “affinity” with other HBO titles and what was found was that seven HBO properties shared the same viewers with Rashash, she said.

The show also had high engagement from viewers, she said, noting 74.31% of viewers in MENA who said they were intending to watch it actually did. That’s 93% higher than the average title of that genre in that region, which she noted was a  “high conversion rate.”

The show also had a high 53.72% engagement rate that was 169% better than the average title, she added.

Whip Media then created a demand score to gauge the show’s chances for success, using an artificial intelligence-based machine learning model using two unique datasets for platform/territory/window-level predictions, according to the company.

Whip Media is in over 200 markets, although not a lot in China but, in the vast majority of major markets, it can provide a demand score for any title, Hanley added.

The Entertainment Evolution Symposium event was produced by the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School, and MESA. The event was sponsored by Whip Media, PacketFabric, 5th Kind, Qumulo, EIDR, Klio and the Trusted Partner Network.