M+E Europe

MESA Q&A: Clix CMO, Co-Founder and TiVo Founding Exec Stacy Jolna

Stacy Jolna has been in the media and technology game for more than three decades now, collecting Emmys, a Cannes Lion, and a Peabody along the way.

A founding executive team member of TiVo, Jolna’s latest endeavour is Clix, a free, digital “guidance guru” for streaming content that reaches 120 million digital TV homes, and streams to more than 100 million online viewers each month.

Jolna sat down with MESA to discuss the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the recommendation world, the top pain points for streaming services, why mobile devices are beginning to dominate among those searching for what to watch, and the new ways we consume movies and episodic content.

MESA: ClixTV employs AI and ML technologies combined with manual curation to come up with its recommendation methodology. What makes your way unique compared to others in the industry?

Jolna: Clix has integrated a great many advanced technology and curation capabilities that, in aggregate, create a unique experience for consumers and brand advertising partners. The deeper question is, “What are you doing with all that technology? How are you presenting the user experience, so it feels like entertainment to discover superb streaming entertainment rather than simply a utility that feels like work to get to your entertainment.” Ugh!

But let’s step back to consider how strong the foundation of the house must be to achieve success:

We’ve all experienced technology ventures that try to create solutions in search of problems. That’s often a “fire, ready, aim” approach that leads to failure – to consumer rejection.

With great humility, just because you watch television does not mean you understand or appreciate what drives exceptional visual story-telling – or the challenges consumers and advertisers face in the wild west world of streaming entertainment.

As digital and brand marketers with media production and entertainment/information DNA, the Clix team fundamentally begins with key consumer questions:

• What’s the consumer pain point for streaming entertainment?
• In an ideal world of white board possibilities, what would satisfy pent-up entertainment consumer demand and brand advertising need? And then exceed expectations?
• If the concrete in the foundation of the house is comprised of data, then what tools and features are necessary to slice that data into a house that’s comfortable, live-able — and amazing?!

We begin with a deep understanding of the classic marketing business funnel that drives consumers from Brand Awareness>Education>Consideration>Conversion>Loyalty.

The pain points are simple:

1. Streaming services have been pricey, which necessitated the advent of hybrid business models that re-enlisted advertising economic support for their businesses. Free to consumers is optimal (that’s Clix). Relevant ads are palatable (that’s Clix). Short ads, even more ok (also Clix). Ads that click to more information, special marketing promotions like discounts, and, even better, an opportunity for consumers to go direct to the brand… to CLICK to BUY. (Clix owns that process patent!)
2. In a sea of content options, how do you avoid the frustration… and find just what you want, where you want to watch it? Clix combines the best of machine learning/AI for personalisation with actual human expertise for recommendations of the best streaming movies and series to stream now. We call it ClixPix.
3. Painfully mind-bending drop-down menus, grids, and guides to wade through, siloed recommendations on every single streaming service. What is this, 1990? Doesn’t work! So … Clix created one stunning, video and info-centric platform for entertainment fans to rapidly find what you want, when and where you want it. Free. Fast. Fun.

MESA: How have recommendation engines changes in just the last few years, and how do you see this corner of the industry changing in the next few years? What are we doing right, and what could we be doing better?

Jolna: The collaborative filter technology that Amazon introduced decades ago — if you like this, then you’ll like these — is still viable for all kinds of recommendations. What’s changed is the depth and breadth of data about what consumers truly wish to explore — and a hyper-targeted focus on consumers who show intent to engage.

For both our advertising clients at Clix and our consumers we want to optimise the experience ongoingly, so YOU get what you want, when and where you want it. Our technology continues to leapfrog and, like centre fielder Mike Trout, Clix is relentlessly running to catch and fire the ball home.

MESA: Nearly all of ClixTV’s users are getting their video recommendations on mobile devices. Do you see content consumption going the same way, with more people eventually viewing film and TV content on smaller screens?

Jolna: Not necessarily. The beauty of mobile access to Clix guidance on what and where to stream the best movies and series is that mobile devices have become an appendage to every human consumer on the planet. It’s a TV in every pocket.

You will likely wish to catch the star interviews, the director’s “making of,” the video trailers on your mobile while you’re out and about because they’re fast and fun. And then Clix can hook you up with where to stream on your big screen at home right near your wine rack and refrigerator!

MESA: Box office revenue and theatrical attendance are down. Content piracy is at an all-time high. Studios have largely made DVD and Blu-ray an afterthought to streaming. Do you see all of this as just a natural result of progress in how we distribute content, or is the industry witnessing serious problems as a result of prioritising streaming over all other distribution models?

Jolna: As ‘Deep Throat’ told Woodward and Bernstein in All the President’s Men, “Follow the money.” Consumers tell us clearly what they want. We fail to listen at our peril. They prefer to spend less, have more CHOICE and CONVENIENCE when it comes to entertainment — and TiVo taught us all that consumers have CONTROL over their own time and desires. Follow what the consumer demands and, today, they are demanding full control over their entertainment experience on any screen.

Having said that, many people will continue to desire a theatrical huge screen, super sound, experience with comfy seats and food delivery so you don’t miss a beat onscreen. But the home entertainment experience is increasingly replicating all that convenience. Follow the money people!

MESA: Do you see consolidation among the major streaming platforms, or is there enough demand (and enough consumer dollars) to keep this growth sustainable? What about the niche players? Will they have a place in the ecosystem going forward, or will they be pushed out by the major distributors?

Jolna: Not especially seeing brand consolidation. But clearly new forms of bundling, as Disney does with ESPN and Hulu, will drive the streaming business. New more cost-effective bundles of content entertainment for consumers simply makes good business sense. If Disney is my go to for the bundle then I’ll go there first because the answer to this question is about finding the best movies and series to watch, inexpensively and efficiently.

After all, research is increasingly showing that fans don’t care what the streaming brand is if they can figure out how to remember where their show left off so they can go directly to the next episode. That’s a guidance issue. That’s a Clix solution.

MESA: What do you see as the NEXT iteration of how we consume content? VR? Holographic? Something we haven’t even thought of yet?

Jolna: Certainly, it will be something we have not yet considered. As much as I love VR/AR presentation, I’m far more excited by great storytelling. As a producer, I would frequently tell my team, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, but whatever you do, make it memorable, must-see, must talk about, so we can turn our fans into our marketing department!!” Isn’t that what James Cameron’s Avatar has achieved globally? The technology is extraordinary.

The presentation is truly fantastic. But it’s the characters and the story that drives fans to watch, to discuss, to text about the film. Nothing in my experience can replace art of the story… not even the advanced science of the technology. Now integrate the two into something new and innovative? That’s the next great entertainment solution for generations and screens to come.

AND this goes for advertising, movies, episodic, and for cool new guidance gurus like Clix that point you to exactly the right entertainment experience for your desires, your convenience, your budget, and your favourite screens. Savvy, simple, fun, and free guidance, ladies and gentlemen, is the next great innovation in entertainment.