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How to retain viewers with your online video services

Published: Mar 27, 2017
Author: Timothy Stevens

Do you ever stop to think about how much our viewing habits have changed? How I watch video—typically, on demand—is completely alien to my parents. And how my kids watch it is completely alien to me.

I‘m always talking to people about how they watch video—it’s what I do. I’d sum up what they say to me like this:

  • The traditionalists still tune in to their favorite TV shows on a Friday night. But they also record a lot of shows to watch when there’s nothing better on. And they use pause and rewind TV, mostly to skip ads.
  • The bingers are all about on demand. If they get hooked on a particular series, they could binge watch a whole season—or more—over a weekend. They might watch a YouTube video to check out a new band, for a product review or for DIY advice.
  • The YouTubers will happily sit for a whole evening watching posts from a YouTube celebrity or videos of gamers playing their favorite game.

My research isn’t very scientific, I know. But it highlights some of the big challenges facing broadcasters seeking to grow their online video presence. How do you stand out when almost anybody can shoot HD video and become an internet celebrity making money, all without leaving their house? How do you maintain a healthy income from ads when viewers block them—and when advertising revenue is dispersed across so many channels?

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Improving your online video service isn’t something you can put off. Digital is no longer just an experiment; it’s now on track to outpace traditional TV. You’re competing in an environment where YouTube is moving to TV and live streaming is moving to Facebook. To grab and retain viewers, you need to offer the best experience. You need to provide more than the next channel or network.

Here are three things you should aim to do to differentiate your online video services:

Discover more about what your viewers really want

What’s the best way to engage and retain viewers? By giving them content they want to watch, available at the right time of day and that works on their preferred device. To achieve that you need smarter insights about your audience, their viewing experience and their content preferences. Imagine if you could collect all the viewing data from your platform and combine it with your CRM, billing and account information. Then you could start discovering more about viewers on an individual level. With these smarter insights, you could really differentiate your services and give people what they want.

Give viewers ads they’re interested in

Want to limit viewer frustration with your ads? Want to stop them from skipping or blocking ads? You need to serve them ads for things they’re actually interested in. 39% say their top reason for viewing an ad is relevance. 20% say they’d uninstall their ad blocker if the ads were more relevant1. If you can personalize the ads your viewers receive, they’re more likely to watch them—and you’re more likely to see your ad revenue increase.

Give viewers uninterrupted, high-quality video

Don’t think quality’s an issue? You’ll lose your audience if their experience of your online video service is marred by buffering, latency issues and poor image resolution. Viewers would watch 80% more than they do today if OTT video service providers could overcome quality-of-experience issues. Ad-supported services would see an increase in ad revenue of 25% by providing the highest-quality viewing experiences. And video-on-demand providers would see a drop in churn of 10% or more2.

Enabling a 1-to-1 experience

Moving online provides you with more and more information about your viewers. The trick is being able to turn that data into insights that enable you to personalize the viewer experience. And that’s getting easier thanks to the latest smart online video service platforms, like the one offered by Verizon Digital Media Services.

Verizon’s platform and services — featuring 1 to 1 session management with Smartplay technology — are enabling you to provide a whole new level of personalization, without any heavy lifting on your part. With them, you can move beyond simple program recommendations to programmatic content curation. You can broadcast a channel to millions of concurrent users, while tailoring content to individuals. For example, your original TV channel can be broadcast online with some, or all, of the ads replaced with ads that match individual viewer’s preferences. Don’t have the rights to show a football game online? You can replace it seamlessly with a show your individual viewer will be interested in and avoid leaving them with a blank screen.

Online video service platforms should also help improve quality of service, using a content delivery network (CDN). But not all CDNs are the same. With the class-leading solutions, viewers get the best-quality video their devices can handle. That means they’re not left waiting for content to buffer that’s too high-quality for their device, or watching grainy video. 

Ultimately, you could construct a channel that’s customized to each viewer and their device. That’s when a linear broadcast experience starts to make sense in the online, mobile environment. It’s when you can move away from thinking in terms of demographics and start fully engaging with an audience of one—and it’s when you’ll keep viewers on your channel.

Timothy Stevens is the Global Practice Leader for Media & Entertainment at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.


  1. Teads, Why People Block Ads, Teads.TV, January 2016 (http://info.teads.tv/ad-blockers-en)
  2. Quality matters. Video Streaming Quality Report, Verizon Digital Media Services, 2016