Contributed by Steve Oetegenn, President, Verimatrix
Analytics has become a major focus for broadcasters and pay TV operators, building on foundations laid by traditional audience measurement. Such measurement was based on sampling via appointed panels, until set-top box return path data emerged to complement this change and yield more up-to-date, valuable insights of individual subscriber behavior. This ended up opening the door to analytics targeting of both programmers’ and advertisers’ content.
Currently, the data reservoir has expanded across the pay TV ecosystem and beyond into social media networks and online services, vastly increasing the scope of analytics. Simultaneously, competitive pressure from emerging OTT service providers as well as long established players is turning the spotlight more and more onto big data analytics as a source of competitive edge, to defend against churn, win new customers and create additional revenue streams.
Less obviously, analytics has also become a core field for major providers of revenue security. Or rather the other way round, security has come to the heart of TV analytics, for several substantial reasons. Firstly, providers of revenue security are custodians not just of the content but also of the surrounding data, since much of this is intimately linked with the assets, the infrastructure and above all, the customers, for whom privacy has become a major concern. Secondly, the security system itself has become a significant source of a data resource between the service and its subscribers, some of which cannot be obtained in any other way.
As one example, over IPTV multicast where the same content is served to multiple end points, it is challenging from the server side to determine how individual users are interacting with the service at that point. We can provide this information from our position in the end user’s set-top box, decrypting the data and managing entitlements.
We can also see entitlement data at the head end, which is invaluable in identifying device types at this higher level, with the data anonymized so that it cannot readily be traced back to individuals. This highlights the key point that pay TV security can both elicit valuable data and ensure that privacy is rigorously upheld.
The third reason why pay-TV security is becoming linked with analytics follows through abstracting data further to span multiple operators and broadcasters. Verimatrix, for example, is in the unique position of having visibility of many operators ranging from the biggest Tier 1 operators to smaller emerging players, distributed across all of the main regions. This gives the potential to extract a representative snapshot of global TV activity, both on an ongoing statistical basis and in real time. This gives scope for identifying longer term trends and also emerging threats so that they can be anticipated and hopefully stopped before they begin.
Such aggregate data will come from a variety of instrumentation points within each operator’s domain as well as the wider ecosystem, starting with CE devices and then through set-top boxes, the delivery network, head-end systems, VoD platform, metadata systems and out to external CDNs. Security providers are the natural curators of this data, but face two major challenges in order to gain this role. First and foremost they must obtain the trust of operators themselves to have access to this data. Fortunately, as each security vendor will be dealing primarily with its own customer base it should almost by definition already have that trust.
Additionally and perhaps more fundamentally, security vendors need to bolster their expertise in analytics, which traditionally has not been their core domain. This can only be achieved by bringing in the right talent and developing a robust partner ecosystem with relevant players across the analytics spectrum.
Verimatrix has actively been seeking such partnerships over the last few years and now has established a number with leading players. These include UK-based TV analytics vendor Genius Digital with its strong focus on churn reduction, and ThinkAnalytics, which is well known for its powerful recommendation engine.
Genius Digital helps its customers answer three key questions, which subscribers are most likely to churn, how those subscribers could be stopped from churning and then how to prevent them from being, “at risk” of churn in the first place. With the help of additional data becoming available through such partnerships across the ecosystem, operators are better placed to address that crucial third question sufficiently early to avoid the need for desperate and sometimes expensive last ditch efforts to entice customers on the verge of churning to stay.
The partnership with ThinkAnalytics exemplifies the synergy between security and analytics by processing data generated by our Verspective Intelligence Centre in its engine to enhance recommendations to viewers. ThinkAnalytics utilizes accurate and comprehensive viewer data, combined with programming metadata, to personalize its powerful engine for individual subscribers. Verimatrix can provide additional important data previously unavailable to the recommendations engine by exploiting our unique capability to gather data from secure data streams, as well as other infrastructure components.
We are finding that these two previously separate fields of security and analytics are increasingly interdependent and can each enhance the facility provided by the other. Analytics can strengthen the protection we provide by helping identify threats before they strike and take proactive action. Security components can make unique data available for analytics to enable more actions that drive customer engagement and revenue. We anticipate this relationship between the sectors getting closer and to be reflected in further partnerships.