“Our goals are aggressive,” Xumo SVP of Marketing and Content Operations Fern Feistel says
The ad-supported OTT content provider Xumo has an ambitious goal for this year: to quadruple the number of hours that its 5.5 million monthly active users stream on its owned-and-operated properties.
In 2018, Xumo’s O&O services accounted for half of its total hours streamed, company’s newly appointed SVP of marketing and content operations Fern Feistel. If all goes according to plan, its O&Os will contribute over 80% of total hours streamed by the end of 2019.
The company, founded in 2011 as a joint venture of Panasonic and MySpace parent Viant, will test various discovery methods designed to connect users to more of the content they like and extend time spent on the platform. After running these tests, Feistel said she hopes to “better understand how the consumer navigates, where they pause and where they ultimately make the decision to commit to streaming.”
Feistel discusses the streamer’s plans to keep viewers glued to their seats and details how its operations, programming and marketing will work together to achieve that goal. She also lends a piece of advice to anyone coming up the ranks in the digital media industry in today’s world.
1. How will you help to drive Xumo to quadruple the number of hours streamed?
Firstly, by combining content operations and marketing under one management funnel, we’ll be placing emphasis on designing channels for success from the start by aligning proven programming strategies with optimized discovery and promotional opportunities.
My teams work closely with our partnerships team, led by Stefan Van Engen and Anthony Layser, in optimizing our channel lineup and programming within each channel. We’ve set ourselves apart by staying at the forefront of the technical side of streaming, too, while also making sure we’re offering consumers exactly what they want to see. Our goals are aggressive.
2. How important is enhancing the consumer experience on Xumo? Will you employ any new approaches?
Consumers want to watch TV. That’s not going to change. The delivery method might vary, but people still want to sit and watch something entertaining. Netflix has created this concept of paralysis of choice and, ultimately, people (including myself) might just sit there scrolling through our phones and never select anything because there’s an overwhelming amount of programming to choose from.
As you can imagine, TV and movies require different presentations from your general playlists that might appear on any of our other 160 channels. While our programming and operations teams are perfecting our linear strategies to be customized per genre, we’re also focusing on the way TV and movies are presented to the consumer.
We program linear streams per channel based on how users consume on a daily basis. For example, Bon Appetit has been programmed based on what we and Conde Nast have learned about the channel’s audience. What do they watch around breakfast time? Do they want new recipe ideas every night? How many hours before dinner? All of that, and much more, informs how we program by day-part.
Then, week-part is a programming strategy we implement based on return user range. So, which day of the week are a channel’s audience more likely to return? Going back to Bon Appetit, if audiences are more likely to return Tuesdays, then it makes sense for us and Conde Nast to drop new episodes of a new show we’re promoting [then]. Our on-platform marketing team builds promos around these to build on the return rate we’re already seeing.
3. How will operations, programming and marketing work together to quadruple streaming?
Our programming strategies, coupled with the discovery opportunities that our marketing team makes available, along with user interface/product optimizations, ensure that the consumer’s choice to watch something is an easy one. Over the next few months, we’ll be testing different discovery opportunities throughout the interface so we can better understand how the consumer navigates, where they pause and where they ultimately make the decision to commit to streaming.
We’re completely ad-supported, with no barrier to enjoyment. This means we don’t even ask consumers to log in or give us any personal information. So, it’s in our best interest to get them watching immediately. I’m excited to see what we can achieve this year.
4. What differentiates Xumo’s free ad-supported TV strategy from others in the space, like PlutoTV?
As a company, we’ve always prioritized linear AVOD regardless of the length of programming we have available. When we first launched in 2011, we were stitching videos together to create linear streams.
Think how far the streaming industry as a whole has come as we see more and more services launching with only linear AVOD! We’re four, almost five years in and partners like Roku with The Roku Channel, LG and a few others are coming to us as the subject-matter experts because we know how to efficiently and effectively deliver and monetize linear. We’re excited to continue rolling this strategy out across more distribution endpoints in 2019.
5. What advice do you have for young career women coming up the ranks in the digital media industry today?
Be a sponge and never lose sight of your goals. You work with and for many different personalities throughout your career. There is something you can learn from everyone you interface with.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take your seat at the table. Questions demonstrate your value in the conversation as much as commentary. Good leaders (and aspiring ones) are always curious and team-focused.
Personally, I thrive on understanding how all the pieces work together to achieve unity. Understanding the bigger picture provides clarity on the small things which ultimately will allow you to organize your days, weeks and months ensuring you hit goals and continue growing in your career.