How TV Spielfilm uses data to stay ahead of the changing entertainment industry
The story of television over the last thirty years is one of rapid, divergent evolution. From tubes to plasma to LED. Screens getting orders of magnitude larger and hung on our walls, and orders of magnitude smaller and slipped into our pockets. From over-the-air broadcasts, to cable and satellite feeds, to online streams.
Thanks to a willingness to adapt and learn from their customers, TV Spielfilm has evolved along with its users and the industry.
In the 90s TV Spielfilm took the form of a print magazine, sharing TV and movie times along with entertainment stories, delivered to the doorsteps of millions of German subscribers.
In the early 2000s, as the world became increasingly digital, it expanded to the web. And when the web evolved to your phone and apps, so did TV Spielfilm.
Then, as more and more television content was being delivered through the web, TV Spielfilm evolved again. In 2015 it launched TV Spielfilm LIVE, a streaming service that brought the content its readers were looking for right to the TV Spielfilm app.
And it continues to evolve today.
This evolution is guided by an understanding of the product, the users, and industry. And the foundation of that understanding is built with the hard answers to the tough questions they have about how people are using their product.
“Data is very important for us, and everybody on the team uses data,” says Carina Schwarzmueller, Business Intelligence Manager and Business Analyst at TV Spielfilm LIVE.
Last year, TV Spielfilm LIVE was facing another tough question about the direction and priorities. The app was torn between serving two audiences: its free users and its paid users. It’s a question faced by many freemium services. Do they prioritize the large audience of free users, or the smaller audience of paying users?
So they looked to data for their answer.
Determining the metrics
TV Spielfilm LIVE was looking for the hard answers, so they teamed with Finc3, a group of analytics consultants in Germany, to collect and analyze the data they needed to answer their questions.
“We have nearly fifteen years of experience measuring digital analytics, so we have a robust understanding of what KPIs to analyze for a subscription service,” says Bjoern Sjut, founder and managing partner at Finc3.
Together they determined the metrics they would need to guide the direction of the product, both in the content it would deliver and in the users they would deliver it to.
“With TV Spielfilm LIVE we wanted to look at sign-ups, trials, feature adoption, and churn rates. And we needed to understand those metrics relationships to different types of content and channels.”
Finc3 knew that TV Spielfilm LIVE needed to get the right data in order to get a clear and complete picture of their metrics. But with content delivered to viewers across all sorts of laptops, phones, tablets, and smart TVs, it could be a difficult task.
Getting the data
In the entertainment industry, collecting the right data has always been difficult. In the broadcast era, the data just wasn’t there. Now in the digital era, it’s everywhere, and it’s fragmented.
TV Spielfilm LIVE needed to be able to accurately collect data from all of the platforms their viewers used to stream TV. To do that, Finc3 knew that TV Spielfilm LIVE needed Mixpanel.
“Of course they have their website, iOS app, and Android app. But they’re also on Chromecast and the Amazon Firestick,” says Sjut. “So they needed an analytics solution with both server-side tracking and a generic SDK that they could implement on new platforms.”
With Mixpanel, TV Spielfilm LIVE wouldn’t just be able to collect the data from all the devices, but, importantly, they would be able to use user IDs to tie together all the user behaviors from across their devices to create a fully developed view of the user journey.
“With a subscription media model, the more devices a user has, the better the predictive lifetime value score,” Sjut says. “The more invested into the ecosystem a viewer is, they’re using it across more devices, so they’re less likely to cancel.”
Once they were getting the data that was the foundation for their product metrics, TV Spielfilm LIVE had what they needed to start digging and uncovering insights into how viewers were using their product.
What they found lead to significant evolution in the TV Spielfilm LIVE product
The numbers showed that the initial decision a user made to sign up for TV Spielfilm LIVE as either a free or premium user had a huge impact on how they went on to use the product.
It turned out that free users just used the app once. They never came back to use it again. Premium users instead used the product extensively. So it added real value for the customer and was an alternative to classic TV.
Premium users were finding value from the product, watching for longer and coming back again and again. But free users weren’t, so they weren’t converting to premium.
By giving users the option to put off the decision of getting a premium subscription, they were never making it.
Taking action and seeing results
With the data behind them, they made a tough call.
“We decided to focus more of our time and resources on the premium product and its users,” Schwarzmueller recalls.
And it paid off. In the first month, the number of first-time visitors purchasing a paid subscription doubled. TV Spielfilm LIVE’s paid user base grew by 15% within two weeks.
“Now we have just one product we can focus on,” says Schwarzmueller. “But also, our users don’t have two products to decide between.”
Continuing to evolve
With the right analytics solution in place, and a partnership with the experts at Finc3, TV Spielfilm LIVE continues to evolve.
Now they’re looking more into how analytics can help inform content decisions. When they saw a growing base of viewers watching news and live sports content, they made a strategic investment and added two new additional channels to the product with more of this content.
And they’re looking to dive even deeper into engagement and retention by content type. By analyzing key metrics like the number of streams, the duration of time watched, and the number of devices used, TV Spielfilm LIVE is working to find new early indicators of churn so they can proactively work to retain at risk users.
The media and entertainment industry will continue to evolve in predictable and unpredictable ways. People will turn to television for the latest news, a live sporting match, or a new show – we just can’t know how they’ll be watching them.
But, using Mixpanel to track and analyze user behavior with Finc3, TV Spielfilm has positioned itself to stay on top of how people are watching TV and to evolve right alongside its viewers and the entertainment industry.
“We are really excited to do more with Mixpanel,” says Schwarzmueller, “and Finc3 has been an invaluable source of knowledge as we continue to scale.”