Better data leads to better content on Hotstar

The product team at Disney+ Hotstar Party was able to make sense of customer behavioural data and use those insights to drive stickiness across markets by prioritising data governance.

The way people watch television has changed as a result of streaming. Instead of passively flipping through channels with scheduled programming, viewers scroll through live and on-demand options, selecting favourites and taking chances on new content from around the world.

The more easily viewers can find content that matches their tastes and preferences, the more engaged they are with the service. Hotstar, which debuted in 2015, quickly gained popularity among Indian audiences before expanding to serve expatriate communities in Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

With over 300 million users today, Disney+ Hotstar is India’s most popular streaming service. We recently launched the integrated product in Indonesia and plan to expand it to Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

With this expansion came three new challenges: improving our data governance, making sense of all the data we were collecting, and harnessing that data to increase user stickiness across multiple markets. Fortunately, we were able to collaborate with Amplitude to overcome these obstacles.

As We Expanded, We Needed to Standardize and Understand Our Data.

As our product director, I am in charge of driving growth and user engagement. My team works hard to provide viewers with improved personalization as well as the best discovery and recommendation experience possible. This results in high engagement and, as a result, high retention rates.

In addition to improved discovery, we have added interactive features to our sports offerings to increase engagement, such as on-screen scorecards, game summaries, and simulated “in-person” experiences. Due to the pandemic, international cricket matches, for example, were played in empty stadiums in late 2020, resulting in a dulled viewer experience.

To simulate the excitement of a normal crowd at a match, we asked viewers to input emojis while watching, analysed the sentiments in real-time, and played appropriate crowd noises such as cheers in response.

I was tasked with improving our personalization features when I first joined Disney+ Hotstar. I needed credible data to do this, but I was dealing with a “garbage-in, garbage-out” situation. Our data was not standardised, and no real attribution was made. Nobody could even explain the definitions of the events.

So, our first step was to clean up all of our data. That first year was spent learning why we generated the information we did and what we wanted it to tell us.

We knew we could trust the data after cleaning it up and ensuring its quality.

Increasing Stickiness with Data
Our international expansion has complicated our user acquisition and retention strategy. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time we enter a new market, but we also understand that what works in one market may not work in another.

We need to understand how user preferences and experiences differ from one geographic region to the next in order to understand what moves the needle in different countries.

We began our analytics journey by examining user cohort and user funnel data, which resulted in multiple A/B tests per month. We then began looking into ways to increase user stickiness. We wanted viewers to return more frequently and spend more time on our service, which necessitated new methods of analysing all of the data we collected. Amplitude provided us with a solution.

Analytics on Demand for Digital-First Businesses

I wanted my team to have easy access to data and to spend less time obtaining actionable insights. Amplitude excels at all of this and provides multiple perspectives on our data. Amplitude is a self-service digital optimization system that provides a solid analytics platform for businesses. It democratises data access and assists digital teams in better understanding user behaviour and how customers interact with digital products like ours.

We demoed a number of different analytics platforms before settling on Amplitude after reading some glowing reviews. It wowed us with its scalability, ease of use, integrations, and low cost.

Their team was outstanding from the start. Every discussion we have with vendors includes a discussion of our data volume and the need to scale on a budget. We presented our priorities to Amplitude during our initial conversations, and they introduced us to the concept of sampling small chunks of data.

When you have a large amount of data, you don’t need to analyse every single data point to get the most accurate insights. We could get the same level of insight if we sampled 5% of any data set, for example, with 99 percent confidence in the results. Because it takes less time to analyse less data, sampling leads to faster decision making.

They were the only vendor who could provide a sampling solution that met our requirements, and they quickly earned our trust and business.

With Ease, Test Multiple Hypotheses

Amplitude’s speed and accuracy boost was only half of the storey. Amplitude works in tandem with our existing technology stack. In-house, we created a custom pipeline that collects data and routes it to our data warehouse and CRM. We added an Amplitude integration and are now standardising and synchronising user data across all three destinations using Amplitude’s APIs and data governance features. As a result, we now have a consolidated user profile that serves as a single source of truth for our data stores and analytics tools.

We can segment user cohorts using Amplitude based on when they joined the service and the content that drew them to Disney+ Hotstar. We begin collecting data immediately and can track engagement over weekly, monthly, and even six-month time spans. We can even look at a group of new users who joined two weeks ago to see if their engagement levels match our benchmarks, and if not, adjust our messaging to them. We can also analyse the behaviour of long-term subscribers and add new content if we see that a lack of novelty is driving them away.

Amplitude also enables us to analyse user patterns and run A/B tests based on geographic location, language, genre, or any other parameter we can think of.

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